If you need to use screenshots for documentation, education, or just to capture a moment on a desktop, there are tons of options. But when you want something fast and that doesn’t require the skill set of image manipulation programs, your options are more limited.

On some platforms, such as Ubuntu Linux, you can tap the Print Screen key twice and get a solid screenshot of your entire screen, but what if you want a portion of the screen or a single window, or you want to add visual elements? You could download and install GIMP, but that might be overkill for the simple task of screenshots. Another option is to use Greenshot, which is a flexible screenshot tool that offers a nice feature set and is free to use.

Greenshot’s feature list includes:

  • Easily create complete or partial screenshots (full, region, or window)
  • Annotate, highlight, or hide parts of a screenshot
  • Quickly send the screenshot to different locations (to a file, the clipboard, a printer, or as an email attachment)
  • Save in various formats (PNG, JPG, GIF, BMP)
  • Customize filename patterns
  • Manage print settings
  • Quick access from the system tray or keyboard shortcuts

Installing Greenshot

  1. Download the executable file from the Greenshot download page.
  2. Double-click the downloaded file to start the installation.
  3. Walk through the user-friendly wizard.

Once installed, Greenshot will reside in your system tray as an easily accessible icon (Figure A).
Figure A

The icon you’re looking for is the green G.

Configuring Greenshot

Before you start using Greenshot, you might want to use the Settings dialog (Figure B) to set up the tool to fit your specific needs.
Figure B

Greenshot’s Preferences dialog box

To access the Greenshot Settings window, right-click the Greenshot icon and select Preferences. You will also notice a Quick Preferences entry in the menu. From the Quick Preferences menu, you can get easy access to Screenshot Destination, Print Options, and Effects. Effects make the snapping of a screenshot more obvious. From the Quick Preferences | Effects menu, you can add the sound of a camera snapshot and/or a flash effect for when the screenshot is taken.

From the Preferences window, you must set the delay before capture (milliseconds), Storage Location, and Filename Pattern. You should give yourself plenty of delay for the screenshot — this is especially true when you need screenshots from menus or of other actions. I find 5,000 milliseconds gives me enough time to set up the shot. If you need more time, go to Preferences | General and change the delay.

The filename pattern is in the form:


You can also add the following fields:

  • NUM – incremental numbering (up to six digits)
  • user – Windows user
  • domain – Windows domain
  • hostname – PC name

You can have Greenshot create dynamic sub-directories by using the backslash to separate folders. For example, the following will generate a folder named 2012-10-1 and a file within based on the current time:


Using Greenshot

There are two ways to take screenshots with Greenshot:

  • Right-click the system tray icon and select the type of screenshot you want to take from Capture Region, Capture Last Region, Capture Window, Capture Full Screen.
  • Use the keyboard shortcut associated with the type of screenshot you want to take

The keyboard shortcuts are as follows:

  • Capture full screen – Ctl + Print Screen
  • Capture Region – Print Screen
  • Capture Window – Alt + Print Screen
  • Capture Last Region – Shift + Print Screen

When the screenshot is taken, the image will open how you have configured it (within Preferences). By default, it will open up in the built-in Image Editor (Figure C).
Figure C

A screenshot within a screenshot. (Click the image to enlarge.)

With the screenshot open in the editor, you can then add text, add objects, crop the image, and easily obfuscate (hide) sections of the image. Most of the tools are very simple to use. The only tool you might not be familiar with is the Obfuscation tool. If you click the Obfuscate icon (it’s the second one from the bottom on the left edge toolbar), you can drag the tool over the section you want to hide. Once you size the obfuscation window correctly (Figure D), let go of the left mouse button and the section will blur.
Figure D

The TechRepublic logo has been obfuscated — not that you should ever do that!

Give Greenshot a try, and see if it doesn’t become your go-to tool for snapping shots of your desktop.