How to take a screenshot on a Mac

Lost without Print Screen? Here's how to take a screenshot on your Mac

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Bill Roberson/Digital Trends
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

If you’re coming from a Windows PC to a Mac, you might be wondering how to take a screenshot without that Print Screen key on your keyboard. Worry not though, as there are a variety of screenshot methods — including those for capturing a specific window — available in MacOS, whether you’ve updated to Mojave or are still running High Sierra all of which produce images you can use for whatever you need.

Have a Windows machine? Here’s how to take a screenshot on a PC.

Using keyboard commands

MacOS keyboard commands are the easiest and quickest way to take a screenshot on a Mac whether you’re capturing the entire screen or just a portion of it — as long as your keys aren’t stuck.

Capture the entire screen

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Step 1: Press the Command + Shift + 3 keys simultaneously.

Step 2: That will save a copy of your screen to your clipboard. You can alternatively press the same combination without the Command key in order to save the image as a PNG file to your desktop.

If you’ve updated MacOS to the latest release version, known as Mojave, a preview of the screenshot will appear in the corner of your screen giving you quicker access to editing tools. You can also take advantage of the new screenshot “Stacks” feature which groups together similar files on your desktop, like screenshots. To do so, just right click on your desktop (here’s how to do it) and all of them will be quickly grouped together.

Capture a selected area

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Step 1: Press the Command + Shift + 4 keys simultaneously.

Step 2: With your mouse pointer turned into a crosshair, use it to select the region you wish to capture.

Step 3: You can fine-tune your selection by pressing the spacebar, which will let you take a full-screen capture or to select an open menu.

Your selection will then be copied to the clipboard. Alternatively, don’t press the Command key and your screenshot will be saved to the desktop as a PNG file.

Note that if you have a MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, it’ll give you options on the Touch Bar that include the Selected Portion, Window, or Entire Screen. You can also use it to save it to a different folder such as Desktop, Documents, or even Clipboard. Another feature exclusive to Touch Bar MacBooks is to take a screenshot of the Touch Bar display, which can be done by hitting Shift + Command + 6.

Taking screenshots with Grab

Don’t feel like memorizing keyboard shortcuts? Grab is a program that comes pre-installed on all Macs and lets you create screenshots directly from the menu bar. 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.

grab-options

Step 1: Launch Grab by opening it from the Utilities folder, which is housed within the Applications folder. Once you launch it, you’ll see an icon for the program in your dock. You can also pin this icon for quick access later.

Grab rarely features a window when open, and instead, runs almost entirely from the menu bar.

Step 2: Either use the Capture menu system to take screenshots as you wish or use the keyboard shortcuts detailed next to the respective command.

Timed screenshots

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.

grab-mac-preferences

Step 1: Open Grab as in the instructions above.

Step 2: Select Timed Screenshot from the Grab menu, or press its shortcut: Command + Shift + Z.

Keep in mind that your mouse cursor will not show up in the screenshot by default. 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 with 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 (here’s how to convert them) has more than a few hidden features. You can edit images with Preview, for instance, simply by clicking the toolbox icon. Preview can also capture screenshots.

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Step 1: Open Preview.

Step 2: Highlight File in the menu bar.

Step 3: From the drop-down menu, select Take Screenshot and then either From Selection, From Window, or From Entire Screen, depending on your preferences.

We prefer the keyboard shortcut method to this one because the former is far quicker, but Preview does offer one main advantage: 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 then you can 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, before saving it as a PNG file to your desktop. This is 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.

If you’re running the latest version of MacOS, Mojave, there are new organization and quick-editing tools you can take advantage of. Screenshots saved to the desktop are can be quickly grouped together with a right-click to declutter things and when they appear as thumbnails in the corner of your screen shortly after you take them, you can click those images to enable quick-editing through the Markup app.

If you’re running older versions of MacOS, you can always drag the screenshots to the trash, make some modifications via Terminal commands, or use third-party MacOS software. We talk about some of our favorites in our guide to the best MacOS apps.

Take, for example, the TinyTake for Mac app which gives you far greater control over your screenshots and how you take them.

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