Using the Snipping Tool

by Barry Dysert
(last updated September 21, 2015)

The Snipping Tool is a handy Windows utility that allows you to snip a portion of your display to be saved, edited, mailed, etc. The tool is a bit like doing a print screen, except that it lets you capture an arbitrary portion of the display.

Most people have the Snipping Tool on their desktop, so launching it is simply a matter of double-clicking its icon. If you don't have the Snipping Tool on your desktop, you can launch it in Windows 7 by going to Start | All Programs | Accessories | Snipping Tool. In Windows 8 you can press Win+C to display the Charms bar. Then, in the Search box, type "snipping" (without the quotes) and press Enter.

Once the tool has been launched, the display fades a bit to facilitate your capturing of whatever part of the screen you wish. The tool's control window also appears. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The Snipping Tool's control window.

At this point, you can cancel the snipping operation by closing the window, or you can continue using the tool. If you click the Options button, Windows displays the Snipping Tool Options dialog box. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. The Snipping Tool Options dialog box.

Typically, you only need to set your options once, as they are saved for subsequent uses. The New drop-down list is used to specify what type of screen capture you want to do. There are four options in the drop-down list:

  • Free-Form Snip. This option lets you draw a shape around any part of the display you wish to capture.
  • Rectangular Snip. This option lets you capture a rectangular portion of the display.
  • Window Snip. This option is used to capture a window or a dialog box.
  • Full-Screen Snip. This option lets you capture the entire screen.

Whatever you choose in the drop-down list is persistent, meaning it is saved for subsequent uses.

Assuming you've chosen one of the first two snipping methods, at this point you can click and drag your mouse around the part of the screen you want to capture. When you release the mouse, the captured image appears in the Snipping Tool dialog box. (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3. The Snipping Tool dialog box is used to display what was captured.

Using the tools in the Snipping Tool dialog box you can annotate, edit, highlight, erase, save, and email the image. You may want to copy the image to the Clipboard so that you can paste it into another application. Or you may want to save the image to a file for subsequent processing. When you're finished with your snip, you can close the dialog box as normal or select File | Exit.

 This tip (12558) applies to Windows 7 and 8.

Author Bio

Barry Dysert

Barry has been a computer professional for over 30 years, working in different positions such as technical team leader, project manager, and software developer.  He is currently a senior software engineer with an emphasis on developing custom applications under Microsoft Windows. ...

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