Wondering how to take a screenshot with your Mac? There’s no “Print Screen” button on your Mac keyboard, sure, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the process is complicated. Using various keyboard shortcuts, you can capture a screenshot of your entire display and everything on it, or you can simply drag a box around the designated area you want to capture. There’s a variety of other screenshot methods — including those for capturing a specific window or growing your selection from the center — all of which produce images you can then use to flaunt your latest high score or clarify a problem with tech support. Here’s a guide on how to take a screenshot on a Mac, whether you prefer capturing images using keyboard shortcuts or Preview.
Taking a screenshot using keyboard commands
|To capture the entire screen and save it to the clipboard, hit Command+Shift+Control+3|
|To capture a selected area and save it to the clipboard, hit Command+Shift+Control+4|
Using these same keyboard shortcuts mentioned above without pressing “Control” will save the screenshot as a PNG file to your desktop, instead of your clipboard. Also, when you trigger the area option — i.e. Command+Shift+Control+4 — your mouse cursor will become a cross hair, letting you select the region of the screen you want to select. You can also fine-tune your selection, if desired. To do so, try pressing one the following button combinations after you hit the initial shortcut keys.
|Hit the Spacebar to change your pointer into a camera and grab a full window|
|Hold Option to grow your selection from the center|
|Hold Shift to lock in the vertical or horizontal position|
|Hold Space to move the selection while locking the aspect ratio|
|Hold Shift+Space to lock in horizontal or vertical while moving the locked selection|
|Hit Escape to cancel your screenshot|
Taking screenshots with Grab
Don’t feel like memorizing keyboard shortcuts? Grab, a program that comes pre-installed all Macs, lets you create screenshots directly from the menubar. The program also lets you take time-delayed screenshots, just in case you need to set the stage before capturing an image on your display. You’ll find this program in the Utilities folder, which is housed within the Applications folder.
Once you launch Grab, you’ll see an icon for the program in your dock. If you want, you can also pin this icon for quick access later.
Grab doesn’t usually have a window when open, and instead, runs almost entirely from the menubar.
With Grab, you can take a screenshot of a particular section of the screen, an individual window, or the entire screen — the same three options we previously outlined above. What’s new here is the “Timed screen” option, which gives you a 10-second delay before the screenshot is captured.
This means that, if you need to open a menu or position your mouse in the right position, you’ve got some time to do so. Keep in mind that your mouse cursor will not show up in the screenshot by default, though. If you want to ensure it’s captured in the frame, click Preferences from the main Grab menu and select the mouse icon from the resulting pop-up window.
The cursor will only show up when capturing delayed screenshots, which is just as well since you’ll need your mouse to take screenshots for the other options. We still think the keyboard shortcuts are a better way to capture screenshots, but if you don’t want to memorize anything, Grab is a great alternative.
Using Preview to take a screenshot
Preview, the default tool that allows you to open everything from photos to PDF files on your Mac, has more than a few hidden features. You can edit images with Preview, for instance, simply by clicking the toolbox icon. Preview can also take screenshots.
To do so, open Preview and head to the menubar. Then, click File and select Take Screenshot from the resulting drop-down menu.
We prefer the keyboard shortcut method to this method, however, because the former is far quicker. Preview does offer one main advantage, however, in that you can choose where your screenshots end up. The other options on our list automatically save your screenshot to the desktop with a verbose filename. Preview opens the screenshot, lets you make a few edits, and save the file wherever you like. If that matters to you, Preview is a solid choice.
Taking and saving Mac screenshots
What happens once a screenshot is taken? Assuming you didn’t just send it to the clipboard, your Mac will automatically time stamp the screenshot with the day and time it was taken, then save it as a PNG to your desktop. That’s handy for immediate reference, but if you’re taking many screenshots in a row, then your desktop will quickly become cluttered with files that sport odd names.
The solution is to simply move screenshots to the Trash whenever you’re finished with them. But if you work with numerous screenshots, this may get a little tiring. The good news is that there are modifications you can make via Terminal commands and third-party software.
Take, for example, the Tiny for Mac app. The software — which is currently in beta — will automatically rename your screenshot based on the foremost application window. If you’re using Safari or Chrome, it will also incorporate the URL and title of the active tab, if applicable. This can greatly help with organization if you’re juggling several images at the same time.