Summer is a great time to do quality documentation for your students’ project lesson plans. If you aren’t making your worksheets illustrated, make that your project this summer.

I regularly do individual screen shots to include in things I write. Full screen capture is easy. Windows and Linux distributions do that when you tap the PrtSc (Print Screen) button. In Windows, the capture goes directly to the clipboard from which you can easily paste the image into a document. The paste behavior for clipboard images has been inconsistent in Microsoft Word. Some versions automatically converted the image into an “inline” image which was my preference. Other versions placed the images in a “float” condition with an anchor somewhere on the page. It is possible to convert a floating graphic to inline by clicking on it and choosing the inline (as text) option. Inline graphics move along ahead of text in the previous paragraph even if you add significant text later in editing. In word, several Word drawing tools make it easy to annotate the captured and inserted images, adding arrows, image outlines, etc. Add the draw toolbar by selecting it in the View->toolbars menu.

If you want more control in Windows, you will need to get a screen capture program. I was a fan of HyperSnap (not free or open source). Others were fans of SnagIt (also not free or open source). I did find a recent description of several free screen capture programs on the following site.

The only open source Windows screen capture program I found was called “zscreen”, hosted at googlecode. It is licensed under the GPL v2. When set to “file” as the capture method, it saves to a folder on your hard drive. The images can be done as full screen, selected window or region. It requires the dotNet Framework (v 3.5) and will install it if your system doesn’t currently have it. The print screen key alone does a full screen capture, and holding down the control key while tapping the print screen key sets zscreen up to do a region capture.

In my regular Linux work, I use Kubuntu 8.04 and Ksnapshot (for KDE desktop).

When you tap the print screen key, Ksnapshot pops up a window and gives options to capture individual windows, or a “region”. The region capture is best for me. It is like cropping a photo to empahasize the best parts. Ksnapshot offers options to copy to the clipboard or save the capture. When saving, the subsequent snapshots automatically increment the file name you have selected. Therefore you might name the first clip as “button1.png” and the next capture would have “button2.png” for its name already. You can, of course, change the name before saving.

For the more common Gnome desktop of regular Ubuntu and most of the typical Linux distributions, the built-in screen capture program is launched with the print screen button but does not offer a region capture option, just full screen or window. But another “version” is available as one of the Accessories of the Applications menu. It is called “Take Screenshot” and does give you a chance to “grab a selected area”.


However, the Shutter screen capture program (which was formerly was less elegantly called “gscrot”) may be what you want because it comes with more options.

If you are a user of The Gimp image editing program, you can also take screen captures with it and immediately begin editing the capture.

No matter what your choice of screen capture tool and no matter what operating system you use, get familiar with capturing images and begin this summer to incorporate them into your students’ learning materials. They will appreciate your documents more because a picture is worth a thousand words…come on, you knew it was coming.

The ability to save a series of clips from the screen allows me to think through a series of steps, capturing images as I go. Then I can separately concentrate on the illustrated writeup in a separate effort.

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