Windows 9x - Screen shots in a hurry

THE BASIC SHOT: To get a picture of your entire screen, press the button on your keyboard. This will take a picture of your current screen minus the mouse pointer and copy it to the Windows Clipboard. Now choose Start-Programs-Accessories-Paint, and choose Edit-Paste to paste the image into the workspace. If your default Paint workspace is too small, Paint will prompt you; click Yes to let it enlarge the area to accommodate the shot. Once the image appears, click any tool on the left to complete the pasting process. Edit the picture, and then choose File-Save As to save it as a file on your hard disk.

CURRENT WINDOW ONLY: To capture just the currently active window, follow the steps described above, but this time press - to copy just that part of the screen to the Clipboard. In this case, the image you paste into Paint will probably be smaller than the existing workspace. If so, don't click another tool after pasting. Instead, choose Edit-Copy To immediately after pasting, to save the pasted area to a file. Designate a folder and name for the file, and click Save. That way you won't have to crop out an unwanted background. If you need to retouch the image you just saved, choose File-Open, select the newly created file, and click Open. Click No when prompted to save the workspace with the image you just pasted. Edit the file and save it again. You can use the same technique if you need to do other cropping. Use the rectangular select tool to demarcate an area, and use the Edit-Copy To command to save it as a separate file (see FIGURE 1).

SAVE DISK SPACE: The .bmp format is a disk hog. If you want to save memory and maintain image quality, right-click on your desktop and choose Properties. Click the Settings tab. From the 'Colors' or 'Color palette' drop-down list, select a lower level of colour for your monitor - for example, 256 Colours if you're currently using High Colour (16 bit). The lower the number of colours you choose, the smaller the file Paint will create. Click OK, and follow any prompts to complete the process. If the elements you want to capture still look good, take your picture. If not, increase the video colour level to the minimum necessary to get a good shot. When you're finished, you can return your video system to its normal colour level.

SAVE MORE WITH FRONTPAGE EXPRESS: If you don't mind sacrificing a little bit of quality, you can reduce file size even further without adjusting your video settings by using FrontPage Express, which is included in Windows 98. Use or - to copy the screen, then choose Start-Programs-Internet Explorer-FrontPage Express. Use the Internet Explorer option that has a folder icon. Select Edit-Paste and then File-Save. Click As File and designate a name and location for the new HTML page (which you will discard later). Click Save, and when prompted, click Yes to save your picture in .jpg format. You can then exit FrontPage Express and delete the HTML file.

Unfortunately, in converting the image into a compressed .jpg file, FrontPage Express significantly lowers image quality. For more control, you could create the picture in Paint as previously described and then drag the .bmp file into a new FrontPage Express document. Right-click the picture and choose Image Properties. In the General tab, select GIF or JPEG; for JPEG, you can specify a quality level from 1 to 100 (see FIGURE 2). Lower numbers yield smaller files, but higher numbers provide better quality. Click OK and then save the file, following the steps described above. This technique won't work for pictures pasted directly into FrontPage Express, however. The pasting process irreversibly alters the pixels, which reduces the quality of the image.

Capture screens like a pro

Now in its fifth major release, SnagIt is a veteran Windows shareware screen capture utility with features for the professional but ease of use for the rest of us. SnagIt 5 simplifies capturing static images from your computer. The program can record screen actions as a video, and captures text screens to a text file, including text that has scrolled off the screen. SnagIt 5 has an Explorer-like utility for browsing images as thumbnails, and a retouching utility for adding callouts and other enhancements to your pictures. It's well worth the $US40 registration fee. Download an evaluation version of SnagIt from our cover CD or from the developer's Web site at www.techsmith.com.

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