Screen Capture (Screenshot) under Android 4

The TL;DR version of this post:

Depress as simultaneously as possible, and keep holding down for about a second, both the home button and the power button.

The order in which the buttons are depressed does not matter, but simultaneity matters: from the moment that one of the buttons has been depressed, there is an extremely small window of time, perhaps as small as one tenth of a second, within which the other button must also be depressed, or else no scweesho fo joo!

You will know that you have managed to take a screenshot when your phone will emit an oh-so-vintage camera shutter sound, a bright white frame will momentarily appear along the borders of the screen, and a "picture" icon will take seat in the notification area.

The oh-how-much-I-love-writing version of the post:

Unfortunately, Android does not offer an intuitive, and more importantly discoverable, way to take a screen capture. As a result, the information describing how to achieve this task is quite elusive, and obtaining it is a hard quest in and of itself. Not only that, but even if you find the information, it turns out that the task involves a cumbersome key combination and it requires an amazing skill level at nimbleness of the fingers, so quite often people cannot make the magic happen even if they are told how to do it; subsequently, they consider the information wrong and continue on their quest for the right magic words. The whole process is shrouded with rumors. It is embroidered with fables. It is the stuff that legends are made of. Things are only made worse by the fact that most people out there need to make use of this feature rarely, so even if they learn how to do it once, by the time they need it again, they have usually forgotten how it is done.

Yes, people need this feature rarely, but then again considering that the number of people using Android all over the planet at the time of writing this is almost 1 billion and rising, I estimate that at any given moment there must be hundreds of people out there trying to find instructions on how to take a screenshot with android, or fumbling with the buttons trying to make the instructions happen.

So, when you need this piece of information what you usually do is that you hit the interwebz, but it is funny how there appears to be virtually nobody out there who will give a clear and unambiguous description of precisely how to achieve this task. That's why I decided to write this post.

Now, a couple of suggestions to the Android development team should any one of them ever happen to read this blog post of mine:

1. Make the screen capture feature discoverable. Among the options offered by the "Device Options" dialog that pops up when you long-press the power button, there could easily be an option called "Screen Capture". Selecting this option would of course dismiss the "Device Options" dialog before taking the screenshot, and afterwards a message could pop up informing the user that next time they need to take a screenshot they can try their luck with such and such tricky and cumbersome key combination, check here to never show this again, thank you.

2. Make the screen capture feature less cumbersome. This means not only easier to perform, but also easier to explain. The requirement that both buttons must be pressed within a 100 millisecond or so window is senile, because it is precisely those two things: hard to perform, and hard to even explain. Users should be required to hold down one of the two buttons first, and then they should be allowed all the time in the world (or at least an entire second if eternity is not an option) to find and press the other button for the screen capture to happen. The way it is now it is broken; fix it.

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