Issue #190 July 28, 2009

PowerPoint Tip: Capturing screens and using on slides

Last week I was presenting to a conference of educators in Washington, DC and the topic of screen captures came up. Some of the sample slides they sent for my workshop makeovers contained screen shots that could be improved, so today I’ll share some tips on capturing the screen and using it on your slides. This is helpful when demonstrating a web site, showing how to complete a form in Word, or any other application you need to show during your presentation. There are at least four ways to actually capture the screen, depending on what software you have. The first two methods work in any version of Windows. By pressing the PrintScreen key (sometimes abbreviated to PrtScrn or something similar), Windows captures the entire screen and copies the image to the Windows clipboard, allowing you to paste it on your slide. If you want to capture only the current application, say your browser without seeing other applications or the taskbar at the bottom of the screen, hold down the Alt key and press the PrintScreen key. If you are using Windows Vista, it includes a Snipping Tool application under the Accessories list that allows you to draw a rectangle around the information you want to capture on your screen. The gold standard, in my opinion, which gives you endless options, is a commercial program called SnagIt from TechSmith. It gives you a host of options on capturing your screen and editing it before placing it on the clipboard. If the first three methods won’t do exactly what you need, I suggest you invest in this software at Once you have the screen capture on the clipboard, switch back to your PowerPoint slide and paste the image on the slide. It appears like any other image and allows you to apply the same editing as a picture would. I suggest you first crop the image so that only the important parts are showing. Don’t distract the audience with parts of the screen capture that are not critical to your point. Then, size the resulting image to fill the available slide area as much as possible. This makes it easier to see for the audience. After the image in on the slide and looking good, there’s one more step. You need to make sure that the audience knows what area of the screen shot you want them to focus on. In my book, The Visual Slide Revolution, this is step four of the KWICK method, making the visual Crystal Clear. Add a callout that consists of a graphic highlight, such as an arrow or rectangle to show the audience where you want them to focus. Add callout text that explains why this one spot is important. Now you have a screen shot that is meaningful to the audience. If you’d like more detailed instruction on using screen shots, including how to make sections zoom out for even greater clarity, check out my Training Video on Working With Screen Capture Images at