What Is a Screenshot? The Underrated Digital Superhero

Soniya Jain
June 21, 2023
min read
September 19, 2023
Photo credit
Uncover the immense potential of screenshots in enhancing digital productivity. Learn how the humble screenshot can transform your collaboration.
Create visual guides free


What is a screenshot? A screenshot (also referred to as a screen capture or screen grab) is a digital image that captures the visible items on a monitor, TV or another visual output device.

Think of a screenshot as a "digital photograph" of your screen. It's a way of freezing a particular moment in your digital environment and saving it for future reference or sharing it with others.

How can screenshots help you in your everyday life?

Well, have you ever found yourself in a digital "lost in translation" moment?

Imagine this!

You're working remotely with a team scattered across time zones. You've been trying to describe a specific feature in your company's software application to a new colleague over email. No matter how eloquently you say it, the message just doesn't seem to get through. 

As the emails pile up, so does the frustration.

Meme dog looking mad
(Source: Mailman)

‎Then it dawns on you—why don't I share a screenshot?

You capture a snapshot of the feature in question, highlighting the essential parts. You send this visual guide to your colleague and voila! The confusion's gone, everyone's on the same page and you can leave for happy hour.

This is the power of a screenshot, an underappreciated tool that encapsulates the proverbial phrase—a picture is worth a thousand words.

But there's even more to it. Let's dive into how we can effectively use them to make our work lives easier.

TL;DR: What is a screenshot?

  • Screenshots are digital images that record visible items displayed on a monitor or visual output device.
  • Screenshots can be edited and annotated using free tools like Skitch, LightShot and Jing, or more advanced tools like Scribe.
  • Screenshots can be used in the workplace to enhance remote collaboration, create engaging training content, provide precise feedback and accelerate customer support.
  • Use screenshots to archive important content, gain insights into user behavior, boost social media engagement and gather critical information for competitor analysis.
📌 Best Screenshot Software in Mac, Windows, Chrome & More

What is a screenshot? A working definition

A software walkthrough screenshot captured and customized with Scribe
A software walkthrough screenshot captured and customized with Scribe

Screenshots let you capture what's on your screen to share or reference.

When you capture a screenshot, you save it as an image file—in formats like PNG, JPEG or GIF. This makes it easy to share via email, messaging platforms or even inserted into documents. Screenshots also temporarily add to your device's clipboard for immediate pasting into your current workspace—a handy option for swift visual exchanges.

Most devices and operating systems like Windows, Mac and Android have built-in screenshot functions.

Top 10 Best Free Screenshot Software This Year (2023)

Can screenshots be edited or annotated? What tools or software can be used?

Yes, screenshots can be edited and annotated! There are several free tools you can use:

  • Screenshot annotation tools: These include Skitch, LightShot and TechSmith (formerly Jing). They let you take screenshots, then draw on them, add text, highlights and markings. You can then save and share the annotated screenshots.
  • Simple image editors: Free programs like Paint (for Windows), Preview (for Mac) and GIMP can open screenshots and edit or add to them. You can add words, highlights, arrows, etc. These give basic but effective screenshot annotation features.
  • Full-featured image editors: More advanced free tools like Paint.NET (for Windows) and Seashore (for Mac) offer a wider range of functions for screenshots, including more annotation and markup tools. They are harder to learn but can manage most screenshot editing tasks.
  • Specialized screenshot software like Scribe offers advanced features like selective screen capture, easy annotation, smart blur features and seamless sharing options. These tools take screenshots beyond a simple screen grab, transforming them into dynamic communication aids.
🎓 How to Edit a Screenshot (For Personal & Professional Use)

10 Transformative use cases of screenshots at work

Let's explore 10 key areas where screenshots can enhance productivity, clarity and engagement in the workspace.

1. Add clarity to remote work collaboration

‎In a virtual work environment, it's easy to run into misunderstandings without in-person cues or explanations.

We've all experienced lengthy (often frustrating) email chains or Slack messages asking to clarify a task or concept. Sometimes, the situation devolves into an exhausting back-and-forth exchange or the dreaded request for a "quick call," interrupting your flow.

Thankfully, embracing a visual-oriented communication approach can remove a lot of ambiguity and confusion.

When you need to guide a team member through a process, instead of sending lengthy, text-heavy instructions, leverage the power of screenshots.

Let's say you want to explain a multi-step process on an internal software application.

You could...

  • Take a screenshot for each crucial step.
  • Add annotations to highlight key actions.
  • Sequence them in the order of execution.

The visual nature of this information helps your colleague grasp the concept quickly, reducing the chances of confusion and the need for multiple clarifications.

Don't want to waste your time taking and annotating screenshots? Let Scribe do it for you!

Tools like Scribe make remote work communication flow a breeze, offering easy-to-use features for capturing, annotating and sharing screenshots with your team members.

💡10 Collaboration Tools for More Productive Teams

2. Craft engaging onboarding & training content

Clarity and engagement are basic fundamentals of effective learning for onboarding new employees or training existing ones. 

What could be more engaging and clear than visually rich content? That's where screenshots come into play.

Screenshots can transform mundane, text-heavy training manuals into interactive, easy-to-understand visual guides. Use screenshots to showcase the internal tools, dashboards, workflows or processes.

For example, if you're onboarding new hires and training on specific software, you could use annotated screenshots to illustrate how to navigate through the application, where to find particular features or how to execute specific tasks.

