[Windows] Take a screenshot of only the active window or program with ALT + Print Screen [Tip]


dotTech has reviewed the best free screenshot programs for Windows. However, screenshot programs aren’t for everyone and some people like to stick with the ole fashion Print Screen -> paste in Microsoft Paint method. The issue with tapping Print Screen to take a screenshot is it takes a screenshot of your whole screen. Sometimes this is desirable while other times it is not. The good news is Windows has the ability to take a screenshot of just your active window or program, too — so you don’t have to be forced to take a snapshot of your whole screen. This article shows you how to do just that


Before you learn a trick on how to take a screenshot of the active window, it is a good idea to actually know what ‘active window’ means.

It is actually pretty simple. ‘Active¬† window’ is simply the window or program that you are currently in — the window or program that you are actively using. For example, let’s say you have three windows open — Firefox, Internet Explorer, and My Documents. Then let’s say you are currently using Firefox. The active window, therefore, is Firefox. If you switch to Internet Explorer and start using it, Internet Explorer becomes the active window. Same holds true for My Documents or any other window or program that you have open.


As already mentioned, tapping Print Screen (or PRT SC, as some keyboards call it) takes a screenshot of your whole screen. If you want to take a screenshot of your active window only, you need to hold ALT while pressing Print Screen. In other words, pressing ALT + Print Screen takes a screenshot of only the active window.

Once you press ALT + Print Screen, a screenshot of the active window is copied to Windows Clipboard; you need to open up your favorite image editor (e.g. Microsoft Paint), paste the screenshot, and save it — just like you would do if you used just Print Screen.


People that use screenshot tools have no issue capturing active window only. However, people that prefer to stick to Print Screen will definitely enjoy the added capability of active window only. Enjoy!

[Thanks Grantwhy, image via Phil Sexton]

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  1. Patara

    Snipping Tool in Win7 can be used to capture Menus and Context Menus by Opening it and then clicking Esc Key.Open the Menu you want, Use Ctrl+PrtScn [ make sure F Lock is off ] and then continue on with the capture as normal by drawing around the menu area.

  2. Trev

    Also the Alt + Print Screen trick is handy if you have more than one monitor. Cause if just Print Screen is used you get the lot (all screens) in one big image.

    Also Alt + Print Screen is good if you want to record those little error messages.