How to take screenshots in Windows 11

It’s super convenient to take a picture of your screen, whether you’re using a smartphone, tablet or PC running Windows 11. Microsoft’s desktop operating system has long had several options for taking pictures from your PC’s screen – perhaps too many. Fortunately, Windows 11 simplifies the situation. We show you the best ways to take screenshots on your computer with your brand new operating system. The methods range from long-lasting keyboard shortcuts to the more modern, skilled tools that let you do things like set timers for the screenshots as well as edit and share them.


Use the PrtSc (Print Screen) key and paste

PrtSc screenshots in Windows 11

Since long before Windows 11, you have been able to take a screenshot at the touch of a single key: PrtSC. Some keyboards spell it for the entire Print Screen. Press this key to copy the entire desktop image to the clipboard. Then paste the image into any app that accepts inserted images, such as Paint, Paint 3D, or Adobe Photoshop.

If you just want to capture the currently active application window, add the Alt key, for Alt-PrtSc. As with capturing the entire screen, this key combination saves the current window on the clipboard, and from there you can insert it into an image processing application.


Use the PrtSc key with OneDrive

PrtSc with OneDrive for screenshots in Windows 11

You can also use PrtSc in combination with OneDrive. to set it up to automatically create an image file of your screenshot in OneDrive. I include this method separately from the default PrtSc setting because the result is so different and saves you the extra steps of opening an app and pasting from the clipboard. To configure it:

Go to OneDrive settings from the cloud icon on the right side of the taskbar. Select the Backup tab in the OneDrive Utility’s Settings dialog and select Automatically save screenshots.

The only check changes everything at PrtSc: You no longer need to open an image app or paste from the clipboard. Instead, an image file is automatically created in the OneDrive folder of your choice. You can access it from any device where you can access OneDrive (there are clients for each platform). I always use this method when I think I might need to use the screenshot as an image file instead of just pasting it somewhere.


Use the Windows Key-PrtSc keyboard shortcut

Windows Key PrtSc for screenshots in Windows 11

Here’s another way to use the PrtSc key: Use Windows Key-PrtSc.

To take screenshots and automatically insert them elsewhere than OneDrive, get used to pressing the Windows key along with the PrtSc key. This method causes the screen to dim briefly and places the image file in the Images> Screenshots folder by default. (Note the different locations of the PrtSc key on the keyboard in the image above.) You will also see the screenshots in the Windows Photos app.


Use the cutting tool

Cutting tool in Windows 11

Windows 11 cleans up the previous screen tool confusion in Windows by combining the former Cutting tools with Windows 10’s amazing Snip & Sketch tool. Snipping Tool is the name of the combined Windows 11 screen shooter. The easiest way to get to the cutting tool is by pressing Windows Key-Shift-S. This keyboard shortcut allows you to take a screenshot using a rectangular selection, freehand selection, full window or full screen (this is the order of the icons you select from the image above).

For the first two options, draw with the cursor to select the area you want to take a screenshot. For the other two choices, simply click.

Windows 11 Cutting Tool Notice

When you release the cursor, you will see a message in the lower right corner showing a thumbnail of the screen. Click this small image to open the Snipping Tool interface (shown below). Here you can mark the screen with a pen or highlighter or crop it. You can use a ruler to draw straight lines, and the finger button lets you draw on a touch screen.

Most importantly, you can save the screenshot and any edits using the 3.5-inch floppy disk icon (some visual metaphors never die). A Share button lets you send the image using the Windows 11 standard parts panel, and you can also print the image or open it in another app from the menu settings.

Edit screenshots in Windows 11 Snipping Tool

One beef I have with this cropping feature of this utility is that it does not offer image format options. For example, I would like to be able to choose a 16: 9 widescreen size, and I doubt that I am alone. As it is now, you need to take the image into Paint, Paint 3D or another image editing program to get this simple feature. I would also like the Snipping Tool to provide access to previous screenshots (as the OneDrive setting above and the SnagIt setting below do).

To spend an hour before snapping the screen, simply type Snipping in the Start menu and open the program window instead of using the keyboard shortcut.

If you change your mind after hitting Windows Key-Shift-S and do not want to shoot the screen, the Esc key will back you out of the process.

Last two tricks: (1) You can change the behavior of the PrtSc key to open the clipping tool instead of copying the image to the clipboard. Go to Settings> Accessibility> Keyboard and select the Use Print Screen button to open screen cutout (the bottom option in the screenshot below). (2) If you have a Surface Pen, open the cutting tool by double-pressing its eraser button.

Change PrtSc to use Snipping Tool in Windows 11 for screenshots


Use a third-party screenshot app

For many years I was a devoted SnagIt user – it’s still a PCMag Editors’ Choice winning screenshot tool – especially because I liked how it saved screenshots you took for later use. (I now find that the built-in Windows Screensaver tool adequately meets my needs.) SnagIt can also record videos of screen action, window scrolling, and graphics, such as arrows, for selection. Read our overview third-party screenshot toolsthird-party screenshot tools to learn more about the options available.


Use the Windows Key Game Bar

Windows 11 Game Bar for screenshots

Windows key – G opens the game bar. From there, if you go to the Capture window, you will see a camera icon. Tap it and your screenshot will be saved (somewhat counterintuitively) in the Videos / Captures folder under your main user folder. You can change the destination folder in the Windows Settings main app. (Alternatively, you can press Windows key – Alt-PrtScn shortcut to bypass the opening of the game line.)


Use Volume Up-Power on Surface tablets

Microsoft Surface tablet

Taking screenshots on Surface tablets is different from doing it on a PC unless you have a keyboard connected. The on-screen touch keyboard has no PrtSc key.

On the Surface Pro 8 and most of its predecessors, press Volume up and on / off buttons at the same time to take a screenshot. Be careful to press the buttons at the same time, otherwise you will end up turning off the screen.

The result of shooting this way is the same as pressing the PrtSc key: an image is copied to your clipboard and you need to paste it into an app unless you have set up OneDrive backup.

Older Surface tablets used Fn-Windows key-space combination on their associated keyboards, and some made you press the power button and a hardware Windows button at the same time. On the Dell Latitude tablet, use the power button and the volume down buttons simultaneously; you may need to experiment or dig into the documentation if you have a less popular tablet model. And as mentioned earlier, opening the cutting tool by double-clicking the back button on a Surface Pen.

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