What is a screenshot? Screenshot 101

Digital illustration of a laptop with a screenshot editing interface on the screen, set against a gradient background. A cursor icon implies user interaction for editing or annotating a screenshot.

A screenshot, sometimes referred to as a screencap or screengrab, is an image that shows the contents of a computer display. Screenshots let you capture exactly what you’re seeing on your screen and are often shared with others or used as a reference point later on.

Taking, saving, and sharing screenshots can be extremely helpful. In fact, some insist that the screenshot is the most important thing on the internet. But how can a simple picture of your screen be so vital? Well, screenshots often act as an artifact. They serve as a way to prove to others that you really are seeing the crazy stuff you’re seeing.

Not only do they help you prove your case, but they also help you archive the past. For example, they can help you capture what a website looked like before the latest brand refresh, that weird error message you got a couple of months ago, or even a juicy gossip article you don’t want to forget.

Capture your screen today!

Download a free trial of Snagit to quickly and easily take screenshots of your computer screen, mark them up, and share them.

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What are screenshots used for?

There’s really no limit to the number of ways screenshots can be useful. For example, you could use a screenshot to break up big Word Docs and add context to PowerPoint presentations.

If we were to list each and every way you can use screenshots in your day-to-day, this article would be much, much longer. Though we will say that no matter how long a web page is, with the advanced screenshotting tools of TechSmith’s Snagit, you’d be able to capture a page as long as your arm with just one scrolling screenshot

However, screenshots are more than just handy nice-to-haves. They provide a revolutionary way to get more work done faster.

About Tech echoes the belief that screenshots can be incredibly helpful when you need to demonstrate something that would be difficult to explain in words alone. A picture is worth a thousand words, after all!

3 Ways Screenshots Can Help You Get More Work Done

1. Collaborate with Others

Does your coworker want your thoughts on a new webpage they’ve put together? Or do they need you to look over a brochure they’re having printed? Instead of writing a lengthy email detailing your edits, you can take a screenshot to provide efficient feedback.

In fact, with Snagit, you can create mock up websites using screenshots. This makes it easy for anyone to illustrate their own ideas for how an existing website could be improved or how a completely new one should look — and no, you don’t need a degree in design!

Screengrab vs screenshot: what is the difference?

Editing a screenshot to mark up design concepts onscreen is faster and more effective than writing a wordy email

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2. Demonstrate How to Perform a Function

Why tell someone how to do something when you can show them? 

With screenshots, you can easily demonstrate what you’re talking about. And because a screenshot is a more accurate way to show exactly what you mean, there’s less chance you’ll be misunderstood. This means there’s less confusion, less time spent explaining, and more time for you to focus on what’s important.

Let’s say you’re explaining to a new employee how to log into a platform. You could schedule a Zoom call to walk them through the process, but a quick screenshot will save everyone some time.

Once you’ve taken your screenshot, use annotations and other editing techniques to help the other person understand what they’re looking at. Snagit’s step tool makes it super simple to indicate the steps of a process. Callouts are another way to add clarity and context.

What are screenshots?
A screenshot with numbered steps is quick to make and easy to understand

For lengthier or more complex processes, you can use Snagit to turn several screenshots into a helpful video or simply record your screen and camera as you go through the steps.

Using screenshots or recordings to demonstrate a process is incredibly efficient. If you get the same question a lot or are the go-to for a specific function, you can send the same screenshot multiple times instead of repeating it yourself.

Plus, people can refer back to the content if they forget something instead of asking you again. 

3. Show Exactly What’s Happening

If you’ve ever contacted your IT or Web Support Team to report a bug, you’ve likely been asked to provide a screenshot. That’s because not everyone’s computer is the same. 

Depending on your machine, the operating system, and the browser you’re using, the way something looks for you could be completely different for someone else.

Providing a visual example of what you’re looking at helps others see exactly what’s going on and, in this case, identify what could be going wrong.

Screenshot, what is its meaning?
A screenshot of an error message helps avoid confusion by showing someone exactly what you’re seeing

With a screen capture tool like Snagit, you can even automatically add helpful information to your screenshots, like the date, URL, application name, or operating system.

Capture your screen today!

Download a free trial of Snagit to quickly and easily take screenshots of your computer screen, mark them up, and share them.

Download now!
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What is a screenshot, the FAQs

Do you say “a” screenshot or “an” screenshot?

You should say: “A screenshot.” The use of “a” or “an” before a noun (at least in English) depends on the sound that follows. The fact that the word “Screenshot” starts with a consonant means that “a” is the right article to use.

What is the definition of a screenshot?

The definition of a screenshot — also known as a screen grab or screen capture — is an image that captures the current display on a computer, phone, or any other digital device. Despite the different terminology, they all refer to a snapshot of the exact visual information shown on the screen at a specific time.

Screengrab vs screenshot, what’s the difference?

There isn’t one! Despite what they’re called, screengrabs and screenshots are essentially the same thing: an image that captures the screen of your computer, phone, or digital device at any given moment.

What are screenshots used for?

Screenshots have lots of different uses. They can be used to capture and share error messages for troubleshooting, save memorable moments from a video or game, provide step-by-step guides or tutorials, or document important information that can’t be easily saved in other ways.
Essentially, what screenshots are used for is to capture a visual record of the contents on a screen at a specific moment.

What happens when you take a screenshot?

When you take a screenshot on a phone, tablet, or computer, your device captures a static image of whatever is currently showing on your screen. This image is then saved to your device, usually in a folder dedicated to screenshots. Once it’s saved, it can be viewed, shared, or edited — just like any other photo or image. This is what happens when you take a screenshot on most computers, phones, or other digital devices.

Is a screenshot the same as a photo?

Not exactly.
While a screenshot can function similarly to a photo (in that it captures an image), it’s not the same thing. A photo is an image taken with a camera, capturing things in the real world. A screenshot, on the other hand, is an image of the content displayed on a screen.

Lauren North

Direct Marketing Specialist at TechSmith. I enjoy painting with watercolors, visiting our National Parks, and eating nachos.

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