4 keyboard shortcuts to take a screenshot quickly and like a pro on Windows 11

Dave W. Shanahan

take a screenshot

It should be fast and easy to take a screenshot. Microsoft hopes to make everything easier with Windows 11. As is the case with previous versions of Windows, you can copy an image of your entire desktop onto the Windows clipboard by pressing the Print Screen key. On laptops, you may need to press a Function (Fn) key to enable the Print Screen function on your keyboard.

Take a screenshot using keyboard shortcuts

Here are the traditional keyboard shortcuts to take a screenshot on Windows.

    1. Print Screen key: Copy the entire desktop to the clipboard. This is the easiest and quickest method to take a screenshot; Using the Print Screen key copies everything that is visible on your Windows 11 desktop to the Clipboard. You can copy the image into any Microsoft application, including Paint and Microsoft 365, or any other app that allows you to paste images. If you have a multi-monitor setup, don’t worry, the Print Screen will copy the content from all your monitors as a single image.
    2. Windows + Print Screen: Save a screenshot as a file. This command is a continuation of Print Screen that allows you to take a screenshot of your whole desktop and saves the screenshot as a file automatically to your Pictures > Screenshots folder.take a screenshot
    3. Alt + Print Screen: Copy the active window to the clipboard. This is another keyboard shortcut that builds off of Print Screen. This shortcut with copy content as it appears in the active window on your desktop.
    4. Windows + Shift + S: Copy a specific portion of the Windows 11 desktop to the clipboard. This keyboard shortcut will unlock a tool that has been around Windows since Vista. The Snipping Tool is a tool that first appeared in Windows Vista in 2002 as a PowerToys tool.

Take a screenshot of a specific portion of your screen

take a screenshot

If you would like to capture a specific portion of your Windows 11 desktop, the Snipping Tool is the way to go. Once you use the keyboard shortcut (Windows + Shift + S), the screen will darken and you will see a small toolbar at the top of your screen.

Here are the options available:

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Snipping Tool quick menu options (left to right)
  1. Rectangular Snip: Drag and select a rectangular-shaped portion of the screen as a screenshot.
  2. Freeform Snip: Select a custom shape as a screenshot. The area around the custom shape (in the rectangular image) will be black when you paste it.
  3. Window Snip: Choose a window and capture just that active window as a screenshot.
  4. Full-screen Snip: Similar to pressing the Print Screen key by itself, this option captures a screenshot of your entire screen.

Once you choose an option, when you are finished, you will get a notification that the Snipping Tool is copied content to the clipboard. Even if you ignore the notification, you will need to paste the content into an image editing program like Paint before you will be able to save the content.

Use Snipping Tool to take a screenshot

The Snipping Tool has more tools available to annotate, edit, or share your content. Microsoft introduced the Snipping Tool back with Windows Vista and then tried to deprecate it with Windows 10’s Snip & Sketch, but now the Snipping Tool is back in good graces with Windows 11.

To launch it, you can use the keyboard shortcut (Windows key + Shift + S) or type “Snipping Tool” in the Start or Search menus.

take a screenshot

When the Snipping Tool opens, click the plus sign next to “New” to start a new capture. Once you do, the small toolbar will appear at the top of the screen, just as you used the Snipping Tool to take a shot of a specific portion of your screen as described above. The toolbar will appear at the top of your screen again and give you the option to perform a rectangular, freeform, window, or full-screen snip.

With the Snipping Tool app open and running, you now have the power to not just copy the content to the clipboard, but also edit and annotate your content using the Snipping Tool toolbar at the top. Another bonus of the Snipping Tool is that if you need to capture something on your Windows 11 desktop with a timed delay, you can set the Snipping Tool to capture content in 3, 5, and 10-second intervals.

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After you set your preferred time interval when you click “New” your screen snip with be delayed by the designated time amount. This is useful if you want to capture an open-context menu, for example. Click the floppy disk icon in the upper right of the toolbar to save your screen snip.

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Use the Print Screen key to open the Snipping Tool automatically

Windows 11 includes a handy way to launch the Snipping Tool by pressing just the Print Screen key instead of using the Windows key + Shift + S keyboard shortcut.

Here’s what you need to do to enable it.

      1. Open Windows Settings (Windows Key + I).
      2. Go to Accessibility > Keyboard.
      3. Toggle the switch beside the “Use Print screen button to open screen snipping.”

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After you’re finished, close Windows Settings. This is a handy trick to use Print Screen as a quick way to copy screenshots to the clipboard at will.

Take a screenshot (or video) with the Xbox Game Bar

You can also take a screenshot or record a video using the Xbox Game Bar. Using the Xbox Game Bar is another option, but it doesn’t allow for much content customization. It records screenshots in PNG formats only and videos in MP4 formats only.

Here’s what you need to do to take a screenshot using the Xbox Game Bar.

      1. Use the Windows key + G keyboard shortcut.
      2. Go to the Widgets menu and choose the “Capture” widget.
      3. Use the camera icon button to take a screenshot and the record button to record a video.

If you want to stop recording a video, press the square “Stop” button that appears on the floating Xbox Game Bar “Capture” widget. After capturing, the screenshots and videos will be automatically saved to the following location: C:\Users\[username]\Videos\Captures

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You can also review your screenshots and videos in the Gallery widget within the Xbox Game Bar. One downside to using the Xbox Game Bar is that the application will not capture any images from a Windows desktop or anything from File Explorer.

When you are finished capturing, you can hit escape, use the Windows key + G keyboard shortcut, or click any blank area of the screen to exit the Xbox Game Bar.

Be sure to check our in-depth look at recording gameplay using the Xbox Game Bar. There are many 3rd party screen capture tools, too. What are your favorite applications for taking screenshots and videos? Let us know in the comments!

Be sure to check out all of our Windows 11 news coverage in our dedicated hub.

Updated December 1, 2022.