back to article Microsoft mucks with PrtScr key for first time in decades

Now that Microsoft has put that whole "aCropalypse" privacy problem in the rear view, the software maker is ready to get the Snipping Tool feature in front of more Windows 11 users. One place that's happening is with the Print Screen (PrtScr) key, a function that has essentially stayed the same through years of Microsoft …

  1. aerogems Silver badge

    If you ask me, the default behavior should be to take a screenshot then open it with the snipping tool so you can do some quick markups if you want or take another screenshot if you don't like that one. And the snipping tool should maybe just be folded into MS Paint.

    1. navarac Bronze badge

      Just leave it alone after 30 years ffs. People can always retrieve the image and manipulate with whatever app anyone wants/chooses. Stop making choices for us - perhaps Snipping Tool is not getting any use? Microsoft would do better to concentrate on sorting the inconsistencies in their OS before messing with even more muscle memory.

      1. aerogems Silver badge

        Hard Truths

        Or, maybe after 30 years, and a new generation of computer users has grown up, they expect different behavior. You take a screenshot on iOS, for example, you get a little thumbnail preview, and if you tap on it, you're taken to what is essentially the equivalent of MS Paint. I haven't used Android in a while, but I'm guessing it's similar. Microsoft can't be like Fox News and continue to focus all its efforts on a dying demographic, they need to maintain relevance with future generations, which sometimes means making changes we older fogies don't like.

        At some point we all have to face the fact that the world is changing and passing us by. We all say how that will never happen to us when we're young, and how we're different from our parents, but 30-years later... we're the "get off my lawn you damn kids" cranky curmudgeons. Now, we can either accept our fate gracefully or we can make an ass of ourselves in what is commonly referred to as a mid-life crisis.

        1. TheMaskedMan Silver badge

          Re: Hard Truths

          "Now, we can either accept our fate gracefully or we can make an ass of ourselves in what is commonly referred to as a mid-life crisis."

          I thought that was when we sold the Volvo, grew a ponytail and roared off to the over 60s club on an overpowered motorcycle that we can barely ride.

          I've been looking forward to that, and now you tell me it's all about grousing over prtscr. I don't know, crises these days ain't ain't what they used be...

          1. Bill Gray

            "mid-life crisis" / "over 60s club"

            <sad voice> I just turned 61. My life is almost half over. </sad voice>

            1. TheMaskedMan Silver badge

              Re: "mid-life crisis" / "over 60s club"

              I sympathize. The half century is behind me, the half decade is looming, and I can already feel the pull of knitted cardigans with leather elbow patches.

              But look on the bright side, we can spend our pipe and slippers years pointing out the obvious flaws in whatever new shiny nonesense the younglings dream up. They'll hate it - serves em right for being young:)

            2. RegGuy1 Silver badge

              Re: "mid-life crisis" / "over 60s club"

              Chin up. I read of some guy called Murdock, 92, who was looking forward to getting married (again), saying "We're both looking forward to spending the second half of our lives together." No, wait. It appears the summer wedding to Ann Lesley Smith was called off last week, barely two weeks after it had been announced.

              Maybe he's also having a mid-life crisis and decided he should stay single.

          2. aerogems Silver badge

            Re: Hard Truths

            PrtScr is a gateway grouse. It starts small and seemingly innocent. Then, before you know it, almost every sentence you utter starts with the phrase, "Back in MY day..."

            1. TheMaskedMan Silver badge

              Re: Hard Truths

              Too late for me then, I've been doing that for years.

        2. Falmari Silver badge

          Re: Hard Truths

          But the behavior has not changed for screenshot or snip. All that has changed is the keyboard mapping to activate them. So you learnt Win+Shift+S starts snip not anymore it's prtscr or knowing Microsoft both will. You learnt screenshot is prtscr not anymore there is no mapping. If you want to take a screenshot you will have to change a setting in accessibility.

          Changing mappings achieves nothing except the requirement to learn new mappings.

          1. aerogems Silver badge

            Re: Hard Truths

            >>Changing mappings achieves nothing except the requirement to learn new mappings.<<

            I believe I covered that with the "get off my lawn you damn kids" bit.

          2. the spectacularly refined chap

            Re: Hard Truths

            But key mappings have changed before. I'm old enough to remember when paste was shift-insert. I got over it.

