How to take a screenshot using a Microsoft Surface

Whether you want to capture friends and relatives making funny faces on Skype, or need accessible photos of online resources or programs, screenshots benefit users in many ways. With a simple press of a keyboard’s Print Screen key, you essentially have the ability to capture anything and everything occurring on your desktop at any time.

But what if you want to take a screenshot on a tablet? Most feature methods for capturing an image via a button combination or tool. For Microsoft Surface users, this fact is especially true given there are a number of separate methods for capturing screenshots of your tablet’s display.

Whether you’re utilizing a Touch or Type Cover, use the tablet by itself, or rely on a Surface Pen, our comprehensive walkthrough will have you taking screenshots on your Surface in no time.

Method 1: Use keyboard shortcuts

Surface 3 Win Button

From the original Surface through the Surface Pro 3, Microsoft decided not to include a Print Screen key on either its official Touch or Type Cover accessories. That makes taking screenshots less straightforward than on a computer. Instead of using a designated key, you need to perform a simple button combination to execute the command.

Surface 3 Buttons

To take a screenshot, perform the following:

Step 1: Press and hold the Windows icon button located on the tablet’s screen.

Step 2: With the Windows button pressed, simultaneously push the lower volume rocker (minus) located on the side, as shown above.

At this point, you should notice the screen dim then brighten again as if you took a snapshot with a camera. Once you successfully finish capturing the screenshot, you can find it by following these steps:

Step 1: Open File Explorer. It’s the “folder” icon located on the taskbar.

Step 2: Click Pictures listed on the left.

Step 3: Double-click the Screenshots folder to access your captures.

Note that if you purchase a compatible third-party keyboard cover, it may include the Print Screen key, allowing you to capture a screenshot with just one press. If you don’t have a keyboard cover, use the two-button instructions provided above.

Because the Surface Pro 4 and newer don’t have a Windows button, the process is a little different. On those machines, simply hold down the power button and then press the volume up button. Again, the screen will flicker and the screenshot saves to the same location.

Further reading

Method 2: Use a Type or Touch Cover

Surface Pro 3 Type Cover

Although the Type and Touch Covers prior to the Surface Pro 4 don’t feature a Print Screen key, they do allow you to capture screenshots using a basic button combination. With any keyboard cover attached, type the following:

Fn + Windows + Spacebar

You’ll notice the screen dim then brighten again, thus signifying a successful screenshot.

Surface Pro 7 Type Cover

On the Surface Pro 4 and newer, there’s no Windows button, but the Type Covers do include a Print Screen feature. It’s located on the F8 key, meaning you’ll need to disable the Function key first. You’ll know its disabled when the key’s tiny LED turns off.

  • PrtScrn: Saves to the clipboard only unless you have OneDrive stashing captures in the cloud.
  • Windows + PrtScrn: Saves to your Screenshots folder.

Method 3: Use built-in tools

If you’d like greater control over your screen captures, there are two Windows-based tools worth considering: The Snipping Tool and the Snip & Sketch app. They’re somewhat similar in function, though the Snipping Tool is primarily offered in Windows 8.1 while Windows 10 is replacing it with the Snip & Sketch App in an upcoming update.

Snipping Tool

To locate and use the Snipping Tool, type Snipping Tool in the taskbar’s search field. Once it appears in the search results, you can either left-click the icon to open the application, or right-click the icon to pin it to your Start menu or taskbar.

how to take a screenshot on a Microsoft Surface
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The Snipping Tool gives you a few options once it’s open: New, Mode, Delay, Cancel, or Options.

how to take a screenshot on a Microsoft Surface
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

First, select one of four modes:

  • Freeform: Use your mouse, finger, or pen to capture a custom area.
  • Rectangular: Capture a precise, manually selected rectangular area.
  • Window: Capture a specific user-selected window, like a browser.
  • Fullscreen: Capture the entire screen.

Next, click New and respond accordingly.

For example, if configured for Rectangular, your cursor turns into a set of crosshairs that you can then use to create a capture field encompassing the portion of the display you want to capture. Simply drag the resulting cursor over the desired area before releasing it to capture your desired screenshot.

Afterward, save the screenshot wherever you prefer, as either a JPEG, PNG, or GIF file. You can annotate your clip if using a Surface Pen.

Snip & Sketch

Snip & Sketch Windows 10

While you can still use the Snipping Tool, Microsoft warns that it will be retired in a future Windows 10 update. In its place is the current Snip & Sketch app, which is located on the Start Menu. However, you can quickly grab an image using this keyboard shortcut:

Windows + Shift + S

The screen dims save for a small toolbar that appears at the top of your screen. Again, you have four options: Rectangular, Freeform, Windows, and Fullscreen – same as the Snipping Tool. Your captured image automatically goes to the clipboard.

Alternatively, you can open the Snip & Sketch app, click the New button in the top left corner, and select one of three options on the drop-down menu: Snip now, Snip in 3 seconds, and Snip in 10 seconds. The screen will dim and the toolbar appears with the same four options. This time, however, your screenshot appears within the app.

Method 4: Use a Surface Pen

Windows Surface Pen Settings

The Surface Pen uses an active digitizer in the display to provide precise and accurate pen input. It includes customizable buttons used to perform various functions such as erasing, writing, and opening apps. One of the more useful Surface Pen functions is its ability to take screen captures and save them to OneNote (app and desktop).

To configure a Surface Pen button, perform the following:

Step 1: Open the Action Center and click the All Settings tile.

Step 2: Select Devices listed in the Settings app.

Step 3: Select Pen & Windows Ink listed on the left.

Step 4: Scroll down to Pen Shortcuts to customize the Click Once, Double-click, and Press and Hold assignments. The options depend on the version of Surface Pen you’re using.

On the Surface Pen that shipped alongside the 2017 Surface Pro, for example, the eraser button can be configured to take a screen capture and send it to OneNote when the button is double-clicked. If you don’t want to capture the entire screen, then you can use the pen to select a specific region to capture. The resulting screenshot will show up in your default OneNote notebook and section.

Editors' Recommendations