tips & tricks

How To :: Take a Screenshot on a Mac

What is a Screenshot?

A screenshot is a way of taking a snapshot of your computer screen and saving it in a static image file for later use. Mac OS X comes with four built-in ways to take screenshots: keyboard shortcuts, the Grab and Preview applications and through the Terminal (not recommended for beginners). Macs automatically save the image as a .png on your desktop.

What are Screenshots Used For?

To quickly document something that only exists online. A Web Designer will often take screenshots of websites they’ve designed for their own portfolio. A journalist may take a screenshot of a controversial tweet or other online statements a politician or celebrity has made so a record exists if the author later deletes it.

To troubleshoot software problems. It’s often easier to take a screenshot and send the photo to a technician then trying to describe the problem in a written email or verbally over the phone.

In tutorials, screenshots are used to demonstrate correct settings or how to perform certain functions.

In software reviews, screenshots are used to show readers what the software looks like.

How To Take a Screenshot:

With Keyboard Shortcuts
Command-Shift-3: Takes a screenshot of the entire screen and saves it to the desktop.

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 11.14.17 PMCommand-Shift-3 :: A sample screenshot of my desktop.

Command-Shift-4, then select an area: Allows the user to select a specific area of the screen and save it to the desktop.

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 11.16.49 PMCommand-Shift-4 :: A sample screenshot of an area my desktop.

Command-Shift-4, then spacebar, then click a window: Take a screenshot of a window and save it as a file on the desktop

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 11.19.14 PMCommand-Shift-4, then spacebar, then click a window:: A sample of a screenshot of a window on my desktop.

With the Grab Application

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 11.28.34 PM

To use the Grab application click on the Macintosh HD icon on your computer, then click on Applications, then click on the Utilities folder then the program Grab. Click Capture on the menu bar at the top of your screen to see the four types of screenshots available in Grab:

Selection takes a screenshot of a specific area of your screen.
Window takes a screenshot of an open window on your screen.
Screen takes a screenshot of your entire screen.
Timed Screen takes a screenshot of your entire screen after a 10 second lapse.

With the Preview Application

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 11.31.50 PM

Grab can also be used with the Preview Application. Preview is the default program used to view images on a Mac. To open an image in Preview just locate the file and double click. Once the image opens on your desktop go to File and select Take A Screenshot from the drop down menu. There are three types of screenshots available in Preview:

Selection takes a screenshot of a specific area of your screen.
Window takes a screenshot of an open window on your screen.
Timed Screen takes a screenshot of your entire screen after a 10 second lapse.

Through the Terminal

The final built in way to take screen shots on a Mac is through the Mac terminal with the screenshot command. This method is usually used by developers writing larger scripts and is not recommended for beginners.

For example to take a screenshot of the entire screen, name file screen.jpg, and save it to the desktop you’d type the below command into the Terminal:
screencapture -S ~/Desktop/screen.jpg

A full list of commands for the screencapture utility is available at Mac Guides.