            In this case I have to admit I agree with the proposal. Screens are bigger than they were 30 years ago when your choice was generally between a 12" or 14" monitor. They hold a hell of a lot more content on screen. It's probably only a couple of weeks since I sent a screen grab to my boss with a minimised wiki page of some actress visible in the taskbar. It may not be a disciplinary thing but looks unprofessional. There are plenty of cases here and elsewhere or porn or confidential material being unwittingly included in screenshots.

            1. Falmari Silver badge

              Re: Hard Truths

              Funnily shift-insert still does paste in windows. Try it, select a file and copy it with ctrl-insert, then paste the file with shift-insert.

              Sadly cut shift-delete does not work it is a delete.

        3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Hard Truths

          >Or, maybe after 30 years, and a new generation of computer users has grown up, they expect different behavior

          The younglings at our place would use their phone to take a picture of the screen.

          Actually it's a useful habit, instead of writing down some long configuration command, or try and work out how to share a file snippet between two systems - just take out your phone and snap a picture

          1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

            Re: Actually it's a useful habit, instead of writing down some long configuration command...

            Except if it has to be re-keyed.

            Which makes me wonder whether the humble dialog box needs a revamp. I feel that all dialog boxes should have a QR Code on them. So instead of having to rekey an error message, you just send the link defined in the QR Code. I know MS did this with their BSOD's, but why stop there?

            1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

              Re: Actually it's a useful habit, instead of writing down some long configuration command...

              This reminds me of one of my great peeves: I get asked to look at an incident by Support, and the customer has attached a Word document with a screenshot of a shell window with an error message or two in it. Dear users: You can copy and paste text too. (Or redirect it to a file, etc.) And it's a hell of a lot more useful than a goddamned image stuck inside a completely unnecessary goddamned Word document.

              I suppose I'm lucky they didn't print it out and fax it.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Actually it's a useful habit, instead of writing down some long configuration command...

                Lusers sending screenshots? Yes, an old hat ... Imagine this: around these parts everyone in IT professionally does that!!

                Also a correction to TFA: Alt-PrtSc copies contents of active window, not active screen. Something I had to teach to the IT support guys who were just hitting the key without modifier.

        4. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

          Re: At some point we all have to face the fact that the world is changing and passing us by.

          Yes, but when the new regime is unreliable then we have a right to distrust the March of Technology. Two related examples:-

          (1) An alarm on my Android phone wakes me up every morning... except when it doesn't. About once every couple of weeks, it doesn't. It makes me want to go back to an Alarm Clock, which might fail about once a year if I don't heed the signs of a dying battery.

          (2) I have some TP-Link Smart Plugs in my house to turn appliances on/off at various times. One of them operates at the same time as the Android alarm (see (1)). This has been reliable. However, yesterday night for whatever reason, the App controlling this particular Smart Plug has stopped communicating with it. So I have to now manually turn it on/off. One thing though is that in the absence of the App, the Smart Plug follows the rules that it was last loaded with. Now if I had a mechanical mains timer switch (£5 at my local Wilko) I would never have had this problem (power cuts notwithstanding, but I can't remember the last one I had, and besides, you would just adjust the dial to show the correct time).

          These two examples make me wonder: These types of scenarios have been a coder's set-piece for donkey's years now. How can they *not* get these things right???

          I've grown up with Modern Tech, and I have been enthusiastic about it in my youth. But instances like buying a modern landline phone which can be programmed with all your contacts, only to have to repeat the process whenever the internal battery dies, has blunted my appreciation of technology. So the mantra "if it ain't broke don't fix it" means much more to me, these days.

          1. 43300 Silver badge

            Re: At some point we all have to face the fact that the world is changing and passing us by.

            Your smart plug anecdote shows one of many reasons not to by 'smart' shit!

        5. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Hard Truths

          Don’t really see the iOS screenshoot as being “different”, it takes the screenshot THEN feeds back what it has captured and offers next action choices.

          The Windows Snipping tool just gets in the way: I’ve pressed the hot key combination for screenshot current active window or whole screen, Snipping tool like an idiot interrupts this and effectively says are you sure you really want to that, select again the action you wanted - pointless extra clicks.

          Agree change can be useful, like with iOS screenshot as it assists …

    2. Sampler

      At least you can turn it off, I rarely need prtscn default as I run multi-monitor setups most places, but alt+prtscn for a particular window is a massive timesaver and the majority of my needs, windows+shift+s for snipping tool when I don't need the whole window (or something overlapping) is somewhere in between (but closer to the times I need prtscn).

      So, as long as we can have things how we like them, like ExplorerPatcher turns windows 11 into something more useful, then I'll be happy. I'm old, just let me have my things where I'm used to them.

