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by Ray DeCosta

Q. I have a computer problem and asked a friend to help me figure out what's wrong. He requested that I send him a screen shot of the error message rather than trying to write out everything it said. What is a screen shot and how do I take one?

A. A screen shot is basically a picture of the computer's screen at any given time. There are different terms used for just what portion of the screen is needed for a particular section: the entire screen, the active window or a specific section. But most of the time you can just draw a box around whatever portion of your computer display is important or useful and create a picture of that.

There's a quick and dirty way to capture the entire screen: simply hit the Print Screen key, occasionally labeled "Prt Scr" or something similar. To capture just the active window (in this case, your error message), hold down the Alt key and then hit the Print Screen key. Nothing will appear to happen, but don't worry. The contents of your screen (or window) will have been copied to your Clipboard for use by other programs. You can now insert the image into many word processing or email programs by pasting it
where desired.

However if you're looking for something more useful, there are a lot of free screen shot programs available and you will probably want one that allows you to draw arrows and boxes as well as add explanatory text in order to document the problem or area of interest. This feature is usually called "annotation" or some similar term. The screen shot program that seems to be the best at this time is one called Greenshot. It is available here and it installs quickly and easily.

Once it's up and running, all you have to do is draw a box around the area of interest, annotate as needed and send it off to your friend. Now he will have something to view and work with in order to solve your computer problem.

Published: Courier 9/7/14 - Page 3D