If you are having problems with Windows itself or any other software, one of the things you might be asked to do is supply the information in any errors or messages that are being displayed to help with troubleshooting. Some error messages are quite short and not difficult to type in, and others can be long and a real pain to repeat accurately with combinations of numbers, letters and special characters all being used.
It’s often better to also enter an exact error code or phrase into a search engine such as Google to get more precise results for the problem. Of course, taking a screenshot can be used to send an error message to someone else, but this isn’t always that helpful because they might have to re-type the message data in at the other end, and it also won’t help if you want to search the internet.
Windows error dialog boxes and general information windows don’t have a nice and easy button for you to copy all the error messages, and they won’t let you highlight the the text so it can be copied. There are ways for you to do it though and copying information from Windows message boxes, 3rd party software dialogs or the Command Prompt can be made easier when you know how. Here are 7 solutions to try.
1. The Built in Windows Function
Actually there is a very easy way you can copy Windows dialog box and error messages. When the box appears, simply make sure it’s the active window and press the standard Windows copy shortcut combination of Ctrl+C. Now the data is in the clipboard, paste the contents into notepad or webpage etc.
For example, if you type raymond.exe into a Run box (Win key+R), Windows will show a not found error:
Press Ctrl+C, open Notepad and then press Ctrl+V to produce the following:
Windows cannot find ‘raymond.exe’. Make sure you typed the name correctly, and then try again.
You will get not just the text content but also the window’s title and the name of any buttons. This is very useful but unfortunately only works on dialog boxes created by Windows. If the window message is custom and created by third party software, this method won’t work. For that, you will need to use one of the other tools below.
GetWindowText is a free and portable tool by the same developer of the popular Q-Dir file manager. To use it to copy the text from control boxes, left click on the question mark icon in the top left and drag the mouse cursor to the box that you want it to read the data from. It can read almost all text from edit, static, sysTreeView, sysListView, combobox and groupbox controls etc. Simply highlight and copy the text from the box in the GetWindowText program.
ShoWin is actually a small tool from McAfee and in addition to finding text in a window or dialog, it can also be used to display the password in a dialog hidden behind asterisks. Simply drag the cross hair over the control to get information about it and the included text, the copy button will copy all details, not just the text. Additional features include the ability to enable disabled windows, unhide hidden windows and force windows to stay on top or be placed below others.
SysExporter is another small and portable utility from Nirsoft and allows you to grab the data stored in list-views, tree-views, list boxes, combo boxes, text-boxes, and controls from most applications. It also has a drag and drop target icon to catch specific window contents from error message boxes etc, and can be used to capture a folder tree or list of files from an Explorer or application window. Any data can be copied or exported to a text, html or xml file.
WinScraper is able to scrape the text from a dialog box control or message box by dragging the target icon over the text or window. The result will show in the “Window Text:” box and can be copied out and pasted as text into an email or forum post etc. It can capture images of controls or windows from applications such as icons, and also can resize application or web browser windows to a specific size for testing alternate screen resolutions.
Textractor is a text monitoring tool that captures and logs all text a program writes to the screen. The tool works by you supplying the program to monitor and then it captures and records any output from the application to its window. Each line can be right clicked on and copied / removed or the whole text can be saved to a file. This obviously won’t record general Windows errors but can get error dialogs or window text from specific software.
7. Copy Text from Command Prompt
Although not a dialog window, copying text out from the Command Prompt is quite useful if you want to copy the results or errors of a command. It’s very easy when you know how and doesn’t require the use of software, but still many people don’t know you can. There are 2 ways to do it.
1. While you’re in Command Prompt, right click at anywhere inside the window and select Mark.
2. Now use your left mouse button to drag a box over the area of text that you want to copy, scroll can also be used to capture multiple lines. Once you have the text, click the right mouse button or press Enter to copy the selected text to the clipboard. Then you can right click and select Paste to paste into Notepad or a webpage etc.
1. Right click on Command Prompt’s title bar and select Properties. On the options tab, tick to enable QuickEdit Mode and click OK.
Now your left mouse button will permanently be used to mark text and the right mouse will copy it to the clipboard. If there is no highlighted text, the right mouse button will paste any clipboard contents to the window, useful for copying commands off a webpage etc.