Print screen is a keyboard function that takes a quick “snapshot” of a computer screen, copying it to the clipboard. By pressing the labeled key, then opening a paint or image program, the screenshot can be pasted in as an image file, and from there, it can be saved or printed. If the computer user doesn’t need a snapshot of the entire screen, but only wants an image of the active window, he or she can hold down the alt key while pressing the print screen key. This is a great way to save menu screenshots for instructional web pages, making it easier for people to follow along when configuring software, for example.
People may also use the feature when ordering merchandise online. Once the ordering process is complete, a confirmation page is normally displayed. Rather than printing this page, the buyer copy an image of the screen and save it until the merchandise arrives. This means that there's no need to use up paper or ink.
The print screen feature only preserves what is readily visible on screen, however. Users will not be able to “scroll down” if the page extends beyond the bottom of the screen. In order to have scrolling ability, a user can save the page as an HTML file instead. To do this, he can select File from the top toolbar, then choose Save Page As, and use the default extension.
Popular word processors like Microsoft Word® allow images to be pasted into documents by using print screen. Once the key has been pressed, the user can just open the word processor, and from the top toolbar, choose Edit then Paste. Alternately, he can right-click on an empty part of the page within the document and choose “paste” from the right-click menu.
The print screen key is located on the top right portion of a standard U.S. 102-key keyboard. It can be found by the scroll lock and pause keys. In decades past, pressing this key sent the screenshot to the printer port, automatically printing the screen. Today’s keyboards only copy the snapshot, allowing greater flexibility.