The first time I sat down with Microsoft to discuss Windows Phone 7 in early 2010, I asked about taking screenshots. After all, the iPhone has this functionality via a clever Home button + On/Off button combo, and since I was writing a book--Windows Phone Secrets--I hoped there would be something similar for Microsoft's new smart phone OS.

Nope.

In-house, Microsoft used a homebrew, USB video-out solution for displaying the phone's screen through a projector, and this could be used to capture still frames, I thought. But the solution wasn't ever made available externally. And of course, various Windows Phone ROMs leaked over time, providing a way to capture some screens via the Windows Phone emulator included with the developer tools. But this was incomplete.

Late in the lifecycle of Windows Phone 7, an enterprising enthusiast created a Windows Phone app that let you take screenshots. This was too late for my book by about a year, but it was appreciated. And then I discovered it wouldn't work in Windows Phone 7.5, since Microsoft had apparently cut out the native API access that the tool required. Back to the drawing board.

Finally, this week, I got some good news from my Windows 8 Secrets co-author, Rafael Rivera: A new tool had arrived, allowing Windows Phone users to take screenshots. There are a few hoops to jump through, and apparently some issues with taking shots of games. But if you've been waiting for a tool like this, as I have, you'll be happy to have it. Here's how to make it work.

1. Developer unlock your Windows Phone. You can do this expensively via Microsoft ($99), or, soon, inexpensively via ChevronWP7 ($10 when its ready: I'm told this will be within a few weeks).

2. Download the app. It's called Screen Capturer v3 and more information can be found on the XDA Developers web site.

3. Install the app on your phone. You'll need to use the Application Deployment tool that is part of the Windows Phone 7.1 SDK, so you'll have to download and install that first. (To find the application afterwards, use Start Menu search, typing application deploy.)

4. Run the app on your phone. It's called Screen Capturer and can be found in the full app list to the right of the Start screen. Usage is pretty simple: It uses the Camera button to take shots, and shots are saved (in JPEG) format the Pictures hub. To copy them to your PC, sync the device via the Zune PC software.

Here are some sample shots:

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