How To Take Screenshots of Anything (Even When They’re Blocked)
by David Nield
Whether you’re showing off your video gaming prowess, trying to fix a problem, or capturing a badly-spelled tweet before it’s deleted from the web, screenshots are an essential part of our digital lives. It’s not always obvious just how to pull off a screengrab though, especially when they’re blocked by default. Here’s how to take a screenshot anywhere—even when they’re blocked.
The universally acknowledged screenshot shortcut that usually works across Android versions, manufacturers, and handsets is Power+Volume Down. On stock Android and most variations you’ll get a notification and the option to share your newly grabbed screenshot, which is also saved to the Photos app.
Android manufacturers outside the Pixel and Nexus programs typically follow Google’s lead, but there are exceptions. On the majority of modern Samsung Android devices you should use Power+Home instead, and while Power+Volume Down works on Sony handsets, you can also just press Power to see a menu that includes a screenshot option.
If you’re running Android 6.0 or above you can use Google Now as well (though non-stock Android variations may differ). Hold down on the Home button to bring up the Google Now on Tap interface, then tap the Share icon. If you’re on a Pixel phone you can now swipe up from the bottom of the screen.
There are also a host of ways to connect your Android device up to your computer and take a screenshot that way, if you find it easier than using the physical buttons on the phone or tablet itself.
For example, add Vysor to Chrome and you can record the screen on an Android device once it’s plugged into your computer. You just need to enable developer mode first and make sure USB debugging in Developer options inside Settings is set to On. Alternatively use Screen Recording and Mirror for Android with the AllCast Receiver extension for Chrome.
There’s only one big block on screenshots on Android and indeed iOS: when DRM-protected video is playing, with Netflix the best example. Right now there’s no way around this restriction, even using the desktop applications we’ve mentioned.
Over on iOS, life is simpler than Android. There’s one hardware shortcut for all iOS devices, but no option to run third-party screenshot apps if you need to.
On macOS, it’s straightforward enough. Hook up your iDevice via USB then open QuickTime and choose File then New Movie Recording. Click the drop-down menu next to the red record button, pick iPhone, and you’re all set.
There are plenty of third-party options for Mac and Windows. The simple but effective LonelyScreen, and the more advanced but paid-for Mirroring360, simulate an AirPlay display on your computer, while Apowersoft iPhone/iPad Recorder works in your browser or on the desktop.
For the time being there’s no way to get around this—even the AirPlay mirroring methods won’t let you play DRM-protected videos. If you want to get a grab of an iTunes video or an app like Netflix, you need to find a way to do it outside of iOS.
The time-honored way of taking a screenshot in Windows is to hit PrtScn on your keyboard then paste the results into an image editing app of your choice (like Paint). Hold down the Windows key first, if your laptop has one, and the file is also automatically saved into a folder called Screenshots inside Pictures. Use Alt+PrtScn to capture just the currently active window.
After that, any time you hit the Print Screen button you’ll have a copy saved to your Dropbox, and from there to the cloud and anywhere else you’ve got Dropbox installed.
The Snipping Tool that comes as part of Windows (search for it through the Start menu) gives you a few more options, including the ability to capture a section of your desktop rather than the whole thing, and a delay feature that will grab the screen after a certain number of seconds have elapsed.
If you need even more functionality and features, there’s plenty of choice out there. SnagIt is one of the most comprehensive screen capture programs out there, but will cost you, while LightShot and Jing are capable, free alternatives.
We’re also impressed with ShareX, which is open source, lightweight, and packed with features, including automatic uploading to various cloud-based services, and a few handy auto-capture options too.
If you want to take a screenshot on macOS, press Shift+Cmd+3 to save it as PNG file on your desktop. Use Shift+Cmd+4 to select a section of the screen instead, or add Ctrl to either of those combinations to copy the image to the clipboard rather than saving it to disk.
The same Shift+Cmd+3 and Shift+Cmd+4 keyboard shortcuts work with Dropbox as well, so you don’t need to readjust your muscle memory to adapt. If Dropbox is enabled in this way, it overrides the normal screenshot functions of macOS.
As on Windows, there are third-party applications available if you need something a bit smarter than the tools built into macOS. The aforementioned SnagIt, LightShot and Jing are all available for Macs as well, for example.
You may still experience issues when there’s DRM-locked video visible, which will simply gray out. Very few third-party apps, or the tools built into macOS, can get around it.