or, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Fear and Loathing at a Public Library Reference Desk

Reference Question of the Week – 2/15/09

   February 21st, 2009

spanish_reconquista animated gifA patron came up to the desk with this question:

I found a picture in Wikipedia that shows a map at four different periods in history. I want to print all four versions, but I can't get the image to stop.

We looked up the map he was talking about on one of the desk computers, and I saw that it was an animated gif file. By repeatedly printing the page at various stages of loading, the patron said he was able to get the first and last frames, but never the middle two.

I've never attempted to print an animated gif, and thought this was an interesting problem. I don't know if there is an official way to do this, but my solution was to simply do screen-captures for each frame, and then paste that into PowerPoint to print.

If you've never done this before, screen-capture is a handy tool - like the name implies, it is a method to capture whatever is displaying on your computer's screen. The display gets copied to the clipboard as an image, and can be pasted into other programs, just like anything else copied to the clipboard. (This is an especially useful technique if you're making how-to instructions [pdf, 297kb] for using software or a website - you can easily include visuals of exactly what your user will see.)

Here's how to do it:

  • Press the [Print Screen] key on the keyboard. That's it, you did a screen-capture. Now paste it somewhere to see what it looks like
  • A variant on this is to press [Alt]+[Print Screen] - while just the Print Screen key copies the entire screen, pressing Alt simultaneously will capture only the active window. This is useful as it lets you size the window to show only want you want, and it also leaves out the Start Bar and other menus or Desktopery

It worked, and the patron was happy - he liked it so much, in fact, that he wanted me to reprint the two maps he printed, so they'd all look the same. He also asked me to send him all four screen-captures as a single file [pdf, 567kb].

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4 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 2/15/09”

  1. Laurel Eby Says:

    There’s no Print Screen button on a Mac. To do a screenshot on a Mac, you can either type Apple+shift+3 to grab a shot of the entire screen, or Apple+shift+4 to drag your cursor around the area you want a screenshot of. Either way, the screenshot will be saved as “Picture 1.png” on your desktop.

  2. Jill Says:

    If you want to avoid making a screen capture, you can do the following: while in your browser, hit the escape key on the frame you want to “freeze.” In order to freeze another frame of the gif, you will have to reload the page and hit escape again.

    Works in Firefox and IE, but not in Safari 🙂

  3. Graeme Williams Says:

    Once you’ve saved the image, IrfanView has the function you need built-in, under Options -> Extract all frames.

    When I’m doing screen captures, I paste them into Paint .NET, since it has a single command for “Paste from clipboard into new image” and from there I can save, edit, print, whatever.

    It’s been a long time since I needed to do something with an image and couldn’t do it with either IrfanView or Paint .NET.

  4. Lindsay Shaw Says:

    i use snippy. it allows users to make custom sized cropped screen shots. while you are making the “snip,” your screen freezes, allowing you to work with an animated .gif
    and it’s an open source program 🙂
    here’s the link: http://www.bhelpuri.net/Snippy/