How to Take a Screenshot in Android

June 1st, 2010 43 Comments

I actually like the big old clock widget

So, the iPhone OS has had the ability to take a screenshot since 2.0, simply hold down the sleep and home buttons for a couple seconds, and click, you’ve got a screenshot.

This is a great feature, and one lacking from Android’s base OS, i.e. there’s no button combination or included app that takes screenshots.

You can find apps that do this, but the easiest way is (h/t to this post):

  1. Download the Android SDK.
  2. Ensure you have the latest JDK installed.
  3. Connect the device to your computer via USB.
  4. Enable “USB Debugging” on the device in Settings – Applications – Development.
  5. Run the ddms app which lives in the Android SDK tools directory.
  6. Select the device in the left panel and press ctrl+s.

You can recapture the device’s screen by clicking Refresh in the resulting ddms window.

Step five could use a bit of detail. I simply ran ddms from the Mac’s terminal (i.e. ./ddms), but from what I’ve read, you can run it from Eclipse or another IDE. I went the easy route because don’t need to install an IDE just to take screenshots of my phone.

I posted this as much as a reminder for me, as a how-to for you.

This is an interesting deviation between what I’ve come to expect from iPhone and Android.

Screenshotting is a power user feature, exactly the kind that Apple would leave on the cutting room floor. Instead, it’s in the base iPhone OS. Maybe this was influenced by Mac’s native screenshot capabilities, which rule.

I would expect the opposite of Android, based on its geeky roots, i.e. screenshotting would be baked in and easy to use.

Interesting.

Update: Oliver (@osteinmeier) points out in comments, you can use an app call Shoot Me to take screenshots on rooted devices. It also happens to work on the EVO, no rooting required.

I tested it to be sure, and it’s actually quite fun to shout at your phone to take a screenshot. The screenshots go into a ShootMe directory on the SD card.

Thanks Oliver. Here’s his full comment:

I was quite surprised (when I was playing with my Droid) that I couldn’t take screenshots without jumping through the hoops you described.

But with the EVO there is now an (easier?) way: you can actually just use the “Shoot Me” app from the Market. On other devices is requires the phone to be rooted, but not on the EVO. It has quite interesting “trigger” mechanisms — either vigorously shake your phone or yell at it :)”

Credit: some guy on oratweet pointing me to http://www.androidguys.com/2010/05/24/android-screenshots-root-required/


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43 Responses to “How to Take a Screenshot in Android”

  1. osteinmeier Says:

    I was quite surprised (when I was playing with my Droid) that I couldn't take screenshots without jumping through the hoops you described.

    But with the EVO there is now an (easier?) way: you can actually just use the “Shoot Me” app from the Market. On other devices is requires the phone to be rooted, but not on the EVO. It has quite interesting “trigger” mechanisms — either vigorously shake your phone or yell at it :)

    Credit: some guy on oratweet pointing me to http://www.androidguys.com/2010/05/24/android-s

  2. Jake Says:

    Oh that is too funny. Just tested it out by yelling, good fun. Thanks for the tip.

  3. Jake Says:

    Oh that is too funny. Just tested it out by yelling, good fun. Thanks for the tip.

  4. Endless – 2010-11-14 « Blog Archive « The Daily Photo Shot Says:

    [...] I can record the screen actions on my Android phone thanks to the Android SDK and AndroidScreencast (simple instructions for making it work not just for taking a screenshot are here). [...]

  5. AndroidCUrious Says:

    You must be joking or you are insane. Can you search in the market for screenshoot?

  6. Jake Says:

    No, no and yes. What’s your point?

  7. #305 How To Podcast Without Power, Android Screenshots, Record Your Own Review, iPod Touch is not Secure, Going Linux « Nosillacast Says:

    [...] how we pulled it off without power. Quick interlude to mock Android: how to take a screenshot from thappslab.com. How to make a recording for the NosillaCast: Record Your Own Review. Jim Sewell teaches us about [...]

  8. Peter Shen Says:

    I have been doing “accidental” screen shots and I didn’t even know it. lol. Thanks for letting us know!
    Peter, Founder Koowie.com

  9. Koowie Says:

    Ha! I never knew this. Been taking screen shots by accident. Now I know. lol

  10. jimmy Says:

    I will recommend you batter solution to take screenshot on Android device. Simple install screenshot ER on your device. You can free download screenshot ER app from here http://goo.gl/wUzWB

  11. tristan1749 Says:

    If you have 2.1 or older, you can see how to take screenshot in my tutorial video at freewifiphonecalls.com. It’s free. No gimmicks. 

  12. Google app development for the layman | Another Day, Another Digression Says:

    [...] How to Take a Screenshot in Android – AppsLab (Jun 2010) This entry was posted in Technology and tagged Android, apps, development, Google, operating system, smartphones. Bookmark the permalink. ← Accounting apps for the iPad [...]