Creating visual training content becomes even better with the Scribe Pages feature that allows you to organize multiple how-to guides in a single document that is easy to share and update.

🎓 Here's everything you need to run, build and manage a successful onboarding program

3. Offer precise, creative feedback

Creative projects, whether design, marketing or content creation, often need a high degree of collaboration and feedback. 

It's hard to give precise feedback through text alone — and way more prone to misunderstandings.

Say you're reviewing a new design for your website or a marketing campaign. With screenshots, you can pinpoint the elements you want to discuss by capturing them directly on your screen.

Here's an example of a great way to use screenshots: Imagine you're reviewing a landing page and want one of the call-to-action buttons to be more prominent. You could try to explain that in text, or you could simply take a screenshot and add a circle or arrow where you want the update, like this!

Screenshot of Scribe landing Page with a circle on the CTA button
Screenshot auto-captured with Scribe

‎Screenshots let you provide feedback async, so team members can review and respond in their own time, reducing interruptions and maintaining everyone's workflow.

4. Accelerate customer support with efficient issue reporting

Nothing frustrates a customer more than struggling to explain an issue and then waiting for a resolution.

Screenshots simplify issue descriptions, expedite problem resolution and enhance customer satisfaction.

When customers encounter issues, rather than wrestling with words to describe the problem, they can simply share a screenshot with their message.

Screenshots show exactly what the user sees on their screen, making them useful for showing interface issues or error messages. Users can share screenshots with the support team to figure out and fix problems. Support staff can also help users take screenshots so they can better understand the issues and get tailored help.

This visual context enables support teams to identify the problem quickly and correctly.

Customer support executives can share the screenshots with engineering teams to quickly understand the problem. This better communication between departments reduces the resolution time, improving the overall customer experience.

5. Capture visual proof of digital events

In the increasingly digital workspace, events and interactions occur frequently, often leaving no physical trace behind. Screenshots provide an immediate, visual means to capture and document these digital moments, proving invaluable in various scenarios.

Think of an online transaction where you want to document a purchase confirmation, a milestone completion alert in your project management tool, a critical error message that popped up on your software or even an important exchange on an instant messaging platform. 

These instances can be fleeting, yet their documentation may be crucial for resolving disputes, troubleshooting issues or retaining records for future reference.

Screenshots offer a snapshot of the situation, retaining the context and details often lost in written descriptions.

6. Showcase software product features visually

Use screenshots to guide potential users through your product's interface, highlighting its unique features, benefits and overall user experience. It allows you to depict real-life usage scenarios that resonate with potential users and align with their needs.

Annotated screenshots can further enhance this process, enabling you to focus on specific interface elements, explain their purpose and demonstrate how they add value.

For example, screenshots can help you create a step-by-step visual guide illustrating how to access a new feature you are promoting. You can highlight its benefits, showing how it simplifies a particular task or enhances productivity.

Visual content is versatile. You can use it across various platforms, from product guides and blog posts to social media posts and email campaigns, amplifying your product's visibility and reach.

7. Archive important content & changes for future reference

Critical emails, project updates, design iterations or content drafts—essential to keep track of changes and preserve them for future reference.

By taking screenshots, you create a visual picture that shows the details exactly as they were at that time. This can be especially helpful when writing about changing content, such as website designs, social media posts or software interfaces.

For instance, you can screenshot an entire webpage, including its layout, images and text, preserving the full context of the changes for future reference.

8. Gain insights into user behavior with your product

Understanding how users interact with your product is crucial for driving improvements, enhancing user experience and making informed business decisions.

You can capture screenshots of user onboarding flows to see where users might encounter confusion or difficulties. Or screenshots of specific actions, such as form submissions or feature usage, to understand how users engage with different elements of your product.

Screenshots can also be used with other user research methods, such as surveys or interviews. For instance, you can ask users to take screenshots while performing specific tasks and provide feedback on their experience.

📌 Product Adoption Curve: How to Connect with Different User Types

9. Boost social media engagement with screenshot content

One way to leverage screenshots on social media is by showcasing customer testimonials or positive feedback.

You can capture screenshots of glowing reviews, comments or messages from satisfied customers and share them on your social media handles. These screenshots serve as social proof, demonstrating your products' or services' value and credibility and encouraging others to engage with your brand.

‎‎When using screenshots on social media, optimizing their visual appeal is essential. Consider adding annotations, captions or overlays to make the screenshot more visually engaging and informative.

10. Gather critical information for competitor analysis

Staying one step ahead in the market requires a strategic approach.

You can gain valuable visual insights into their branding, messaging and design choices by capturing screenshots of your competitors' websites, landing pages and digital assets.

Analyzing these screenshots can reveal their unique value propositions, target audience preferences and messaging strategies. It allows you to identify gaps in the market, understand consumer preferences and position your brand more effectively.

Use tools like Scribe to organize and present the gathered information effectively to stakeholders.

Scribe & screenshots: Your path to enhanced digital productivity

In summary, screenshots have become vital in modern digital communication, revolutionizing collaboration and productivity.

But why settle for ordinary screenshots when you can unlock their full potential with Scribe?

Check out Scribe's array of powerful features, such as:

  • Auto-captioning.
  • Screenshot annotations.
  • Click targets.
  • Selective information blurring.
  • Flexible resizing and zooming options.

... and more to make your screenshots dynamic tools that captivate and engage your team and customers.

Ready to try Scribe?

Scribe automatically generates how-to guides and serves them to your team when they need them most. Save time, stay focused, help others.