How To Take Phone Screenshots with the Android SDK ;).
As we all become more enamored with customizing our smart phones, it makes sense you might occasionally want to show off what you’ve done. The problem is that Android makes it a pretty spectacular pain to actually take screenshots of your phone. If you root, there are a number of apps you can use to take screens. But if you’re not rooted, with a little setup the Android SDK can be used to capture screen shots easily, and with great results.
We’ll give you an overview of the process, along with solutions to some common issues.
Preparing your system
The first thing you’ll need to get is the Android SDK from Google. These are available for free, just choose your platform, and download it. You’ll probably end up with a ZIP file. Extract that to somewhere safe, then head over to Oracle to get the Java Software Development Kit. You will only need the Standard Edition JDK, which is usually at the top of the page. Install this before you start poking around in the Android SDK.
If you are on a 64-bit version of Windows, you may have to jump through another hoop here. We’ve encountered a problem several times where the Android SDK is unable to find the JDK installed. You can fix this by right-clicking Computer > Properties. Then go to Advanced System Settings, then the Advanced tab, and click Environmental Variables. In the System Variables window, click Path, then click the Edit button. At the end of the existing text, you need to add the path to your Java install’s /bin folder. It will probably look something like ;C:\Program Files (x86)\Java\jdk1.6.0_21\bin. Note the semicolon at the beginning.
You might need to do this, and you might not. Just give this a shot if the Android tools don’t work. If you don’t hit this speed bump, the setup process should go quickly. Next you just have to dive into the Android SDK to get your phone set up.
Running the SDK setup
Before proceeding, make sure USB debugging is enabled on your handset. Hit Menu > Settings > Applications > Development. Check the box for USB Debugging. You can now plug in your phone. In Windows, the computer will attempt to find USB drivers for it, and fail. You can leave this aside for now and open your Android SDK folder.
Run the SDK Setup file in the root directory. In the Android SDK manager you are now looking at, you will see a web address for downloading the ADK files. Check the box, and you will get a list of SDK files and APIs. You might as well download all the files, but the one you really need is the USB Driver package. The USB driver issue shouldn’t come up on a Mac.
The download will take a few minutes, but then you can go back to the driver install for your phone. If you get an error downloading the files, you may have to go to the Settings page (nav panel on the left) and check “Force https://”. Tell Windows to install the driver from a manual location. Point it to your Android SDK folder, and you should have a new folder called usb_driver. After that’s done, your computer and phone can talk to each other through the SDK.
So here we are at the end of the line. Now you can take screenshots with the Android SDK. This is the only part of the process you’ll have to worry about when you need to get a screenshot now that the set up is done. Go into your Android SDK folder, and open the tools directory. Launch DDMS.bat; this is the Dalvik Debug Monitor.
If your phone is plugged in and has debugging enabled, it will show up in the list in the top left panel. Click on it, then open the Device menu and click Screen Capture. This launches a new window where you have the option to save the current shot as a PNG, rotate, refresh, copy, and close.
This method of capturing screens might be complicated to set up, but we’ve found the results to be better. Android screens have a tendency to exhibit tearing with any sort of motion. This makes getting screens of many apps difficult. The root on-phone apps seem to result in more tearing than the DDMS does. Additionally, if you need the images on your computer anyway, it’s convenient to just take them with the computer. If you feel inclined, share some screens in the comments.
Who said? Ryan Whitwam said ;).