This is the story of the lowly “Print Screen” key. First, it was misunderstood. Then it was celebrated for a short time before falling into years of obscurity. But now, it has become the shining star of my Windows keyboard. Maybe after reading this post, you’ll have a special appreciation for that key as well.
Update: I have created a new post and video for Windows 11. That information is here.
This thing is broken.
Or at least that’s what I thought many years ago. After all, if you hit a button labeled “print screen” shouldn’t it take whatever is on the screen and send it to the printer? But when I hit that key, it did nothing at all.
Later I learned the key was just poorly-named. Had it been called “Copy Screen,” I would have sooner understood its function was to copy the screen to the clipboard. Then I could paste the screen image anywhere.
This is so neat!
That’s what people said when I showed them the magic of the “Print Screen” key. When doing a demonstration on technology concepts, I would often include pictures of my screen in the PowerPoint slides. “How did you get that picture of your screen in the slide?” was the usual question. So, I would explain the Print Screen key.
This is worthless.
The Print Screen key came with a downside. What if you don’t need an image of the entire screen? What if you just want to grab a small part of that screen? Using the Print Screen key meant having to crop the image down to the proper size. Plus, I found another tool that performed better.
In 2002, Windows introduced the “Snipping Tool.” Once you found and installed it on your toolbar, the process was simple. Click the Snipping Tool and then click and drag across the portion of the screen you wanted to copy. Release the mouse button and the image was copied to the clipboard.
The Windows Snipping Tool was amazing for copying error messages or images from any website. This tool was a major game-changer for me and for those with whom I shared it.
But don’t get too excited about the Windows Snipping Tool. It’s soon going away. Why? Because in the world of technology, good things are replaced by better things. In a previous post, I talked about “Snip & Sketch.” Holding down the Shift key and the Windows key at the same time, plus hitting the “S” key invokes Snip & Sketch. It is like a much-improved version of the Snipping Tool.
Snip & Sketch immediately saw daily use in my workflow. It would allow me to snip anything from the entire screen to the smallest image. It’s only downside is that it is “clunky” to use. Shift plus Windows plus “S” isn’t the easiest shortcut to remember nor the easiest shortcut to use.
This is amazing!
What if you could combine the power of Snip & Sketch with the ease of hitting one key? Take this article to your computer and let’s turn on the function that’s going to do it for you.
- Click in the search window located in the lower-left hand corner of the screen.
- Type “Ease of access keyboard settings” and click the result the search returns.
- Scroll down to “Print Screen shortcut.”
- Flip the switch to “On.”
- Click the “X” in the upper-right corner of the screen to close the box. You’re done!
Now, when you hit the Print Screen button, it opens Snip & Sketch. One easy-to-remember button has just replaced an awkward three-key combination.
Hit “Print Screen” and drag the mouse to highlight what you want to grab. If you want the entire screen, you even see a small menu that allows for grabbing an entire window or even the entire screen.
But wait, there’s more. Introducing Snipboard.io.
What if you want to send the image you snipped to someone else? As with any image, you can attach it to an email, or send it through Dropbox or We Transfer, just for starters.
But what if sending the image isn’t convenient and you would rather send a link? That’s where a free service called Snipboard.io comes in. As soon as you hit Print Screen and selected the portion of the screen to copy, open Snipboard.io and paste. Snipboard stores the image and provides a link you can send to someone else.
You don’t even have to create an account. Although creating a free account allows you to store and manage older images. Read more about the particulars on the home screen at Snipboard.io. The video embedded in this post demonstrates how easy the process is.
This one small enhancement, updating the Print Screen key, took seconds to enable and has quickly become something I use many times every day. I hope it will improve your productivity as well.