Windows 7 built in screenshot tool

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

I recently learned that Windows 7 has a screenshot tool, included right there as part of the Windows operating system.  It’s pretty cool too, and easy to use.  I still use Gadwin’s Print Screen too, but the Windows tool is a good one for people that don’t want to install any other software.

Windows 7 snipping tool

Why do you need this?  It all goes back to the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”.  This is definitely true when diagnosing a computer problem.  All the time people will email or call me with a problem or something that is not working properly, and they don’t really know how to describe exactly what is happening.  However, if they could just send me a picture of their screen, it would (in many cases) tell me exactly what I need to know.  That’s what a screenshot tool does.

The actual name of this application is Snipping Tool.  To get to it, click the Start button in the lower left, and in the Search bar type:  snipping tool

Windows 7 snipping tool

When you have finished typing that, you will see “Snipping Tool” listed in the same window, just above where you typed.  Click on that to open the tool.

You will see the tool open in its own little window:

snipping tool window

At the same time, the rest of your screen will sort of “fade out”.  That’s because the snipping tool has control now – it’s waiting for you to take a picture of your screen (or part of it).  Not yet!

First, you want to click on the Options button.  This will allow you to configure some of the settings.  However, you can usually just leave the default settings and be fine.

Then, you want to decide what type of screenshot you want to take.  There are 4 options, and you can choose the one you prefer by clicking the drop-down menu next to “New”:

snip tool options

The one I use almost all the time is the Rectangular Snip.  This means you can drag your mouse from the top left to the bottom right of whatever area you want to take a picture of, and it creates a screenshot of whatever is inside that rectangle.

Free-form Snip can be used if you have some kind of odd-shaped item to show, but I can’t really think of an instance where it would be necessary.

Window Snip does just that – takes a screenshot of one of your open windows.

Full screen Snip is also pretty much self explanatory – it will show your entire screen.  This is not always ideal, because if your screen is set at a high resolution, everything on it is fairly small, so whatever it is you are trying to show might not appear very clearly.

So, let’s say you choose the Rectangular Snip, and you choose your section that you want take a picture of.  When you make the rectangle and let go of the mouse, a new window will appear – and your screenshot selection is right there waiting for you.  In this case, I just took a picture of part of the header to my website:

snipping tool

As you can see, you now have some options for what you can do with this picture.

Here are what the icons mean, from left to right:

New – if you don’t like your selection, just do it over again

Save snip – this saves this image to your hard drive, in the location of your choice

Copy – this puts it on your clipboard, so that you can paste it somewhere (such as in a Word document, if you wish)

Email – if you use a software email program (such as Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Live mail, Thunderbird, etc), you can click to have a new email window open, with this picture included as an attachment.  This doesn’t work if you have a web-based email and just go to the website (such as or to send and receive mail.

The pen means you can draw on the image in a variety of colors – add notes, arrows to point something out, whatever you want.

Highlighter allows you to – guess what – highlight things!

Finally, the eraser lets you delete some of your pen or highlighter work, in case you got too carried away with your artistic add-ons.

If you want to use this tool to send me a picture of your screen when you are having problems, and you use one of the above mentioned email tools, that is the best way.  If you only used web-based email access, copy and paste the picture into a Word file, save the Word file, then attach the Word file to an email for me to see.

Believe me, it’s nice for me to be able to see what you are talking about.  And it helps me take care of your problem more efficiently.


Share this post

2 comments Add your comment »

Get updates when new comments are added. Subscribe to the comments RSS Feed

Maurice Gilbert
October 24th, 2011

I’ve been using it for a long time, and find it invaluable! I’m still not too
sure how it got onto my computer, but I’m using Vista (my wife has it on
her Windows 7 also).

Scott Johnson
October 24th, 2011

Yes, it is actually available on both Vista and 7