Monday, November 6, 2017

Take a Snapshot Alternative for Docs, Slides, and Drawings

Recently Google announced that they would be rolling out an update to how we currently insert images in Google Docs, Slides, and Drawings. The new version looks to be simpler, which is a good thing, but unfortunately something got lost in the update.

According to Google, the new option allows you to insert an image in five ways: "Upload from computer", "Search the web", "Drive", "Photos", and "By URL". However this is missing an awesome option we have had for years, which is "Take a Snapshot". That feature allowed you to take a picture with your webcam, and then easily insert it into the document, presentation, or drawing you were working on.

This is a much used and loved feature for teachers and students to allow users to add real-life pictures quickly and easily. I have referenced it in many of my activities including "Stop Motion Animation with Google Slides" and "Learn Math with your Face".

So what are we to do if "Take a Snapshot" is really going away? In this blog post I will share with you the best alternative I have found so far. It is actually very simple to use, with just one small extra step in the process, and works great with Docs, Slides, and Drawings. See below for the details.

The Old Option

So for a quick review, in the past if you wanted to insert an image into Google Docs, Slides, or Drawings, you would click "Insert" then "Image". This would open a window with six options you could use to select an image.

One of those options was "Take a snapshot" which allowed you to take a picture with your webcam and insert that into your document. This was a quick and easy process that even the youngest students could do.

Nerd Alert: As to why this option is going away, the answer may lie in the technology behind it. The "Take a snapshot" tool actually uses Flash to work. As many folks may know, Flash is an older web technology which Google is moving away from. When you come across websites that use Flash, the Chrome browser blocks them by default, making you explicitly click something to allow Flash to run. Although this works for now, Google has announced that Flash will be completely shut down in Chrome by the end of 2020.

So, it is possible that Google has chosen to scrap the "Take a snapshot" tool because it is using Flash. Perhaps Google will change their mind and reactivate the feature, at least until their 2020 Flash deadline. This would give them time to replace the tool with a more modern HTML5 version of "Take a snapshot". If not though we need an alternative...

The New Option

The reason we need an alternative is because the new version for inserting an image does not include "Take a snapshot" (see Google's post here.) When this update rolls out you will click "Insert" then "Image" and then choose one of only five options: "Upload from computer", "Search the web", "Drive", "Photos", and "By URL" as shown below:

The Alternative

So what can we use for an alternative? What we need in a tool is:
  • Something that is easy to use
  • With very few extra clicks or steps when compared to the old "Take a snapshot" option
  • And that works on Chromebooks, PC's, and Macs
There are loads of camera tools that are Chrome Web Apps. Unfortunately Chrome Web Apps will only be able to run on Chromebooks in the near future, and not on PC's and Mac's. Last year Google announced that Chrome Web Apps would stop working on Mac's and PC's in 2018.

So the best solution needs to be a Chrome Web Extension. For now, the best, easiest option I have found is a Chrome Web Extension called "Webcam Screenshot". It is very simple to use to take a picture with your webcam, and then very easy to move that picture into your Google Doc, Slideshow, or Drawing.

Here's how it works:
  • First, install the "Webcam Screenshot" extension from here: Chrome Web Extension link
  • Next, click the extension to open the webcam screen.

  • Click the "Make Photo" button to take a snapshot.
  • If you do not like the snapshot, just click the button again as needed until you get the picture you want.

Once you have the picture you want, you can put it into your Google Doc, Slideshow, or Drawing in two different ways.
  • For the first option, you can simply copy and paste. Just right-click on the snapshot and choose "Copy", then go to your Doc, Slideshow, or Drawing and paste in the copied image.
  • Or for a second option, you can drag and drop the image. Simply click and hold down on the image. While holding down on the image, drag it to the tab for your Doc, Slideshow, or Drawing, and then drag it down into the document page, slide, or drawing canvas.

And that's it. Take a snapshot and then move the image into your Doc, Slideshow, or Drawing. In the end, this is a very simple process with just one more step than the old "Take a snapshot" option.


Hopefully Google will provide a built-in option for taking snapshots, similar to the original option. But in the meantime, the "Webcam Screenshot" extension is a workable alternative, providing a quick and easy way for our students to continue to take pictures and insert them into their creations.

If you have other suggestions for this process, please share your ideas and tools in the comments below.

Post by Eric Curts. Bring me to your school, organization, or conference with over 50 PD sessions to choose from. Connect with me on Twitter at and on Google+ at


  1. Hi Eric,
    Interesting point about the Flash being the culprit behind the loss of snapshot. My Ss have experienced the Flash blocking and have had to manually allow it for sites requiring it to run. I did not realize the Chrome apps will stop working on Macs as of 2018- hopefully the extensions will still continue being usable on Macs. Thank you for the screenshot extension option. I figure Ss using Macs can also just upload from PhotoBooth. Part of the reason I loved the snapshot option is it does not flip text when text is the main feature of the photo.
    Thank you for all your great posts!

  2. It is a shame that they are removing this feature. It's also about time Google added the ability to search for and insert transparent and/or animated images within Docs or Slides.

  3. Thanks for finding a simple, elegant solution BEFORE it becomes a problem! I really appreciate your being on top of it to help out the rest of us! On another note, I've watched a few of your SPARCC webinars lately and really enjoyed the straight-forward, applicable nature of the content. Thanks!

  4. Flash most likely is the main reason as you mentioned. I also think that the use of mobile devices to take photos and then save to Drive is another alternative for most people. However, that isn't always a practical solution in education, especially at the elementary level.

  5. Oh my word!! I just started a project with kiddos where I needed them to insert a picture of themselves! Thanks for your thoughts...glad this didn't come out 2 weeks ago when I had them taking 11 pictures of themselves!! I'm doing second grade so may just pick another image for them to insert!

  6. I hope that Google does as you suggested by coming up with a solution before getting rid of this feature. It makes it possible to take photos with very young students, and they love it! I also love that it does not flip the text as mentioned above.

  7. The other option is to go to "insert"->"drawing" and then click on the picture icon. That will allow you to insert from your webcam. Although I have a feeling that will soon disappear as well.