  13. Dianneosu Says:

    I have the EVO 4g and after downloading the shootme app and accepting the terms, it said I needed rooting. Help!

  14. Jake Says:

    This could be new. Rooting isn’t difficult, but if you’re running the most recent version of Android on the EVO, you might have native screen capture, which was supposed to be added to Android in 2.3.3.

  15. Arlene Murchinson Says:

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  16. Naveed Says:

    Back Button+Home Button.. Captures screenshot & Will be stored in Gallery/ScreenCaptures

  17. Jake Says:

    Nope, not working on my Nexus S or EVO.

  18. Whatsoyoucansellit Says:

    on my samsung galaxy S its the home + “back” key to take a screenshot

  19. Jeremy Dekroon Says:

    It doesn’t work on my galaxy

  20. guest Says:

    on the Evo 3d you can get it by holding down power button and pressing home

  21. Firstgerti Says:

    Don’t need all that hassel or expence, on an android : hold down the menu-button and tap the power-button, select .
    Works on several mobiles :-)

  22. DannyP Says:

    I keep getting a “Failed to get the ADB version” error… Any Ideas?

  23. Jake Says:

    This came up first when I Googled:

    http://forums.androidcentral.com/general-help-how/53011-how-fix-failed-get-adb-version-screen-capture-thru-sdk-windows-7-a.html
    :)

  24. Chdgjbk Says:

    I have an android and I have two screenshots in my gallery but I have no idea how they got there.

  25. Jake Says:

    Maybe you hit some random combination of buttons that just happened to fire off a screenshot. Could happen.

  26. Shai Says:

    Works gr8 on my Galaxy S

  27. Dj Rednas Says:

    Hold down home button for a moment and then press lock key shortly, how easy can it be? Samsung S2

  28. Jake Says:

    Didn’t used to be easy at all, see post and posted date, and each Android phone manufacturer does it slightly differently, if at all.

  29. Anonymous Says:

    [...] [...]

  30. MarkHaury Says:

    This is the opposite of helpful. All developers already know how to take
    screenshots with the SDK, and the last thing on the planet that anybody
    else needs is to install more bloatware and connect their phone to
    their computer. That’s like telling them to wait until they get home to
    take sports photos – totally useless. If you can’t take screenshots with
    the device itself whenever and wherever you want then there’s no point.

  31. Jake Says:

    I tend to agree, although not w your tone. This is an area where iOS is superior, but I documented this process for my own use. Funny that you mention connecting the phone to the computer as annoying, given that this is the most dependable way to sync iOS, an area where Android is superior.

    Anyway, taking screenshots isn’t an everyday user problem, so I think maybe you’re definition of helpful applies to a different demographic than mine.

    Glad I could be the opposite of helpful.

  32. MarkHaury Says:

     The reason it’s “the opposite of helpful” is because of all the rip-off posters who post this exact same information all over the web, all the while ignoring the answer to the actual question, which is “how do a take a screenshot directly on my device when and where I need to”. So this is mostly what comes up in search results, totally pushing into obscurity anything that might actually answer the question  The only other results are apps that require root, and a few device-specific and usually erroneous instructions.

  33. Jake Says:

    Sure, I guess. The problem is Android bc it doesn’t provide that functionality natively. Don’t blame the search results, blame the OS. Google said they’d add this feature, I think in Gingerbread, but I haven’t seen it on my Nexus S. 

    I know some Android devices *do* support something similar to what iOS does, but if you don’t have one, you’re out of luck wo an app, rooting or using the SDK.I wouldn’t character this as ripping-off anybody, since I gave credit appropriately, at least in Internet terms.

  34. MarkHaury Says:

     I blame Google/Android for several things, including the inexcusable lack of sensor calibration and extremely poor storage handling. But my point is that if one googles something and finds an answer, one really shouldn’t repost it anywhere else, regardless of how well one gives attribution, because it will just as easily be found by everybody else and reposting the exact same information just clogs the internet with redundancy. It’s enough to post a link to the original, if you really think it needs to be pointed out in a particular forum or page.
    Anyway, I apologize for being a bit over the top with my original post – I was extremely frustrated at the time. I’ve since got a new phone that doesn’t have the limitations of my Nexus One (and every other Nexus-branded phone; I won’t be getting another). It was great when it first came out, but the extremely limited built-in storage was always a serious issue, astronomically compounded by the stone-age lack of control over app install and data locations.

  35. Jake Says:

    Don’t forget allowing developers to abuse battery life heinously and terrible GPS performance, at least on my S. 

    Your point applies to 95% of UGC, first blogs, then social. I post these types of tips mostly to jog my own memory later, and if others can benefit, good. If not, my bad. Generally, I have some of my own experience to add, which may/may not add value.

