How to grab a screenshot from iPhone, Android, and nearly any other smartphone

Let's share the masterpieces of organization we put so much time into. Not your desk, of course--your phone.

Windows Phone 7.5 screenshot, courtesy of Paul Thurrott's Windows SuperSite
Image via Paul Thurrott's Supersite for Windows.

A little while back, I asked readers and passing viewers how they organized their smartphone home screens. My editor, big-picture person that she is, noted that screenshots are not easy on some phones. Even on the phones where it is easy, the shortcut isn’t apparent. So let’s review the ways you can grab a screenshot from an iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, or Windows Phone.

iPhone/iPad/iPod touch

On any iOS device, you take a screenshot by holding down one button while clicking the other: either hold down the power/sleep button (on the top-right of your device) and click the main home button in the bottom-center, or hold the home button and click the power/sleep button. One combination will probably feel more right than the other, but either works. You’ll know it worked if you see the screen flash briefly and, if you have sounds enabled, hear a sound like a camera shutter.

Once you’ve taken a screenshot, you can find it in your Photos app. It’s not in the Photo Stream, but in the main Photos section. From there, you can email the photo to yourself, or send it via messaging. Your best bet, though, is to grab the free Dropbox app, then use it to upload photos from your device and share links to entire photo galleries.[1]

Android 4.0 and later

If your Android phone is running Ice Cream Sandwich, or Android 4.0, or any later version of Android, screenshots are nearly as easy as the iPhone. Hold the “Volume Down” button, then click the Power/Sleep/Wake button. You’ll see a notification that the screenshot was saved, and a camera-like flash and sound.

Head to your “Gallery” app (which could be named “Photos” or something similar on certain phone brands). Inside, look for a “Screenshots folder,” where you’ll find your snaps. Select any photo and choose the Share option (sometimes revealed by tapping on the photo again), which then allows for emailing, Dropbox-ing, or any other means you’d like of sharing your screen.

Android 2.3 and earlier

You have two real options when it comes to snagging a screenshot on Android phones that aren’t up to the bleeding edge. There is a third option that involves rooting your Android phone and installing root-required screenshot apps. But the apps I once vouched for in this regard are no longer in the Market/Play Store, and rooting is quite a bit more difficult, and much more risky, than the SDK method that yields about the same results.

Update: Reader Jay points out that certain Android phones, like some models of the Galaxy SII, have their own screenshot abilities baked in. On the SII, holding down the (soft) Home button and (physical) Power button at the same time should activate a screenshot, which then appears in your main image Gallery.

Install the Android SDK on a Windows/Mac/Linux computer

Installing the Android SDK isn’t that painful, really, but it’s not self-explanatory, either. You’ll need to have a Java runtime installed on your system--not a browser plug-in, but the full Java motor. You’ll also need to enable “USB Debugging” on your Android phone (usually in the “Applications” or “Development” section of your settings), and then make sure your computer can “see” your phone when it’s connected by USB. A few phones (including Samsung and Motorola) require their own special software or drivers to connect properly; generally, you’ll have an easier go of it on a Mac or Linux system (easy, at least, in the way you’ve come to expect to edit system files in Linux to make things work).

Once your SDK and USB drivers are installed and your phone is connected, you launch the “DDMS” program from inside the SDK. In that program, open the “Device” menu and choose “Screen capture.” It’s a window that shows exactly what’s on your phone, and you can refresh it, save a PNG of that screen to your hard drive, or simply copy the image to your clipboard.

Grab “No Root Screenshot It”

I have a special place in my heart for things that are named for exactly what they do. No Root Screenshot It requires you to connect once to your phone with a Windows or Mac system, but once you’ve done that, you’re able to take screenshots on your phone—until you restart it, at least. Then you have to connect your phone again and run the desktop application again. For most Android phones, that’s a fairly rare occurrence, though, and it’s still less painful than the always-connected SDK method.

BlackBerry

I don’t own a BlackBerry and have only occasionally borrowed one from friends and relatives. So I defer to Amit Agarwal, the endlessly crafty and inquisitive blogger at Digital Inspiration who outlined the best ways to take a screenshot of a BlackBerry. One is a command line tool that relies on Java on both the phone and a desktop system. The other is a more graphically friendly Windows application. Finally, there’s a third option for wireless, phone-only screenshots. Some of the original applications have gone misssing, but Digital Inspiration mirrored them all on their own SkyDrive.

Windows Phone

Update: On Windows Phone 8, taking a screenshot is iPhone-style simple: press and hold the Windows key and the power button, as described and video-demonstrated by Microsoft. On Windows Phone 7, however ...

It is not fun, nor cheap, to snag screenshots of your Windows Phone (7), unless you’ve already unlocked your phone as a developer. If not, you’ll have to unlock your phone for $99 as if you were a developer. Paul Thurrott explains the Windows Phone 7 screenshot process, which includes unlocking, deploying a custom-made screenshot app onto your phone with the developer kit, and grabbing the JPG files saved to your phone using Microsoft’s desktop Zune sofware.

WebOS

If nothing else, WebOS owners need to show their other smartphone-wielding friends how cool and fluid their interface can be, right? So here’s how to take a screenshot on WebOS phones and tablets:

For webOS phones, simultaneously press Orange/Gray Key+Sym+P. For the HP_Touchpad, press Home Key+Power. In either case, screenshots will be saved to the "Screen captures" folder in the "Photos" app.

With all that out of the way, could I compel you, once again, to fling me a few of your screenshots and a quick explanation of how you organized them? Leave a comment here, maybe with a gallery link in your photo sharing space of choice, or try my Google+ post

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