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June 25, 2017

Immortalize your display: How to take a screenshot using a Microsoft Surface

by John_A

Whether you want to capture friends and relatives making funny faces on Skype, or need accessible photos of online resources or programs, screenshots benefit users in many ways. With a simple press of a computer’s Print Screen key, you essentially have the ability to capture anything and everything occurring on your desktop at once.

But what if you want to take a screenshot using a keyboard-less, touchscreen tablet? Despite the fact that the fabled Print Screen key didn’t make the jump to tablets during production, most tablets feature their own method for capturing an image of your display, often via a button combination or tool. For Microsoft Surface users, this fact is especially true given there are a number of separate methods for capturing screenshots of your tablet’s display. Whether you’re utilizing a Touch or Type Cover, use the tablet by itself, or rely on a Surface Pen, our comprehensive walkthrough will have you taking screenshots on your Surface in no time.

Method 1: Using the Surface’s keyboard shortcuts

From the original Surface through the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft’s decided not to include a Print Screen key on either its Touch or Type Cover accessories. That makes taking screenshots less straightforward than on a computer. Instead of using a designated key, you need to perform a simple button combination to execute the command on a Surface.

To take a screenshot, press and hold the Windows icon button located at the bottom of the tablet. With the Windows button pressed, simultaneously push the lower volume rocker on the side of the Surface. At this point, you should notice the screen dim then brighten again as if you took a snapshot with a camera. Once you successfully finish capturing the screenshot, you can view it via the Screenshots folder in your Photos application or within My Pictures folder.

Because the Surface Pro 4 and 2017 Surface Pro don’t have a Windows button, the process is a little different. On those machines, simply hold down the power button and then press the volume-up button at the same time. Again, the screen will flicker and the screenshot will be saved as on the other machines.

Method 2: Using a Type or Touch Cover

Although the Type and Touch Covers prior to the Surface Pro 4 don’t feature a Print Screen key, they do allow you to capture screenshots using a basic button combination. With a Type or Touch Cover attached to your Microsoft Surface, simultaneously press and hold the Fn key, the Windows button, and click the spacebar. You’ll notice the screen dim then brighten again, thus signifying a successful screenshot.

On the Surface Pro 4 and 2017 Surface Pro, there’s no Windows button, but the Type Covers do include a Print Screen key. Even so, Microsoft still makes things more complicated than necessary. You’ll need to make sure the Function key is off, indicated by its LED being unlit, and then hit the Windows key + PrtScrn key in combination. That will kick off the same process of capturing the screen and placing the result in the Screenshots folder.

Method 3: Using the Snipping Tool

If you’d like greater control regarding what aspect of the display you capture, the Surface’s Snipping Tool grants you with even more preciseness. To locate and use the Snipping Tool, open the search function within the Surface’s menu bar and simply type “Snipping Tool” into the search field. Once it populates in the search results, you can either left-click the icon to open the application on your desktop, or right-click the icon to pin the application to your Start menu or taskbar.

The Snipping Tool gives you a few options once it’s open: New, Mode, Delay, Cancel, or Options.

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The first thing you’ll want to do is select the capture Mode. Options include:

  • Free-form Snip, which lets you use your mouse, finger, or pen to capture a custom area.
  • Rectangular Snip, which captures a precise, manually selected rectangular area.
  • Window Snip, which captures a specific user-selected window.
  • Full-screen Snip, which as it sounds snips and entire screen.

Once you’ve made your selection, click New and respond accordingly. For example, if configured for Rectangular Snip, your cursor turns into a set of cross hairs that you can then use to create a capture field encompassing the portion of the display you want to capture. Simply drag the resulting cursor over the desired area before releasing it to capture your desired screenshot. Afterward, save the screenshot wherever you prefer, as either a JPEG, PNG, or GIF file. If you’re using a Surface Pen, then you can also annotate your clip.

Method 4: Using a Surface Pen

The Surface Pen uses an active digitizer in the display to provide precise and accurate pen input. It doesn’t only allow users to write on the display, however. It also sports buttons that can be customized to perform various functions such as erasing writing, and opening apps. One of the more useful Surface Pen functions is its ability to take screen captures and save them to the default OneNote app, which can be the Windows 10 version of OneNote, or OneNote for the desktop.

To configure a Surface Pen button, you can open the Settings app in Windows 10 by clicking on All Settings in the Action Center. Once there, select Devices, then Pen and Windows Ink. Scroll down to the “Pen shortcuts” section, which will include various options depending on the version of Surface Pen you’re using.

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

On the new Surface Pen that shipped alongside the 2017 Surface Pro, for example, the eraser button can be configured to take a screen capture and send it to OneNote when the button is double-clicked. If you don’t want to capture the entire screen, then you can use the pen to select a specific region to capture. The resulting screenshot will show up in your default OneNote notebook and section.

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