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Using Your "Print Screen" Key

PrintScreen Key

      A number of readers have asked, "What is a computer's Print Screen (PrtScr) key good for?"

       Well, this key is a throwback to the early days of computing before printers had been invented that were capable of outputting anything other than just what was seen on a computer's monitor. In 1977 my first PC output-device was just such a "screen printer" and cost $500.

       Well, in its own peculiar way, this antiquated key still does that. However, instead of printing the view of your screen onto a sheet of paper, it copies it to the "Windows Clipboard," from where it waits to be pasted onto a background of some kind.

       Such a background could be the "canvas" of an image-editing program, such as Windows Paint or Adobe PhotoShop. Or it could be a word processing sheet, such as a blank Microsoft Word page.

       Try it for yourself - press your PrtScr key and then open a blank word-processing page. Click Edit>Paste and you will see whatever was on your monitor displayed on the page.

       Better yet, paste the Desktop image onto a blank image-editing page, such as an Irfanview canvas.


      This is my favorite image-editing program for cropping and/or resizing pictures, and it is completely free at

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Make a "Screen Shot"
of What You See on Your Monitor

       I use the PrtScr key constantly and can't imagine being without it. Here are some sample uses:

       If I see an online picture I'd like to have I normally right-click it and use "Save Picture As" to copy it to my Desktop or Pictures folder - or I simply grab the picture with a left-mouse-click and drag it onto my Desktop.

       But sometimes these methods don't work (when trying to copy an Adobe Flash image, for instance).

       No problem. I simply press my PrntScrn key, open Irfanview, and click its toolbar Paste button (or do Edit>Paste). This pastes an image of my Desktop onto the Irfanview canvas. Then I use my left mouse button to draw a rectangle around the desired picture and click Irfanview's Copy button, followed by clicking its Paste button.

       This replaces Irfanview's "Desktop" image with the section just cropped.

      Finally, I use Irfanview's File>Save As option to name the picture and choose an image format such as JPG.

       Another example: let's say you're using a new program and need some assistance. You click the Help button and a dialog box full of small type appears. Hoping you'll remember what it said, you return to where you were - but the box vanishes and you need to click Help each time you want to see it again.

      Well, using the above instructions to "take a picture" of the Help box, you can move it around on your screen as needed.

      Yet another example: suppose you're watching a video and would like a "snapshot" of a particular scene. Press PrtScr when the scene appears and do as above to save it to your hard drive.

Just Print a Section of Your Desktop View

      If you have multiple windows open on your Desktop and just want to make a screen shot of the one in front of the others, hold down your ALT key while pressing PrtScr and just that window will be pasted into your target document.
More information about using your PrtScr key can be seen HERE.

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