Want to take a screenshot on your Chromebook? Here's how

Chromebooks, and other devices that run Chrome OS, are great if you want a simple and cost-effective machine for accessing the web. But Google's browser-for-everything approach can cause some confusion, especially if you're used to a Windows or OS X operating system.

One of the less obvious functions of Chrome OS is the screenshot tool. While Chromebooks don't include a Print Screen key, getting a screenshot is actually fairly simple -- there are even ways to grab the entire screen or just a portion.

Full screenshot

To take a screenshot of everything you see on your Chromebook's screen at once, hold down the Ctrl button and press the Switch Window button. It's the one on the top row with the icon of multiple squares, in between the Fullscreen and Brightness Down buttons.

On Chromebooks, the Multi-Window button is in between Fullscreen and Brightness Down.

Michael Crider/Digital Trends

Michael Crider/Digital Trends

Once you press both of them, you'll see a notification in the bottom corner of the screen alerting you that your screenshot has been saved. Screenshot image files go to the Chromebook's Download folder and are labeled with the date and time they were recorded. (Note: screenshots are saved locally, and won't be available on Google Drive unless you manually move the file.) Click the notification to open the Downloads folder and select the image file.

Partial screenshot

Chrome OS can also select only a portion of your screen to save. Hold down the Ctrl and Shift buttons at once, then press the "switch window" button. Chrome's cursor will be temporarily replaced with a crosshair. Click and drag a square across the portion of the screen you want to save, then release the trackpad or mouse button. The partial screenshot will be saved in the Downloads folder, the same as a a full screenshot.

Copying screenshots

Chrome OS doesn't save screenshots as copied images, the way that Windows does when the Print Screen button is pressed. If you'd like to simply copy a screenshot (for insertion into an image editor, for example), watch the notification that appears above the system clock. Click the "copy to clipboard" button, then press Ctrl+V when you want to paste it.

Editing screenshots

The screenshots captured by Chrome OS are ready to share, but if you want to do a little more with them, you should familiarize yourself with Chrome's built-in image editor.

Open the Downloads folder, double-click your screenshot to open it in the image viewer, then click the pen icon in the bottom right corner of the window to enter edit mode. Tools for cropping, rotation, and brightness adjustments will appear at the bottom of the window. When you're done, click the pen icon again to finalize you edits. The built-in editor doesn't allow you to save copies, so you may want to copy the image manually before working on it.

Using external keyboards

If you're using a Chrome-powered desktop (also known as a "Chromebox") or you've plugged an external keyboard into your Chromebook, the keyboard probably uses a standard function key row instead of Chrome's dedicated button row. The good news is that the function keys do the same job -- F1 goes back, F2 goes forward, et cetera. The F5 button works as the "switch window" button on standard keyboards, so the screenshot command becomes Ctrl + F5.

Other tools

The built-in image tools for Chrome OS are a bit anemic, but luckily there are plenty of apps and extensions on Google's Chrome Web Store to help add extra functionality. Here are some helpful picks:

Clipular -- an all-in-one Chrome app that lets you save, edit, and annotate screenshots. It can also save screenshots directly to Google Drive.

FireShot -- save an entire page as an image without multiple screenshots.

Pixlr -- an online image editor with much more robust tools than the one built into Chrome's image viewer.

Awesome Screenshot Minus -- this screenshot tool supports direct annotation on Chromebooks with touchscreens.

File System for Dropbox -- if you prefer Dropbox to the built-in Google Drive, this app will mount your Dropbox folder in the standard file browser. Just copy your screenshots over from the Downloads folder.