Print screen

A 104-key PC US English keyboard layout with Prt Sc circled

Print screen (often abbreviated Print Scrn, Prnt Scrn, Prt Scn, Prt Scr, Prt Sc or Pr Sc) is a key present on most PC keyboards. It is typically situated in the same section as the break key and scroll lock key. The print screen may share the same key as system request.

Original use

Under command-line based operating systems such as MS-DOS, this key causes the contents of the current text mode screen memory buffer to be copied to the standard printer port, usually LPT1. In essence, whatever was currently on the screen when the key was pressed will be printed. Pressing the Ctrl key in combination with Prt Sc turns on and off the "printer echo" feature. When echo is in effect, any conventional text output to the screen will be copied ("echoed") to the printer. There is also a Unicode character for print screen, U+2399 PRINT SCREEN SYMBOL.

Modern use

Newer-generation operating systems using a graphical interface tend to save a bitmap image of the current screen, or screenshot, to their clipboard or comparable storage area. Some shells allow modification of the exact behavior using modifier keys such as the control key.

In Microsoft Windows, pressing Prt Sc will capture the entire screen,[1] while pressing the Alt key in combination with Prt Sc will capture the currently selected window.[1] The captured image can then be pasted into an editing program such as a graphics program or even a word processor. Pressing Prt Sc with both the left Alt key and left Shift pressed turns on a high contrast mode (this keyboard shortcut can be turned off by the user)[2]. In Windows 8, pressing the Win key in combination with Prt Sc will save the captured image to disk.[3] This behavior is therefore backward compatible with users who learned Print Screen actions under operating systems such as MS-DOS.

On desktop environments, including GNOME and KDE, a screenshot file is automatically saved in the Pictures (or home) directory of the user.[4][5]

Macintosh does not use a print screen key; instead, key combinations are used that start with Cmd+Shift. These key combinations are used to provide more functionality including the ability to select screen objects. Cmd+Shift+3 captures the whole screen, while Cmd+Shift+4 uses to take screenshots[6] with specific selections. The standard print screen functions described above save the image to the desktop. However, using any of the key sequences described above, but additionally pressing the Ctrl will modify the behavior to copy the image to the system clipboard instead.

Notable keyboards

On the IBM Model F keyboard, the key is labeled PrtSc and is located under the Enter key. On the IBM Model M, it is located next to the F12 key and is labeled Print Screen.


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