Making Screen Captures
Use this study guide to learn how to make screen captures and then to test your knowledge.
One of the common ways to get illustrations into technical documents electronically is to make screen captures directly from your computer screen. For example, you may be developing a user guide for a software application and want readers to be able to see what it is in the user interface you want them to press, select, or fill.
Note: Your operating system has a built-in, although functionally limited screen-capture function. Experiment with it, but experiment also with a top-of-the-line application such as SnagIt or its open-source equivalent. See graphic software overview.
Set up the screen
When you capture a screen, you need to set it up rather carefully. Here are some considerations:
- First of all, get something on screen that you might want to capture. For example, select a software application you often use, and open it to an area that might require some illustration—for example, the dialog box for a macro editor.
- Use the window sizing handles to scroll and size the screen just the way you want it. Remember that a full-screen screen capture is probably larger than the page size of the document you are writing.
- Remember that most of what is showing on the screen will be captured: for example, the red squiggly underlines indicating something is misspelled, selected text boxes, and so on. Unless you want to show these things, get them off the area of the screen you want to capture.
Note: To capture the mouse pointer and certain drop-down or pop-up elements, you need special screen-capture software such as SnagIt.
- Consider enlarging or reducing the text size in the capture area. If the body text is 14-point, that may be too big for a screen-captured image. If you have set the display properties to small (for example, 1024 by 768 pixels), you may want to change temporarily to a larger resolution for greater clarity of your screen captures. (If this is unfamiliar territory, in Windows, click Start > Settings > Control Panel > Display > Settings. Check the number in Screen Area.)
Setting up for screen captures. Imagine that you simply wanted to show readers how to change the color of text in Microsoft Word. The screen capture above is way too huge and messy for that. Notice all the red and green squiggly lines under things that Word thinks are misspelled or bad grammar. Notice the wasted white space above the title. All you really need is an image of the formatting bar on which the color-change icon (A) occurs.
Capture computer screens
To do these tasks:
- Set up for a screen capture as discussed above.
- Use your operating system's screen-capture function to capture the full screen of your computer.
- Paste this screen capture into a file open in any word-processing application, you prefer and label this as the full-screen capture.
- Use your operating system's screen capture function to capture a window within the screen.
- Paste this screen capture into the same open file as above, and label this as the single window capture.
- Using the numbered-step format, provide instructions on how to do these tasks; include (you guessed it!) screen captures. Include notices on any "gotchas" you may have noticed that could cause problems.
- Download a free trial or an open-source equivalent of a screen-capture application, and do the preceding tasks.
While you are using this application, experiment with it to see what additional functions it offers that your operating system's screen capture function does not.
- Provide instructions on using the screen-capture application you use.
- When you have completed these tasks and instructions, send the file by e-mail attachment to your instructor. If you have problems, also contact your instructor by e-mail and explain the problem you are having.
Programs and information provided by firstname.lastname@example.org.