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How to take a screenshot on a Mac

This article was originally published on July 26, 2013. It was last updated on December 17th to reflect the most recent changes. Digital Trends writer Drew Prindle contributed to this article.

Wondering how to take a screenshot with your Mac? Not to worry – it’s incredibly simple in Mac OS X. 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 for showing off your latest high score with a friend or further clarifying a problem with tech support. Mac OS X even automatically saves your screenshots directly to the desktop with a time stamp detailing the time and date for future reference.

Here’s a guide on how to take a screenshot on a Mac, whether you prefer capturing images using keyboard shortcuts or Preview. Additionally, check out our guides for taking a screenshot on a PC and capturing images in iOS 7, along with our selection of the best image-editing tools.

Skip ahead for instructions on how to take a screenshot using Preview.

How to take a screenshot using keyboard commands

To capture the full screen and save it to the clipboard, hit Command+Shift+Control+3 Screenshot keyboard shortcut 3
To select the screenshot area and save it to the clipboard, Command+Shift+Control+4 Screenshot keyboard shortcut 4

If you’re using the Command+Shift+4 or Command+Shift+Control+4 shortcuts, there are also a number of modifiers you can use afterward to make your life easier. After you hit the initial shortcut, try pressing one the following button combinations below to perform the action.

Hit the Spacebar to grab a window Screenshot keyboard shortcut 5
 Hold Option to grow your selection from the center Screenshot keyboard shortcut 6
Hold Shift to lock in the vertical or horizontal position Screenshot keyboard shortcut 7
Hold Space to move the selection while locking the aspect ratio Screenshot keyboard shortcut 8
Hold Shift+Space to lock in horizontal or vertical while moving the locked selection Screenshot keyboard shortcut 9
Hit Escape or Command+Period to cancel your screenshot Screenshot keyboard shortcut 10

How to take a screenshot using Preview

We are not going to say Apple’s Preview is one of the most renowned pieces of software on the market. Still, this utility built into every Mac lets you to view images and PDF documents without the need for any external software or outside components. The application even features tools for capturing screenshots, along with those for basic image editing and exporting, if you’d rather not use the aforementioned commands.

Step 1 — Launch Preview

Click the Finder icon in the Mac OS X toolbar, select the Applications folder from within the left-hand column, and double-click the Preview icon featuring the magnifying glass.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 12.18.21 PM

Step 2 — Capture the screenshot

Once open, click the File menu located on the left-hand side of the application toolbar and select Take Screen Shot from bottom of the resulting drop-down menu. Afterward, select one of the three resulting options for capturing a screenshot — whether you prefer to capture a mere portion of the screen, the active window, or the entirety of the interface. Unlike Mac OS X’s innate keyboard commands, taking a screenshot in Preview will let you to save the resulting image in a variety of formats (PNG, PDF, JPEG, TIFF, etc.). Simply title the resulting file and choose your desired format, tags, and save location upon closing the image and exiting Preview.

Screen Shot 2014-08-04 at 12.38.10 PM

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