A: Over many years as an administrator and an Outlook user, I’ve sent many screenshots to show a customer or perhaps a vendor the specific settings that were configured in a dialog box. Sometimes the visual support is more effective than a written or verbal explanation. Perhaps you need to send a snapshot of something you are working on, like a Photoshop or Flowchart edit, without sending a formal file. You may also just be creating a unique HTML email incorporating part of a screen capture into the message. If Outlook is installed as part of the Office System (with Word 2010 installed), then a few more features are available to you, including the built-in Screenshot feature.

Taking a screenshot isn’t difficult outside of Outlook, but might require more steps. You can use PrintScreen to capture a screenshot to the Clipboard. This can be pasted into the body of an email message. You can also use ALT-PrintScreen to capture the highlighted (active) Window on the screen to the Clipboard to paste into an email. On some laptops, it may be a more challenging ALT-F2-Shift-PrintScreen or something else. Copy and paste doesn’t allow for any editing of the screenshot that may be needed to clarify what is intended for the user to see. Outlook 2010 has incorporated screen capture into the application making it even easier and allowing for customization within the email.

To use the Screenshot functionality in Outlook, you need to be composing an email message, either a new email or a reply to an existing message. Your email message must be in HTML format and the cursor focus must be on the message body for the Screenshot option, which is in the Illustration section of the Insert tab on the Office Ribbon, to be available. The Screenshot button creates thumbnail images from the various windows you have open on the workstation that can be captured as screenshots for the email message. Figure 1 shows the Screenshot button and thumbnail previews. For simplicity, I chose the calculator application window to demonstrate a screenshot capture in Outlook, as Figure 2 shows. Outlook also allows the user to select a portion of the screen. At the bottom of the drop-down box in Figure 1 there’s a Screen Clipping option. Clicking this option will expose the desktop with open applications under Outlook. The user can then stretch a rectangular window by selecting, holding and dragging the mouse pointer over any area of the screen. A sample is shown in Figure 3. When you release the mouse cursor button, the rectangle is pasted into the body of the message. There’s no option to confirm your choice of rectangle. If the result didn’t meet expectations, you can delete the image and try again.

After the screen capture is pasted into the email message body, you can use Word 2010 to manipulate the captured image. You can crop the picture, use the powerful picture editing tools to add borders, or create effects like a reflection or shading. You can also manipulate the layout of the image. Figure 4 shows the Picture Layout option in Picture Tools. The image in the HTML message body in Figure 4 was designed by selecting one of the unique presentation options. The Screenshot functionality in Outlook is more powerful than a basic cut-and-paste screen capture option. It’s useful for providing visual confirmation to a recipient of what a sender is seeing on the screen, and it can be done without ever leaving Microsoft Outlook.