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Desktop Screenshot Guide: OS Tips

Creating a desktop screenshot is a straightforward process that varies slightly depending on the operating system (OS) you’re using. Whether you’re on Windows, macOS, or Linux, capturing your desktop can be done using built-in tools or third-party software. This article will guide you through the steps for each OS, along with additional tips for capturing specific elements like a single window or a selected area.


Windows provides several methods to capture your desktop:

  1. Using the Print Screen (PrtScn) Key:

    • Press the PrtScn key on your keyboard. This captures the entire desktop.
    • To capture only the active window, press Alt + PrtScn.
  2. Snipping Tool (Windows 7) or Snip & Sketch (Windows 10 and later):

    • Search for “Snipping Tool” or “Snip & Sketch” in the Start menu.
    • Open the tool and select the type of snip (full screen, rectangular, freeform, or window snip).
    • Follow the on-screen instructions to capture and save the screenshot.
  3. Windows Key + Shift + S (Windows 10 and later):

    • Press Windows Key + Shift + S to open the Snip & Sketch tool directly in snipping mode.
    • Drag to select the area you want to capture, and release the mouse button to capture the screenshot.
  4. Third-Party Tools:

    • Many third-party applications like Greenshot, Snagit, and ShareX offer advanced screenshot features with editing capabilities.


On macOS, capturing your desktop is intuitive and offers built-in options:

  1. Using Keyboard Shortcuts:

    • Press Command + Shift + 3 to capture the entire screen.
    • For capturing a specific area, press Command + Shift + 4, then drag to select the area. Press Space to capture a specific window.
  2. Using the Screenshot Utility (macOS Mojave and later):

    • Press Command + Shift + 5 to open the screenshot utility.
    • Choose from options like capturing the entire screen, a selected window, or a custom area.
    • You can also set a timer for the screenshot or show the cursor in the capture.
  3. Preview Application:

    • Open the Preview app and go to File > Take Screenshot to access options for capturing the entire screen, a window, or a selection.


Linux distributions offer various methods for capturing your desktop:

  1. Using Built-in Tools:

    • Many Linux desktop environments like GNOME, KDE, and Xfce include built-in screenshot tools accessible through keyboard shortcuts (often Print Screen or Super key + Print Screen).
  2. Using GNOME Screenshot (GNOME Desktop):

    • Press Print Screen or Super + Print Screen to capture the entire screen or a window, respectively.
    • Use Shift + Print Screen to capture a specific area.
  3. Using Flameshot (Cross-Platform):

    • Flameshot is a popular open-source screenshot tool with annotation features. Install it via your package manager (e.g., sudo apt install flameshot on Ubuntu) and use it to capture and edit screenshots.

Tips for Capturing Specific Elements:

  • Single Window: To capture only a single window without the surrounding desktop, focus on the window and use the appropriate keyboard shortcut for your OS (e.g., Alt + PrtScn on Windows, Command + Shift + 4, then Space on macOS, or Super + Print Screen on GNOME Desktop).

  • Selected Area: Most OSs support capturing a selected area. Use the respective keyboard shortcut (e.g., Command + Shift + 4 on macOS, Windows Key + Shift + S on Windows 10, or Shift + Print Screen on GNOME Desktop) and drag to select the desired area.

  • Annotation and Editing: After capturing a screenshot, you can often annotate and edit it using built-in tools (e.g., Markup on macOS, Snip & Sketch on Windows, or Flameshot on Linux). These tools allow you to add text, arrows, highlights, and more to your screenshots.


Capturing your desktop is an essential skill for various purposes, including documenting issues, creating tutorials, or sharing information. By utilizing built-in tools or third-party applications, you can easily capture, annotate, and edit screenshots on Windows, macOS, and Linux systems. Familiarizing yourself with keyboard shortcuts and additional features like timed captures and annotation tools enhances your screenshot-taking capabilities.

More Informations

Capturing a desktop screenshot goes beyond just pressing a few keys. It involves understanding different techniques, tools, and nuances across operating systems. Let’s delve deeper into each aspect to provide a comprehensive guide for users.

**1. Windows:

a. Print Screen (PrtScn) Key:

  • The PrtScn key captures the entire desktop, saving it to the clipboard. You can then paste it into image editing software like Paint or Photoshop to save it as an image file.
  • Alt + PrtScn captures only the active window, which is useful when you don’t want to include the entire desktop in your screenshot.

b. Snipping Tool (Windows 7) or Snip & Sketch (Windows 10 and later):

  • The Snipping Tool in Windows 7 and Snip & Sketch in Windows 10 offer more control over the screenshot process. You can choose the type of snip (full screen, rectangular, freeform, or window snip) and annotate the screenshot before saving it.
  • Snip & Sketch also allows for delayed captures and provides basic editing tools like a pen, highlighter, and eraser.

c. Windows Key + Shift + S (Windows 10 and later):

  • This keyboard shortcut opens the Snip & Sketch tool directly in snipping mode, allowing you to select and capture a specific area of the screen. It’s a quick way to take screenshots without opening a separate application.

d. Third-Party Tools:

  • While Windows offers built-in screenshot tools, third-party applications like Greenshot, Snagit, and ShareX provide advanced features such as capturing scrolling windows, capturing screenshots with timed delays, and direct uploading to cloud services.

2. macOS:

a. Keyboard Shortcuts:

  • macOS offers versatile keyboard shortcuts for capturing screenshots. Command + Shift + 3 captures the entire screen, while Command + Shift + 4 allows you to select a specific area for capture.
  • Pressing Space after Command + Shift + 4 lets you capture a specific window or menu. Holding Control with the other shortcuts sends the screenshot directly to the clipboard.

b. Screenshot Utility (macOS Mojave and later):

  • The built-in screenshot utility in macOS Mojave and later versions provides a streamlined interface for capturing screenshots. You can choose the capture type (full screen, selected window, or custom area), set a timer, and show or hide the cursor in the screenshot.

c. Preview Application:

  • Preview, the default image viewer on macOS, also doubles as a screenshot tool. You can access screenshot options under the File menu, allowing you to capture the entire screen, specific windows, or selected areas.

3. Linux:

a. Built-in Tools:

  • Most Linux distributions come with built-in screenshot tools accessible through keyboard shortcuts. GNOME desktop environments often use the Print Screen key or Super key + Print Screen for capturing screenshots.

b. GNOME Screenshot (GNOME Desktop):

  • GNOME Screenshot is a simple yet effective tool for capturing screenshots on GNOME-based Linux systems. It offers options to capture the entire screen, selected windows, or custom areas with keyboard shortcuts.

c. Flameshot (Cross-Platform):

  • Flameshot is a popular cross-platform screenshot tool available for Linux, Windows, and macOS. It provides annotation features like text, arrows, and shapes, making it suitable for creating instructional screenshots.

Tips for Capturing Specific Elements:

  • Single Window: When capturing a single window, ensure it’s in focus before using the keyboard shortcut to avoid capturing unwanted elements from the desktop.
  • Selected Area: For precise selections, use the mouse cursor to drag and define the area you want to capture. Most screenshot tools display dimensions as you drag, helping you capture specific sizes.
  • Annotation and Editing: After capturing a screenshot, take advantage of built-in or third-party editing tools to annotate, highlight, or blur sensitive information before sharing or saving the screenshot.


Capturing desktop screenshots is a fundamental skill for users across different operating systems. Knowing the various methods, keyboard shortcuts, and additional tools available enhances your efficiency in capturing, editing, and sharing screenshots for various purposes. Experimenting with different techniques and exploring advanced features in screenshot tools can further improve your screenshot-taking experience.

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