    3. NeilPost Silver badge

    4. DrXym

      I'd prefer it to be configurable - on option leave it the way it is, or launch a tool to quickly edit the option. Or maybe Shift+PrtScr does the snipping. Normally I use either Alt+PrtScr to take a picture of a window or just PrtScr for the whole desktop. So binding Ctrl or Shift for another thing would make sense.

  2. wsm

    As we suspected

    Microsoft owns your computer, keyboard and all. Any choice of what functions in what way is not your concern.

    This may mean that I can only get screenshots like I want them from other operating systems. My work involves that often enough that Windows is getting to be less useful daily. I'll be looking for the registry hack fix for this or just stay on the Linux VM all day.

    1. Ragarath

      Re: As we suspected

      You don't need a registry hack. You literally turn it off in the options.

      I've had it on since the option appeared just because I like the option to select the portion of the screen being captured.

      I used to use a 3rd party program to do it but since they added the option to wi dows there has been no need.

      If you want to continue your witch hunt. Go ahead but you're just showing your ignorance about the operating system.

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: As we suspected

        > You literally turn it off in the options.


        A really useful addition MS could make would be to provide the facility to export all these user settings in say a .ini file that a user can read and edit, but more importantly can import to any system they wish to use. So when MS change stuff it is a quick and simple load to get your settings back.

        1. that one in the corner Silver badge

          Re: As we suspected


          Just because ini files are readable, can contain comments in case you forget why you changed that setting, can be managed within version control, can be copied from one system to the next - how can any of that compare to the wonder of The Registry or the sheer joy of screen capturing the Settings dialogues and hoping you'll still be able to find those same GUI controls in the next releases of the OS?

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: As we suspected

            99% of people don’t give a shit because they don’t need to give a shit.

          2. Ragarath

            Re: As we suspected

            Sounds like you want the old days back. Windows went registry. Deal with it.

            If you like everything to be a text file may I suggest to you a very popular option called Linux.

            It's free, does lots of things well and works in the way you want an os to.

            Stop basing the tool and use the right tool for the job if you don't like the other options. You have a choice.

            Getting all upset that x company does things differently is just your emotional attachment showing.

            1. Hans 1

              Re: As we suspected

              Well, Linux does no longer honour config files - resolv.conf, fstab (with système d) to name just two ... FreeBSD is what 'e wants!

    2. aerogems Silver badge

      Re: As we suspected

      It never fails. Every time there's an article about Windows, someone posts a comment about how Microsoft is ruining Windows and they're going to start using Linux. Only Linux growth rates seem to remain largely flat. If even 1% of the people who claimed "I'm switching to Linux" actually followed through, Linux growth would have exploded. But out of the thousands of people across the interwebs making that claim every time some story like this comes out, only maybe one or two will actually switch.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: As we suspected

        I don't know what snipping tool does but in Linux, if you're running KDE, the default is that it opens a program (Spectacle) that has a copy of whatever you configured - the screen, a current window with all sorts of options such as retaking the shot when you click the mouse (useful if you want to snapshot a video frame, then you can save directly as a file or copy to clipboard. If snipping tool is as useful as that then there should be no complaint.

        1. aerogems Silver badge

          Re: As we suspected

          Sounds more or less exactly like what Snipping Tool does. It also has a couple of really basic markup tools, like a highlighter and pen.

          1. Flightmode

            Re: As we suspected

            Don't underestimate the ruler in the Sketch and Snip tool! As long as you remember that you rotate its angle with the scroll wheel, it can be pretty helpful too.

            (And I just noticed there's a protractor hidden under the ruler as well. Interesting.)

            I snip portions of my screen probably dozens of times per day when collaborating with colleagues. The upgrade from the Snipping Tool of yore to Sketch and Snip was a massive one for me. The annotation features are superb. The only thing I miss is a type tool - let's face it, mouse-propelled handwriting isn't always that legible...

            1. aerogems Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              Re: As we suspected

              I hadn't ever noticed those functions.

      2. wsm

        Re: As we suspected

        Just so you know--I've got half a dozen Linux VMs for various services as required by the people I support. Windows 11, run by the institutional support people, is getting less and less use. It's just more stuff moved around into more places. Not what myself or many others wanted.

  3. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    If they already have modified this setting, the preference will be preserved

    (see icon)

    1. Alan W. Rateliff, II

      Re: If they already have modified this setting, the preference will be preserved

      Wait... if the current setting defaults to "off," then I would not need to change it. And if I do not change it, then the update will not preserve it, right? So, this statement makes no sense. It essentially says, "we'll turn it on by default, unless you've already turned it on."

