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Windows Snipping Tool and Other Inbuilt Screen Capture Software

Updated on August 17, 2016
amuno profile image

Alfred is a long-time teacher and computer enthusiast who works with and troubleshoots a wide range of computing devices.

Looking for free screen capture tools? Windows snipping tool, Windows steps recorder and Print screen are screen capture software embedded within Windows 7 and 8, and are absolutely free. The Print screen tool is also available in Windows XP.

The Three Windows Screen Capture Software

Windows operating system comes pre-loaded with its own inbuilt free screen capture software

  • Windows XP only takes advantage of the Print Screen utility, but a free Windows XP Snipping Tool download is also available.
  • Windows 7 comes preloaded with Snipping Tool and Print Screen Utility.
  • Windows 8 ships with the mentioned tools in addition to Steps Recorder.

1: Windows Snipping Tool

The Snipping Tool is a small nifty screen capture software that is embedded within Windows which can make screen capture painless.

To access this utility in Windows 7, simply go to Start menu; All Programs; Accessories and then Snipping Tool.

In Windows 8 it can be accessed by;

  • typing 'snipping tool' when in Metro Interface,
  • or accessing it from within System32 folder on the Windows installation drive.

The file name is called Snipping Tool. Just find it and create a shortcut on the desktop.

 Snipping Tool and Steps Recorder are located within the System32
Snipping Tool and Steps Recorder are located within the System32

The Snipping Tool window is as small as shown in the image on the right.

To use it, simply click on New and the software will grey out the desktop screen. You now have a + symbol which you can use to select/draw out the area on the screen which you want to capture.

The image below shows the new Snipping Tool window after it has captured an image.

Snipping Tool capturing an image
Snipping Tool capturing an image

The user can now save, email or edit the captured image. The pen tools can be used to scribble and the rubber (eraser) can be used to swipe off additional drawings or writings the user has added to the image.

The Snipping tool saves user work in PNG, JPG, GIF and HTML file formats. This makes the files usable in various software platforms.

2 Windows Steps Recorder (PSR.EXE)

Steps Recorder is a Windows 8 tool that can be used to create sequential recording of actions that are taking place on the desktop.

It can be accessed by searching or simply click on it in System32 folder on the Windows installation drive.

How to search for Steps Recorder in Windows 7 and 8
How to search for Steps Recorder in Windows 7 and 8

Steps Recorder is Located in the same folder as Snipping Tool. It's local name is PSR.EXE and once open, looks like the image below:

Steps recorder is an important utility if you want to explain a problem page by page and want someone to look at it later and probably find solutions for you.

Much as Microsoft wants to limit this tool to a problem solving software, it can actually be used to do much more. It can be used to create slide recordings that can be used for illustrations.

A sample screen of just one of the many pages looks like the one in the image below:

One page in a long list of slides of Steps Recorder
One page in a long list of slides of Steps Recorder

The green boundaries indicate areas where the user is working.

The steps in this tool are then saved as a zip file which can be emailed or copied to a storage device.

A Microsoft video explaining Steps Recorder can be viewed in this link:

3 Print Screen (PrtSc)

Print Screen is as old as the computer itself and possibly needs no explanation.

Print Screen is a feature that allows the user capture the complete image of the computer desktop by pressing the PrtSc key on the keyboard.

PrtSc key on an Acer laptop keyboard
PrtSc key on an Acer laptop keyboard

Once the key has been pressed the current information on the desktop is saved in the clipboard.

The information saved in the clipboard can then be pasted or copied onto any image editing software like Paint or Photoshop, for editing.

Windows 7 Snipping Tool

Free Screen Capture Software for Windows XP

Windows XP is not loaded with capture tools similar to Windows 7 and Windows 8. An alternative snipping tool download, which is similar to the above tool is called Windows XP Snipping Tool.

However, Windows XP users also have the inbuilt Print Screen utility which can be accessed by punching the Print Screen key on the keyboard.


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    • Sam Gue profile image

      Sam Guevarra 

      11 months ago from Toronto, CA

      Thanks for this post. I also tried ApowerREC app. This is a screen recorder and a screen capture tool for Windows.

    • amuno profile imageAUTHOR

      Alfred Amuno 

      2 years ago from Kampala

      Thanks Jeff

    • jeffcard123 profile image


      2 years ago

      I stumbled upon this post, it's absolutely helpful. I used to capture screenshot with Acethinker Screen Grabber, free and works quite well for me. Share it here as an alternative.

    • amuno profile imageAUTHOR

      Alfred Amuno 

      7 years ago from Kampala

      You are right Forlanda about the ease in using Snipping Tool. It is quite easy to use and does not require hassles of installation.

    • forlanda profile image

      J Forlanda 

      7 years ago from US of A

      I use the snipping tool a lot. It is the easiest and most accessible tool available if you simply want to capture something on your screen and do simple mark up.

      I haven't use the step recorder though.

      This is very useful. Thanks.

    • amuno profile imageAUTHOR

      Alfred Amuno 

      7 years ago from Kampala

      Thanks BlissfulWriter. Yes, I guess most of us do use Print Screen but I have for continuous period of time shifted to Snipping Tool owing to its simplicity. I am even saved the cropping tasks, since I can already crop using this utility while doing the initial copying.

    • BlissfulWriter profile image


      7 years ago

      I typically use the Print Screen and crop and edit it with editing program.


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