At one time or another, you'll find that you need to make a copy of your screen contents as an image file that can be inserted into a document or shared via email. If you’re having difficulty using some new software, a so-called screenshot provides the best means of communicating the problem with customer support or if you’re asking for a friend’s assistance.

Maybe you need to incorporate screen images in coursework or a company report. In each of these instances you need a simple way of capturing what you can see on screen.

We start by showing you how to do this using the facilities provided in Windows, which will meet most of your needs. For those who have more demanding requirements, there's the free DuckCapture utility that offers additional facilities.

See also: How to speed up a slow PC

1. The quickest way to grab the screen contents in Windows is to press PrtScr (or similar) on your keyboard. Alternatively, if you want the active window rather than the whole screen, use Alt-PrtScr. This copies the image to the Windows clipboard so you can paste it into a document.

Take screenshots in Windows - Step 1

2. To save as a graphics file, open a paint/photo editing package, paste from the clipboard and save. Windows’ built-in Paint will do the job nicely as you can see in the screen shot. We suggest saving in PNG format since JPEG will produce compression artefacts on text.

 Take screenshots in Windows - Step 2

3. For more options use the Snipping Tool which has been available since Windows Vista. Search for the Snipping Tool and open it – the method differs depending on your version of Windows. Consider putting a shortcut on your desktop.

 Take screenshots in Windows - Step 3

4. The Shipping Tool opens as a small Window and your first job is to select the type of screen capture you want from the menu. In addition to full screen and window that were available using the PrtScr key, you can choose a rectangle or a free-form shape.

 Take screenshots in Windows - Step 4

5. Here we’ve chosen the rectangle option and we are selecting the area of the screen we want to capture by dragging a box around it. The Snipping Tool disappears so you don’t capture it too. The free-form options works in much the same way.

 Take screenshots in Windows - Step 5

6. A larger Snipping Tool window now appears showing what you’ve captured. In most cases, all you now need to do is save the image to file (remembering our advice to use PNG format) using ‘Save As...’ from the File menu.

 Take screenshots in Windows - Step 6

7. Before, saving, though, you might want to annotate your screen shot using the Snipping Tools various editing options. These facilities are pretty basic but you can draw freehand and highlight text. Note the menu for changing the pen thickness and colour.

 Take screenshots in Windows - Step 7

8. For better results, use the free DuckCapture utility (www.ducklink.com). It lets you include the mouse pointer or cursor in your screen shot, you can grab all of a scrollable Window such as a Webpage, it has better annotation features such as rectangles and arrows, and much more.

 Take screenshots in Windows - Step 8

9. DuckCapture works much like the Snipping Tool so we’ll concentrate on its unique features. If you want to include the cursor, click on ‘Advanced Options’ and then, in the General tab, ensure that ‘Include cursor’ is checked. Now capture the screen normally.

 Take screenshots in Windows - Step 9

10. To capture a scrollable Webpage, first click on the Scrollable button and when the cross-hair cursor appears, scroll up and down the page until all of it has been displayed. When prompted, choose to copy to the clipboard or save to file.

 Take screenshots in Windows - Step 10

11. After a screen capture, click on the pen icon on DuckCapture’s preview window to access the extensive annotation options. Note the menu that appears when you’ve drawm something so you can alter colours, etc. You can also select objects later to edit them.

Take screenshots in Windows - Step 11