How to Capture Android Device Screenshots Without Rooting

For UX research and outreach purposes, capturing screenshots from live code is essential. People love to have examples from real world apps as design guidance, and mobile apps are no exception. Except, capturing screens from Android devices is a real pain. Unlike holding down two buttons on an iOS device, conventional screen capture guidance for Android usually has you fretting over the risks of rooting your expensive device first and then using a downloaded application (such as ShootMe) to take the pictures you want.

The problem with this advice, besides mastering the technical aspects of doing it, is that rooting a device generally invalidates the carrier's device warranty, so you do so at your own risk. If the procedure goes wrong, then you could be left with a bricked device and no recourse to official device support. So, I am indebted to Joe Welinske's new book "Developing User Assistance for Mobile Apps" for an alternative way to capture screens from an Android device without using root, thought you do have to have the Android SDK installed:

1. Connect your Android device to the machine with the SDK installed.

2. On the Android device, go to Settings, Applications, Development and enable USB debugging.

3. From the SDK's tools folder, run DDMS.

4. From the Dalvik Debugging Monitor (DDM) UI, select your mobile device's name.

5. From DDM, select Device, Screen capture. A window showing what's currently on your mobile device's screen is shown.

6. Click the Save button on the Device Screen Capture window to use what's shown as an image file for on your blog, in design guidelines, for further editing, and so on.

Dalvik Debugging Monitor from the Android SDK

Invaluable for capturing those Android notifications!

Android Notifications

The gotcha in all this, of course, is that if you're nervous of rooting your device, then would you be the kind of person to go through all the steps to set up the SDK in the first place?

Really, what Android needs is a way for users to capture these screens easily without rooting the device and using special apps, or by using the SDK. Now, when is that going to happen?


'The gotcha in all this, of course, is that if you're nervous of rooting your device, then would you be the kind of person to go through all the steps to up the SDK in the first place?'

Sure... I've already been through all the steps as I like to dabble in Android development, but I'd never root my phone in a million years.

Posted by guest on July 03, 2011 at 02:12 PM IST #

One of the things I've wanted to try is disengaging the DDMS from the majority of the SDK software. It is probably possible to some extent. And maybe then have a more easy to distribute the capture system.

Hopefully an app will appear that can do screen captures. On Windows Phone, apps are prevented from doing this.

I rooted my G1 so I could get more life out of it. It is not too hard. I wouldn't recommend it if it is your personal device. However, if you are starting a collection of devices to work with for mobile, it is a good way to keep up with new OS releases.


Posted by Joe Welinske on July 04, 2011 at 09:49 AM IST #

I covered this over a year ago:

This post drives 90% of the traffic to our blog, which is weird to me.

Gingerbread 2.3.3 was supposed to support screenshotting wo root, but I haven't seen that yet.

Why the anti-rooting comments? It's not that big a deal.

Posted by Jake on July 07, 2011 at 12:07 PM IST #

Complete brain fade you posted that. I'm away for a bit, but it's my top posting too (so far) for hits (a lot for search related "android screenshots without rooting" incoming). I guess it's all relative, but for non-techie designers and information developers--especially if iOS users--the root approach seems daunting and scary. I used ddms without the IDE btw.

Posted by ultan on July 07, 2011 at 04:11 PM IST #

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Oracle Apps Cloud UX assistance. UX and development outreach of all sorts to the apps dev community, helping them to design and deliver usable apps using PaaS4SaaS.


Ultan Ó Broin. Senior Director, Oracle Applications User Experience, Oracle EMEA. Twitter: @ultan

See my other Oracle blog on product globalization too: Not Lost in Translation

Interests: User experience (UX), PaaS, SaaS, design patterns, tailoring, Cloud, dev productivity, language quality, mobile apps, Oracle FMW, and a lot more.


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