    UGC does lead to pollution and redundancy, but for every annoying post that didn’t help, I probably find 20 that do, over the course of a year. I recently did a similar post on MAMP, mostly reposting, but also adding my own experiences.

    Of course, you can also blame blogs for making it worse by manipulating Google via SEO.

    I sensed your frustration, no worries and no need to apologize. Glad you came back to reenforce your point, which was hiding in there somewhere.

    I’m souring on the Nexus brand lately, especially as an CDMA S owner w no ICE update in sight. Google’s inability to keep its own vanilla phones up-to-date isn’t a good advertisement.

    Actually, I’m leaning toward a WP phone, since I can’t get an N9 in the US without shelling out $700. The Lumia looks nice, esp at a $100 price point.

  36. MarkHaury Says:

    I don’t understand why Google thinks that devices (especially “flagship” Nexus devices) should only have one type of storage: either all internal, or all external. To me a device is useless without both types of storage, and apps that take up large amounts of space, especially with data, should always go on removable storage. It’s a pain to have to back up and restore or re-download gigabytes of data (such as in offline navigation, photos & video) when you wipe or reflash a phone or get a new one when you could just swap the memory card to the new device and go. There’s no technical reason why you shouldn’t be able to install apps and/or data anywhere you wish, just like in Windows or Linux.
    I ended up with a Galaxy S II, the unlocked International GT-I9100 version. So far I’m really happy with it. The only major omission is the ability to keep the display on when charging, and it does have accelerometer calibration. I’m ambivalent about the UI changes, but so far so good. One minor irritation is the app drawer keeps things in the order you install them (sort of, it actually seems even more random than that) instead of alphabetizing them and I can’t find a way to reorganize them at all, which can make it a PITA to find things if you have a lot of apps installed. But you can change it to “list view”, which does alphabetize them but makes for a whole lot more scrolling.
    It’s unclear when I’ll get ICS, as my phone is a German version and I’m in the USA (soon to be Australia), but supposedly it will be before summer. I’m not all that sure that I even want the update, though.
    Frankly, I’m not a fan of Honeycomb at all, and as far as I’m concerned the UI was totally finished with FroYo and exactly zero of the UI changes with Honeycomb are positive. Google needs to stop screwing around with the UI and concentrate on removing bugs and filling in the missing functionality. I have a 10.1″ FroYo tablet, and anybody who says that FroYo isn’t ideal for large screen tablets is full of crap. I’m also on my second Honeycomb tablet, so I do know exactly what I’m talking about. The most critically annoying feature they removed in Honeycomb is the ability to force the onscreen keyboard to pop up regardless of what is in the foreground. With FroYo I could do all my online Flash word games, but with Honeycomb I’m forced to connect a bluetooth keyboard. Highly inconvenient, and lately I end up switching to a PC for that. There have been a few other, more important and puzzling instances where the onscreen keyboard doesn’t pop up when it should as well.
    I intended this to be just a few words… I think I’m really done now, though. :-)
    Cheers.

  37. djrednas Says:

    I don’t understand why Google thinks that devices (especially “flagship” Nexus devices) should only have one type of storage: either all internal, or all external. To me a device is useless without both types of storage, and apps that take up large amounts of space, especially with data, should always go on removable storage. It’s a pain to have to back up and restore or re-download gigabytes of data (such as in offline navigation, photos & video) when you wipe or reflash a phone or get a new one when you could just swap the memory card to the new device and go….

    Well, have you every changed an sd card from an iPhone or iPod? Compared to apple products, Android is a lot better.

  38. Jake Says:

    I’ve never noticed the storage issues you mention, but they sound pretty sucky. I’ve played w Honeycomb on the Xoom and Galaxy Tab, and I did notice some roughness and bugs.

    On the phones I’ve had, Gingerbread has been fine, and FroYo before it. There are camera enhancements in ICE that I’d really like, but otherwise, I didn’t see anything that really grabbed me.

    Overall, both iOS and Android have slowed to a crawl. I think it would be fine to spend a year squashing persistent bugs and making slight improvements vs. a big splashy new release. 

    Most of the people I know who are not nerds like me, wouldn’t even miss an OS upgrade, as they’re happy w what came on the phone.

    Would be worthwhile for everyone, but instead, they waste time competing.

    Meh.

  39. Jake Says:

    Apple definitely does not want you to do that, so yeah, it’s harder on purpose :)

    After five years of iOS and two of Android on a dozen devices, I could make a long list of points for one OS over the other

    The reality is there is no winner; it comes down to personal preference.

  40. Deo_don2006 Says:

    PRESS the sleep botton and house looking symbol EVO

  41. Deo_don2006 Says:

    DO NOT NEED ANY APP FOR THE EVO

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