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DNA & Genealogy

Snipping Tool for Genealogy and more

If you are already an avid fan of Microsoft’s Snipping Tool, then this post is probably not for you - unless you want to see how I make use of it.  If, on the other hand, you have no idea what the Snipping Tool is, or you've heard of it but never used it, then you must read on! 

General awareness of this simple but powerful tool that is probably already installed on your computer doesn't seem to be particularly widespread, even amongst the IT-savvy.

Family members, friends, and other genealogists still ask me how I do my screen snips so quickly and easily. I drafted these instructions last year for another researcher, and thought them ideal to refine and share to a wider audience.  Snipping is incredibly easy, and will you save so much time!


Microsoft introduced its Snipping Tool way back in 2007, so all Windows computer users who haven’t yet used it should try it.  (Go on, try it – you will have your first snip in about 3 seconds!)

Start Snipping

Start > All Programs/Apps > Accessories, and you should find in the program list.
Or click Start and start typing Snipping Tool in the search box.

Click on it, and the Snipping Tool will open, as below:

Microsoft's Snipping Tool 

Click New and then drag your cursor around something on your screen.  As soon as you let go, the area you surrounded is visible in your ‘snip’.  That’s it!  You now have a snip!  To try again, simply click New and select another part of your screen!



  •   Click the disc icon to save your snip, as a JPEG, PNG, GIF or HTML file.
  •    Click the copy icon to copy your snip, to paste it into a document or email.
  •    Click the email icon or arrow to insert or attach your snip into an email.
  •    Click the pen icon or arrow to annotate your snip with customised pens.
  •    Click the highlighter icon to highlight any part of your snip.
  •    Click the eraser icon to erase any of your earlier annotations or highlights.
  •    Click New to take another snip.
  •   Click the arrow next to New to snip free-form, window, or full screen(s).



To change the available options, simply click on Options either before you start a new snip:

or change your options from the Tools menu after you have captured the snip:


Options include a custom-coloured border around your snip, prompted saving, automatic copying to the clipboard, different colour, shape and thickness pens for annotation, and more...

(NB: Displaying URLs below the snip only works in Internet Explorer on files saved as .MHT or .MHTML)

If you hide instructional text, your Snipping Tool will subsequently display as follows...



I use the Snipping Tool every day… sometimes more than 100 times a day, depending upon what I am doing.  It will capture images of anything displayed on a computer screen and connected monitors – a rectangular or free-hand snip, an active window, or full-screen and monitors.

I rarely print on paper anymore, so I use it to snip copies of transactions, receipts, segments of spreadsheets, images, charts, anything from files on my computer, to or from programs such as Excel, Word, Outlook, Publisher, OneNote, family history software, or anything on the internet.  Use it to grab banking details, lotto results, bits out of emails, parts of images, tweets, posts… anything!

Copy and paste snips directly into open emails or documents, save them as images or discard them after use.  I use my snips in how-to dialogues, technical documents, business & financial reports, genealogy files, websites, family trees, as well as general family and household admin.  I include them in emails to share or demonstrate things.   I can save them to use in blog articles (as I have done in this post).  I can save them to edit later using image editing software.


Genealogical snipping...

To demonstrate time-saving snips used in family history research, here are a small number of examples:

FreeBMD and any other index snips - ideal for adding to family notes, with or without highlights or annotations:



TROVE – enlarge each article, then move it upwards to include the newspaper name and date details.

Tip: Use the custom white pen to white-out the unwanted blue triangles and links:


And don’t forget to copy or snip Trove’s citation for each article:


As well as saving whole pages of relevant documents such as census schedules or electoral rolls, also insert a close-up snip into that family's notes or tree:


Also snip or copy the source information:


Zoom right in and snip close-ups of sections of census schedules, to help decipher hand-writing (compare with snips of other words or names on surrounding pages), and save the snips in your notes and analyses:



Snips of hand-writing or signatures for comparison, say from letters, certificates, wills...



Snips of faces to look for family resemblances...


Snips from Google Maps Street Views…


Even snips from DNA results or comparisons:


The possibilities for its use are as endless as your imagination!


For further assistance in using the Snipping Tool, simply click on the blue question mark:


A help window will open - use the search box to enter your query:


Further references:

Windows 7 instructions for Snipping Tool

Windows 8 instructions for Snipping Tool

Windows 10 instructions for Snipping Tool

YouTube videos on how to use the Snipping Tool


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