Take a Snip with Windows 7

Take a Snip with Windows 7

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  1. Windows 7 has a new utility called the snipping tool, and it’s really great. It allows you to capture what you see on the screen, and save it, or email it, or put it into a document or picture.  It’s particularly useful if you are contacting tech support and want to show them what you see, which is often hard to describe in words.  As the cliché goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.  Sometimes it’s even true.

    Putting the Snipping Tool On the Taskbar

    In order to actually make use of the snipping tool you will want it on the toolbar, within easy reach.  Otherwise, you will have to cover part of the screen with the Windows menu, which may cause you to lose what you wish to capture.

    To put the snipping tool on the taskbar:

    1.  Open the start menu
    2. Open “All Programs”
    3. Open “Accessories”
    4. Right click on “Snipping Tool”
    5. Click on “Pin to Taskbar”

    Snipping Tool Options

    Before we actually start snipping, let’s cover the snipping options.  The reason I want to do this is that when we start do example snips I want you to get the same results I do, and that won’t happen if you have your options set differently than I do.

    I would love to show you the snipping tools options menu, using the snipping tool itself, but you can only have one instance of the snipping tool open, and you can’t open the “Options Menu” and do a snip at the same time, so I’ll have to wing it.  When the “Options Menu” is open you have the following options, with a check box in front of each:

    • Hide instructions text
    • Always copy snips to the Clipboard
    • Include URL below snips (HTML only)
    • Prompt to save snips before exiting
    • Show screen overlay when Snipping Tool is active

     Below that is an option box for the selection.  It has a selection for the ink color, and a check box in front of “Show selection ink after snips are captured.”

     You will want to check all of the top ones, except the first.  You want the instructional text.  You don’t want to check “Show selection ink after snips are captured.”  You can leave the color of the selection red.


    Rectangular Snip

    This is the easiest one, and the one we will start with.  To practice I will supply you with a section of Lorem Ipsum below:

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

    As an aside, this is the standard printers and computer example text that has been around since 45 BC.  It’s a snippet from Cicero’s “The Extremes of Good and Evil,” and has been used as example text for printers since the 1500s.  For a long time people thought it was gibberish that was generated by a printer randomly mixing up the type to create a sample, but a scholar eventually matched the first line up with the first line of Cicero’s text.

    Okay, open the snippet tool and select “New/Rectangular Snippit.”  It’s the default snippit type, so it should already be selected, but it doesn’t hurt to check.  Now use the cursor to highlight lines 3 and 4 of the above sample text.  Click on the icon that looks like two pages of paper, which means copy, and open your word processor of choice.  Now, using Control-V, paste the snippit you copied.  It should look like the below:

    ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia

    Congratulations! You have just taken your first snippet.  Now try editing the text.  You will see that you can’t.  The snippet tool only captures pictures of the text, not the text itself. It would be nice if it could convert the pictures of the text to text for you, but even though it can’t it’s still very useful.

    Options When You Have Selected New Snippet

    When you selected “New/Rectangular Snippit,” you were presented with a menu and Toolbar with a large number of options.  Expanded, it looks like this:


    • File
    • New Snippit
    •                 Save As
    •                 Send To
    •                                 Email recipient
    •                                 Email recipient (as attachment)
    •                 Exit
    • Edit
    •                 Copy
    • Tools
    •                 Pen
    •                                 Red pen
    •                                 Blue pen
    •                                 Custom pen
    •                                 Customize
    •                                                Color
    •                                                Thickness
    •                                                                Fine
    •                                                                Medium
    •                                                                Thick
    •                                                Tip
    •                                                                Chisel tip pen
    •                                                                Round tip pen
    •                 Highlighter
    •                 Eraser
    •                 Options



    •                 Scissors/Snippet/New
    •                 Floppy/Save
    •                 Pages/Copy
    •                 Envelope/Email
    •                 Pen Options
    •                 Pen
    •                 Eraser


    Pen/Highlighter/Eraser Options

    You might wonder what these are for.  Basically they are for decorating your snippet.  The eraser only works with the pen and highlighter, not the text you copied.  Even if you are not artistic check out the highlighter tool, as it will occasionally be useful.  Sometimes you can’t snip only what you want to show someone, so you can use the highlighter tool to point it out to them.  The pen tool is otherwise best left to the artistic, if my attempts to use it are typical of the results you will get.

    Free-form Snippet

    Below is something for you try your skills on with the free form snippet tool:

    You will notice two things; the cursor becomes an annoying pair of scissors, so you can’t really tell where the cut will be, and it’s almost impossible to draw a straight line with the tool.  To say I don’t really use the free-form snippet tool much is an understatement.  What were they thinking?

    Window Snip

    This could actually be a quite useful tool.  It allows you to copy the contents of a window.  However, the types of windows you most often want to copy have to be closed in order to use the snippet tool, or opening the snippet tool closes them. Agh!  Still, it does have its uses if you keep multiple windows open and want to copy the contents of one.  Since the snippet tool copies the window as a graphic, and thus does not try to interpret it, it never mangles it.  Sometimes a simple copy and paste results in mangled results, due to the paste trying to interpret the copied results in the context of the material it is pasting it into.

    Full-Screen Snip

    This is very useful when contacting tech support about something, and you want to show them what is on your screen.  When things go wrong they often go very wrong, and nothing short of copying the full screen will show tech support exactly what you are seeing.

    What Is The Snippet Tool Good For?

    We have talked about tech support, but what other things can you use it for?  If you are trying to create instructional material, it is very useful, as pasting material often changes it, while pasting a snippet never changes it.

    There are some web sites that have disabled copy.  If you try to highlight something on the page to copy it, you will find that you can’t.  I can understand people wanting to protect their copyrighted material, but often I just want to send a snippet of the page to a friend.  Well, if you want to send a snippet of a page to a friend, the Snippet Tool is your friend.  Even if copy is disabled on the page, you can always use the Snippet Tool.  Remember though, that you are not copying text, but a picture of text.

    If you are putting together a picture, you can use the snippet tool to cut out a portion of something from the internet to use as a background on your picture, or as an item in your picture.  Do remember that most of the material on the internet is copyrighted, so only do this for personal use.

    Summing Up

    The Snippet Tool is a very useful addition to the Windows 7 toolbox, and as a free tool it’s astonishingly good.  I find myself using it often.  In the past I have bought tools similar to this that were actually less capable.  If you keep it on the toolbar, within easy reach, I think you will find yourself using it more often than you imagine.



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