One of the most simple and effective tools for sharing on-screen concepts and ideas in today’s technology-driven world is screen capture. In fact, it’s a tool I’ve come to use just about every day to communicate with my colleagues and clients. A picture is worth 1,000 words, as they say – and capturing an image from your computer screen allows you to communicate what you’re seeing – and why it matters – to another person in a way that eliminates the need for a long, wordy email explanation.
To help you get the most out of this often-overlooked tool, here are some ways I’ve come to use screen captures to collaborate, as well as some of the best tools out there to make it happen.
It’s not uncommon to want to share something you’ve seen or read with another person on your team. You can take a screen capture and get an exact copy of the information or image in context and with the formatting intact. Let’s say I have a question or want feedback on something I’m working on. It’s easy and fast to send an annotated screen capture like this:
You can create quick and informative diagrams and cut and paste them into blog posts and other presentations. I use screen capture all the time in presentations; it’s a great way to teach your audience how to do something or show a process. Here’s an example of a screenshot showing the process one would go through to insert a SmartArt graphic into a Microsoft Word document.
Emailing to a friend or colleague
A screenshot is incredibly handy if you’d like to quickly share something on your screen with a friend or colleague to help support a conversation – or just give them a quick look at something you’re seeing. For example, here’s a clip I sent to a colleague with annotation showing our different support options.
Preserving or saving important on-screen information
When I finished my taxes, there was a screen with information I had to print and save. Naturally, the page did not print (as it was a government website), so I used screen capture to save the proof that I did my taxes…ugh!
Asking a question or getting information
When it’s hard to express a question you have about something you’re looking at on your screen, an annotated screen capture works well combined with a question.
When it comes to tools for screen capturing, there are many free and paid programs available. For the sake of brevity, I’ve compiled a quick list of some of the tools I use personally (and like).
I use both Windows and MacOS (and Linux) – here are some options for both:
Screenshot Captor is super full featured and does just about anything you can think of in terms of capturing and editing/annotating screen captures. It’s extensive features satisfy my needs for the tool and then some. This tool is donationware and needs to be registered.
Also full featured and includes an image editor, Greenshot is open source and free to use.
Jing is simple, easy to use, and gets the job done. It’s free, but requires registration, will also record a 5 minute screen video with sound. I personally use this tool on my Mac and PC. It works the same on both operating systems. (no learning curve)
The Snipping Tool comes with Windows; it’s already loaded and ready to go. It’s very basic and allows for minor editing, saving, and copy to clipboard. If you’re having trouble finding it, simply search your computer for snipping tool and go.
Pro Tip: Hit the Prt Scr key on your keyboard, then paste from clipboard (or Ctrl + V) – or hit the Alt + Prt Scr keys for active window capture
You can also set up OneDrive or Dropbox to automatically save screenshots created this way for later editing or sharing. These key commands are built into Windows and on most keyboards.
Skitch has many features, and has both free and paid versions available. If you’re an Evernote user, this tool saves right to Evernote for you.
Jing for Mac works the same as the Windows version – I use this for both PC and Mac, and there is no learning curve.
Press Command + Shift + 4 on your keyboard
This turns the cursor into a cross hair and allows you to draw a window to save. The screenshot will save as a PNG image to your desktop.
Screen capture is one of my most used productivity and collaboration tools. Try incorporating it into your workflow, and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see what a handy tool it is!
Next time, I’ll share my favorite tools for screen sharing over the web.