Take a screenshot of a menu with the Snipping Tool (Windows 7)

December 12, 2011 at 3:42 pm 2 comments

The Snipping Tool is a handy-dandy little Windows 7 utility that makes it easy to take screenshots.[1]  You can use it to capture a window (including the full screen), a dialog box, or pretty much any portion of the screen.  It even lets you select an oddly shaped item by drawing freehand with the mouse pointer.

In addition to the sheer coolness factor — it’s fun to use! — the Snipping Tool has practical uses.  People often need to take screenshots of error messages to send to their IT departments for help in diagnosing a problem.  Although the utility is much more limited than  a dedicated screen-capture program such as SnagIt®, it works well for simple everyday tasks.

One of the trickier aspects of using the Snipping Tool has been figuring out how to take screenshots of open menus.   Ordinarily, if you open the menu first, it closes when you launch the Snipping Tool.  If you open the Snipping Tool first, you can’t click the menu to view it.

What to do?  In a recent Internet exchange on this topic, a Microsoft Support Engineer suggested a solution that involved using OneNote in conjunction with the Snipping Tool.  But, as it turns out, that’s not necessary.   According to a Microsoft Knowledge Base article,[2] you can take a screenshot of an open menu by doing the following:

  • Open the Snipping Tool.[3]
  • Press the Esc key.
  • Next, open the menu / submenu you want to capture in a screenshot.
  • Press Ctrl PrtScr (this is an essential step!).
  • When the Snipping Tool reappears, click the arrow to the right of the label “New” and choose a method for capturing the screenshot.  Most likely you will use Rectangle — or possibly, Free Form.
  • Click and drag around the menu to create the screenshot.
  • From within the Snipping Tool window, you can save the image to your hard drive (as a JPEG, a GIF, a PNG, or an HTML file), e-mail it, or copy it and then paste it into your word processing program.  (If you choose, you can mark up the image with a pen or highlighter beforehand.)

In my tests, this method worked quite well to capture a menu or submenu.

______________________________________________________________

[1]  I understand that there is a similar utility in Windows Vista.  However, I’m not familiar enough with that version of Windows to know if the method described in this post will work with the Vista Snipping Tool.  I’ve tested only with Windows 7.

[2]  See Snipping Tool: frequently asked questions. Be sure to click “Show All” to see the entire article. The information about taking screenshots of open menus is located toward the end of the article.

[3]  If you don’t see the Snipping Tool on the Start menu and you haven’t pinned it to the Taskbar, open the Start menu and click in the search box, then type “Snip.”  Don’t press Enter to run the search; just let Windows do its thing.  When Snipping Tool appears in the search results, you can left-click to launch the utility or, if you like, right-click and choose “Pin to Taskbar” or “Pin to Start menu” and then open the utility.

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