      1. the Kris

        Re: If they already have modified this setting, the preference will be preserved

        If you haven't touched the setting, it is not stored in the registry and the system will use the default. I guess they change the default. If you switch it on and off again, they will store that choice in the registry and so your system will not follow the change in default?

  4. NoneSuch Silver badge

    "If they already have modified this setting, the preference will be preserved, according to Microsoft."

    Until the next update when MS Engineers will turn it back to original because, "You really didn't mean to turn off what we turned on for you."

  5. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Just as long as they don't start making life difficult for Greenshot, as they already do for third-party browsers...

  6. Howard Sway Silver badge

    If it aint't broke, break it

    MS design philosophy for decades now. Do none of them ever interact with people who aren't that IT literate, but gradually learn things and eventually get used to them? These kind of changes to default behaviours cause huge problems for them, and simply wafting away complaints with the excuse that there's an option hidden away somewhere completely ignores this fact.

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: If it aint't broke, break it

      “cause huge problems”

      They whinge for a few minutes, then realise it’s not really a big deal and get on with it.

  7. Alan W. Rateliff, II

    (shakes fist at sky)

    Been using PrtScr and ALT-PrnScr and pasting into my preferred target for 23 years. See no reason to change now just to give Microsoft's pet tool more face time.

    Reminds me of that little news and weather gadget that suddenly appeared in people's Windows 10 task bars. Microsoft says, "hey, with 1909 you get this neat little widget. Oh, no one wants to use it? Well, we'll just turn it on by default in this next cumulative update." Oh, and that little graphic that shows up in the search bar now. Yeah, people just love that shit.

    1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

      Re: (shakes fist at sky)

      Yeah, ALT-PrnScr! Only captures the window I care about! Don't they dare!

      This one for you for mentioning it before I could. -->

  8. TheMaskedMan Silver badge

    "Well, we'll just turn it on by default in this next cumulative update."

    And I turned the bugger right off again as soon as it appeared. But, strangely to my mind, some people like it. I offer to turn it off for clients, and they say no, it's fine.

    As far as I know, none of them spend time in some sealed off area with no windows, so why they can't just look outside to see what the weather's like is beyond me.

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      I like weather forecasts. I check a couple of them pretty frequently. I don't ask the Met Office or BBC Weather for computer information and I'll be damned if I'd have Microsoft providing my weather forecast.

    2. Alan W. Rateliff, II

      But, strangely to my mind, some people like it. I offer to turn it off for clients, and they say no, it's fine.

      Most of my customers never realized it was there. I got a lot of calls asking how to turn it off because it would pop up when they just moved the mouse past. First thing I did was check that WeatherBug was not installed, and then, oh, that... thanks Microsoft.

  9. Terry 6 Silver badge

    They've already fucked around with it.

    On my Win 10 machine I just pressed Prnt screen button, as a reminder of what it can do (everything I might need) Expecting LightShot to activate and instead a big pop up prompt for OneDrive appeared.


  10. keith_w

    Windows 11? Who cares about 11? Windows 10 PrtScn launches Snip and Sketch on my machine

    some text. Please see title.

  11. Simian Surprise

    I don't know, I'm totally fine with this random UX change (unlike almost everything else MSFT forces on me*).

    Maybe this is because I already started using Snipping Tool; it's surprisingly pleasant and usable for modern Windows (doesn't need/push me to use OneDrive, no ribbon nonsense, starts up more-or-less instantaneously). The only downside is the occasional pop-up warning me that some emanation called "Snip 'n' Sketch" is waiting in the wings to fix all of those glaring issues I just mentioned.

    (* And no, I have to use Windows for work.)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      … just wait!!

  12. Orv Silver badge

    For most users this just saves an extra step. A lot of Windows users I know have been using third-party tools to do screenshots because having them silently go to the clipboard is so counterintuitive.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      That’s kinda the whole point of PrtScrn and the Clipboard.

    2. Falmari Silver badge

      Then you must know a lot of windows users that have never used a copy or cut command.

      Not that intuition is required. Any user that has learnt prtscn captures a screenshot will at the same time learnt how to access it with a paste command.

  13. david1024

    Error in article...

    This is wrong:"ALT+Print Screen to copy only what's on the active screen.".

    It copies the "active window", which is a very different thing and may still spam multiple screens, or be a tiny part of one.

    I am not for the change, but it does make it act closer to how gnome and kde are usually configured...

