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Take Screenshots with a Non-Rooted Android

Posted by Alan at 6:38 PM on September 27, 2011

Whenever I write an article about Android I inevitably get two questions – One, is my phone rooted?  And two, if not, how do I take screenshots?  I decided that the easiest way to answer those two questions was to write a post detailing my answers.  However, if you want really quick answers, they are 1) No, and 2) It’s easy.

There are quite a few apps available in the Android Market that allow you to take screenshots of your device, but all (at least all that I have looked at) require your phone to be rooted.  There’s nothing wrong with rooting your device, and it can allow you to do a lot of things that aren’t otherwise possible, but I had no real need for it, outside of screenshots that are necessary for my writing.

Fortunately I found a simple way around the rooting requirement, and it’s even made by the Google Android team.  If you are a developer, then you will likely already know where I am going with this, but for the other users out there, I am talking about the Android SDK (software developer kit).  You can download it from here.

Once it’s installed, click your Start menu and look for Android SDK and click on DDMS, which stands for “Dalvik Debug Manager”.  No, I don’t know what the “S” is for, so if anyone does, please chime in.

Once, DDMS is up and running, and your phone is plugged in to the computer, click on your device to highlight it.  I have found it best to plug in the device BEFORE opening DDMS, but your results may vary.

If you don’t see your device listed, then you may want to check what USB mode it is in.  Again, your experience may vary, but it seems for mine that it requires it to be set as a USB Mass Storage device.

Now, in DDMS, click “Device” and choose “Screen Capture”.  You will be presented with several options, including Refresh, Rotate, Save, Copy, and Done.  I prefer Copy, which allows me to paste it into a photo editing program for further refinement, if any is needed.

That’s actually all there is to it.  It’s very simple to set up and use, and being able to to grab your screenshots without doing what is a very scary process for many users (rooting) is what the Visa ads call “priceless”.  Of course, many users probably have no need for this type of functionality, but for those who do this should simplify the process.