Oct
13
2009

Screenshots: How to Make Them and Use Them

Do you know how to take a picture of whatever is happening on your computer screen (known as a “screenshot”) and then play around with it and fancy it up?  If you do, you can find another post on this bio blog to read.  If you don’t — read on!

A screenshot (of this screen!).

A screenshot (of this screen!).

Taking a screenshot (and then adding to it) can be a very, very useful thing to know how to do. For instance, you might want to highlight a few key elements of the shot, draw an arrow to point out a particular event happening, write an explanatory call-out in your own words, or layer an additional image on top of the screen shot.

I use screen shots primarily to give people directions. For example, I use them to provide step-by-step instructions on how to edit a wiki or how to use an online bookmarking site.  Using screenshots to illustrate directions for students can be very helpful, but it’s even better if you can annotate and draw on them.  You can also use screenshots as a way to determine whether or not a student has completed an online assignment.  For example, if you ask your students to complete an online activity for homework, ask them to email you a screenshot of the finished activity.  There’s only one way they can get that.

So, just to review how to take a screenshot on your computer.  If you’re on a PC, you just press the “Printscreen” (typically labeled “PrtScn”) button. That will save the image on your computer’s clipboard so that you can then paste it into any editing software.  If you’re on a Mac, you have your choice – if you just want a shot of the whole screen, it’s “apple/shift/3″ if you want to decide which segment of the screen to take a picture of, it’s “apple/shift/4″.  That last keyboard combination on a mac turns your cursor into a cross-hair and you can click and drag to the exact dimension of your preferred shot.  In either case, the image gets saved to your desktop. If you add space bar to that last keyboard combo, your mouse becomes a camera and you can move it to whatever application you want to take a picture of.  Add “control” to either of the two keyboard combo and you save the image to your clipboard, instead of saving the image as a file to your desktop. (gotta love it)

Now, here a few free tools to help you with the fancy-ing-it-up part:

1.  Jing. This handy little free app works with both PC and Mac and it can not only snap a picture of your screen but you can record short videos of on-screen action as well.  You just download it and the icon sits on your desktop, to be used whenever.  You can save your images/videos to your computer or you can take advantage of Jing’s ability to host your shots on their server and spawn links to your created items.

2.  Evernote.  This one is really a powerful tool and can be used for much more than just screen shots.  It’s really an uber note-taking device – a way to clip, store and organize all your various notes, lists, and ideas in one, handy online place.  So you can type yourself text notes, clip a web page, snap a photo, or grab a screenshot. Definitely worth checking out.

3.  Irfanview.  This is a PC-only, free tool that’s quite powerful.  You can certainly do screenshots with it but it also has an image editor so you can resize, add call-outs, arrows, whatever.

4.  ScreenDash.  With this one you can capture images from your screen, a webcam or an iphone.  You can draw on the captured images, enhance them, add clip-art, change sizes.  LIke Jing, ScreenDash will save your images on their server and spawn a link for you as well.  Free and very easy to use.

5. FireShot.  This is an add-on for use with the Firefox browser so youll only be interested in this one if you regularly use Firefox AND if you have a PC (since this little baby is not available for MacOSX).  This little plugin provides a sert of editing and annotations tools that can be saved to your hard drive or uploaded to a public server.

6.  Grab.  If you’re on a Mac, you already have this one (in the Utilities folder).  Very spiffy.  You just tell it what kind of a capture you want to do (selection, window, screen, timed screen).  With this one you can include a cursor or a pull-down menu in your shot.

So, now that you know how to take and augment screenshots – what are some of your ideas for using them?

3 Comments »

  • kmurray81 says:

    rheyden, I am working on an alternative pathway to become a licensed science teacher. My certification plan includes using computer based data logging equipment with my students. Screen shots are an easy way for me to capture evidence of student data collection and post it to my blog. Thanks for the post. Screen shots are a simple form of technology that offer never-ending possibilities for educators.

  • kfoglia says:

    Robin, I take a lot of screenshots and often use them directly in labs or PPT presentations for direction. I’m on a Mac and have upgraded to a screenshot utility called SnapZPro by Ambrosia Software because of its versatility. Yes, it costs, but I have found it worth it. What I like about it is that you have the option of including your cursor in the screenshot, you can automatically format the screenshot to have an outline or a dropshadow, you can format the output into different file types, and you can also take a QT movie of a series of actions on your screen as a tutorial. You can even set it up to be automatically invoked when you hit command/shift/3.
    Also one way to amend your screenshot is to paste it into Word or PowertPoint,and then use the built-in drawing tools of those programs to highlight parts of the image (like drawing a circle around an important part of the screenshot image) or to write in notes on the image (like using a callout box that points to the screenshot image).
    Hope that helps!

  • rheyden says:

    Great ideas here from Kim and from “kmurray81″. You’re right, using screenshots to collect evidence of student data collection would work very well. And a good reminder from Kim that the basic “paint” and “draw” tools of Word and PowerPoint are an easy way to augment your screenshots. I haven’t tried SnapZPro, but it sounds terrific.

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