Whether you’re a blogger taking screenshots of Android apps or just someone that wants to show off their Android setup to your friends, the process of taking screenshots can be a pain. While Android 4.0 offers a built-in way to take screenshots, that’s little consolation if you’re still using an older version of the Android operating system.
No matter what device you have, you can take a screenshot without rooting your device. But rooting your device offers you some neat tricks — even if you’re using Android 4.0. You can take screenshots by shaking your device or wirelessly via a web browser.
Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
If you’re using Android 4.0 or later, this is easy. Just press and hold the Volume Down and Power buttons at the same time. You’ll see an animation on the screen, indicating that the screenshot was saved. Android will save the screenshot to your Gallery. Launch the Gallery app and tap Screenshots to view and share your screenshots.
You can take screenshots on any Android device using Google’s Android SDK. After you’ve set up the Android SDK, all you have to do is connect your Android phone or tablet to your computer with its USB cable and fire up the SDK.
AShot is a free, open-source way to take screenshots of your Android device from your computer. It requires the Android SDK installed and properly configured. AShot offers a variety of advantages over the Android SDK screenshot feature, including near-real-time streaming of your Android’s screen to the Ashot application on your computer. You won’t have to keep clicking the Refresh button, as in the SDK. For more information, check out our AShot walkthrough.
Some manufacturers build special screenshot shortcuts into their pre-Android 4.0 devices. For example, on many Samsung Android devices, including the Galaxy Note and Galaxy S II (pre-Ice Cream Sandwich versions), you can press the Home and Power buttons at the same time to take a screenshot – in practice, you’ll press and hold the Home button, then quickly press the Power button. On the Galaxy S, press and hold the Back button and the Power button, or try pressing the Back button and double-tapping the Home button.
Different pre-Android 4.0 devices use a variety of different shortcuts – give it a Google and you might find that your device has a built-in screenshot shortcut you don’t know about.
These manufacturer-specific hooks into the OS allow some apps to provide an easy-to-use, on-device way to take screenshots. For example, Samsung Galaxy S, Galaxy Tab, and Galaxy S II (pre-ICS) users can use Screen Capture Shortcut Free to capture screenshots without rooting their phones.
Another example of a device-specific app is AndroSS, which can take screenshots on Android without root access on Tegra devices. If you’re not sure whether a device-specific app exists for your device, search the Google Play Store and see.
The reason you have to jump through the hoops above instead of simply installing a screenshot app is because of Android’s security model. Android doesn’t allow apps to view your device’s screen – this could be a security problem. For example, a malicious app could spy on your online banking sessions. There’s no permission apps can request to take screenshots.
To give an app permission to view your screen, you’ll need to root your Android. After rooting your Android, you can install one of the many screenshot applications that require root from Google Play. There are many options to choose from, although many of them are paid apps. aScreenshot is a free app that worked for me. You can take a screenshot in a variety of ways, including shaking your device, tapping a notification, or setting a delay. Other apps have similar features.
AirDroid, an awesome free app we’ve covered in the directory, also supports screenshots on rooted devices. You can take screenshots wirelessly via your web browser. AirDroid can control many other aspects of your device from a browser, too.