Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Firefox Add-On: Screengrab

In teaching my online courses, I find it very handy for my students to be able to take a screenshot and send it to me via email. If they run into technical problems, this can be really helpful - a picture's worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, so if they can show me what they are seeing on their computer screen, instead of trying to describe it in words, I can usually identify the problem much more quickly.

The difficulty I've run into in the past is that while some of my students are Mac users (so that they can easily do a screenshot), most of the students use Windows. In Windows XP, taking a screenshot was clunky and awkward at best; there's a "snipping tool" in Windows Vista, but since I am using a Mac, I've never actually used the snipping tool and cannot give my students any help in learning how to use it.

The solution: Screengrab, a Firefox add-on, that works perfectly well for both Windows AND Mac users (although, as I said, the Mac users have such an easy time of it to begin with, they don't really need an extra tool).

Here's how the Screengrab tool works:

After you install the Screengrab add-on, you will see a little Screengrab icon in your status bar at the bottom of the Firefox screen (if you do not see the Status bar, turn it on using the View menu in Firefox). Here is what the icon looks like:

Just click on the Screengrab icon, and choose Save - Complete Page. You will be prompted to give the file a name and to save it to a location on your computer. Save the file with the name screenshot.png (make sure you include the .png extension if your computer does not do that automatically for you).

There are additional options you can configure. Just go to the Firefox Tools menu, select Add-Ons, and configure your Screengrab preferences. For most purposes, however, you can just go with the default options - it's ready to go and conveniently waiting in your status bar whenever you need to use it.

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