  14. tiggity Silver badge


    You can already set it to snipping tool if you want, so what's the point of swapping the default other than to promote the snipping tool?

    Just seems likely to confuse the less tech savvy users* who will see a sudden unexpected functionality change.

    I personally don't care - I have different setups on different machines, the multimonitor setup PC has snipping tool as nice & easy to use when > 1 screen & often only wanting to grab part of "screen" image. The laptop for site visits has copy to clipboard as just a single "monitor" (laptop screen) and as its a relatively small / lo res screen (compared to good monitors) typically want to capture whole screen image.

  15. mark l 2 Silver badge

    When I migrated from Windows to Linux the default option on Linux Mint Mate when you press Prtscr is to take a screenshot and bring up a dialog where you can either save the screenshot, copy it to the clipboard or create a new screenshot by selecting the area to screenshot using the mouse.

    It took me maybe a hand full of times to get used the Linux Mate way of working over how it worked on Windows, but it wasn't such as huge change so I don't see why there is such push back against it. Its by far one of the least egregious change MS have made to Windows. Most users will probably find it an improvement over the old way. I suspect many people who are used to how screenshots work on iOS or Android probably expect that they should be shown something has happened when they press prtscr and the old way it works on Windows you wouldn't know it had done anything.

    Those that don't like it can revert back to how it used to work with a few mouse clicks so its not like its an irreversible change.

    1. ChrisC Silver badge

      The way you've described how Mint works wouldn't be an unreasonable way for Windows to work, however based on the description in the article it doesn't sound like that's what MS are giving us.

      Currently in both Windows and Mint, the fundamental action taken when hitting PrtScr is to capture the screengrab. How the OS then chooses to notify the user that this has occurred, or what options it automatically shows the user to interact with the screengrab, are secondary aspects to the functionality. In both OSs though, the user knows that hitting PrtScr will capture the screen *at that moment in time*. This may be of particular importance to some users trying to capture things that occur at specific times.

      As described here, the change MS are proposing is to simply make PrtScr a single-key shortcut for opening the snipping tool (i.e. defaulting the relevant accessibility option to on rather than off), rather than requiring the user to learn the existing ways it can be opened, without extending this into *also* automatically taking a screengrab as part of the process. So it's not merely a case of slightly altering what PrtScr does here to make it more Mint-like, it's actually a fundamental change in what it does which requires the user to take an addtional action in order to replicate what the fundamental behaviour used to be (and also breaking with the instantaneous capture aspect of that behaviour).

      So I'm not sure this is as benign/beneficial a change as many seem to be suggesting here, and especially not when a keyboard shortcut already exists for accessing the snipping tool - changing the default behaviour of PrtScr isn't giving users something they previously didn't have, but it IS breaking with a behaviour that many of us have become accustomed to over the decades. And just because something may have been left unchanged that long doesn't mean it HAS to be changed ASAP. Unless you work in marketing/product management and your future employment prospects depend on your being able to generate loads of new things regardless of how much value/use said things might actually offer the world...

  16. xyz Silver badge

    Microsofts' strategy....

    MS has realised the complete bollox it made in the early 1990s by allowing non tech, unwashed scum to be let loose on its software. Now MS is determined to get rid of the expensive, moaning lot of them and sit back raking in Azure shekels. All that UI stuff can be someone else's problem.

    I know , I use Office 365.

  17. Franco

    Real progress would be if there was a popup in Snipping Tool that said "by the way you can paste this directly in to an email or save it, but you don't need to paste it in to a blank Word Document first."

  18. AndrueC Silver badge

    Every time they change things there is risk of things breaking. They still haven't reinstated the accelerator keys for the new Paint. The resize dialog doesn't respond to them - it doesn't even respond to [Return] or [Esc] which is pretty damn' fundamental.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I hate the snipping tool. Not when i use it, then it's fine.

    It's when i say 'send me the logs' or 'can you give me an id and i'll check the DB' and they send a snip instead of a link to the logs or an ID in text i can ctrl-c. If i wanted a screenshot, i'd ask for one.

    Even worse is several snips of log entries, carefully removing any useful information like correlation id, time stamps, the actual error message that would have been displayed one line after where the snip snipped, glued together in paint and attached to a ticket, with a title like 'urgent customer request' and a description of 'relevant data in screenshot'

  20. abcwarriors

    Getting text from screenshots

    Yep, getting a screenshot instead of actual text can be annoying.

    I find this pretty handy in those cases:

    There are browser plugins that do the same too.

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