The Print Screen key, forgotten tool of the Windows desktop

The Print Screen key, usually located above the number pad to the right of the keyboard, is an invaluable tool when working with images in Windows. Pressing it will copy a picture of the entire screen to the Windows clipboard,

where it can be pasted into most applications that can handle images (Paint, Paint.NET, Photoshop, Word, Outlook emails etc etc etc…). Additionally holding down the Alt key and pressing Print Screen will copy a picture of only the currently active window.

This tool is normally used for taking pictures of applications (or error messages) to show what is happening on the screen. For example taking a picture of an error message to send it to IT Support, or taking pictures of the screen to add to a document demonstrating how to use an application.

However, it’s also a quick and easy way to copy content from one application to another; If you’re not too worried about the picture quality or any textual content then using Print Screen to copy a picture of the screen and then pasting it into another application is a very useful method.

 As an example of this a user asked me how he could copy a building plan which he had in a PDF document into Microsoft Paint- he wanted to quickly colour some rooms in on the plan to highlight them. The user wasn’t worried about the resolution or scale but just wanted a quick plan without having to learn how to use a complicated drawing program- the alternative was to print it out and grab the felt tips. The plan was open in Adobe Reader, so we selected the window and pressed Alt-Print Screen to copy the image, then we went to the Paint application and chose Paste from the Edit menu. Job done.