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When you want to take a screenshot on your Mac, you have both native and third-party tools to choose from. Whether you want to screenshot the whole screen or snip out a part of it, macOS has all the options covered for you.
So, let’s see how to use the best screenshot options on your Mac, and explore some useful tricks along the way.
How to Take Screenshots on a Mac Using Keyboard Shortcuts
You can choose from a variety of different keyboard shortcuts to screenshot your Mac. We’ll go through your options one by one, as the best one to use depends on what exactly you want to take a screenshot of. Keep in mind that these screenshot shortcuts work on every Mac model, so they’re how you take a screenshot on a MacBook Pro, a MacBook Air, or an iMac.
If the shortcuts methods below don’t work, ensure that you’ve enabled the feature from the System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts > Screenshots.
Take a Screenshot of the Entire Screen on Your Mac
For this, you need to press Cmd + Shift + 3.
When you do that, you’ll see an image appear in the bottom-right corner of your screen. You can click on the image to edit it, or do nothing and let it auto-save to your desktop. The screenshot will get saved as a PNG file.
Use a Snipping Tool to Screenshot Part of a Mac Window
You’ll need to press Cmd + Shift + 4 if you want to take a screenshot of a particular portion of your Mac screen. This shortcut turns the cursor into a crosshair; you can then click and drag it across the part of the screen you want to capture.
While making the selection, hold down the Shift key if you want to limit your adjustments to either the X or Y axis. To resize your selection proportionally from the center, hold down the Option key. And if you want to move the selection, hold down Space instead.
Changed your mind about taking the screenshot? No problem. Hit the Escape key to cancel the action.
Once you’re satisfied with the selection, release the mouse. The screenshot then ends up on the desktop as a PNG file. As above, if you want to copy the captured image to the clipboard instead of saving it, you’ll need to tweak the shortcut a bit. Modify the shortcut to Control + Cmd + Shift + 4 to copy what you capture.
Capture an Application Window
Want to take a screenshot of the active window? First hit Cmd + Shift + 4. Then hit Space, and you’ll see the crosshair turn into a camera.
The active window appears highlighted, and if you click the camera, you get a screenshot of the app window. Before clicking, you can also choose to move the focus of the camera to a different window. If you want to take a timed screenshot, you’ll need to open your Mac’s built-in snipping tool. We’ll discuss this in the next section.
You can screenshot your Mac using the snipping tool that comes pre-installed in all the latest Mac systems. To access it, open the Screenshot app from your Utilities folder. If your Mac is running macOS High Sierra or earlier, look for the Grab app, instead of Screenshot. You can also bring up the app using the shortcut Cmd + Shift + 5.
With this Screenshot app, Apple has simplified the whole screen-capture process. This snipping tool app is useful if you prefer a more point-and-click approach over Mac keyboard shortcuts.
Screenshot’s toolbar has three buttons that make screen capturing on macOS quick and painless: Capture Entire Screen, Capture Selected Window, and Capture Selected Portion. (The app also has a couple of buttons for screen recording.) For timed selections, click on the Options button in the toolbar. You’ll find the timer options in the menu that shows up.
After you take a screenshot using any of the options above, you’ll see a tiny preview at the bottom-right of the screen. Click on it to reveal a full-sized preview window with tools to edit, annotate, and delete the screenshot. Here, you can add text, sketches, shapes, and even your signature. The full-sized preview window also contains an option to open the screenshot with other Mac apps like Notes, Mail, and Reminders.
If you want to turn off the thumbnail feature, uncheck the Show Floating Thumbnail item in the Options menu from the screenshot toolbar.
Configuring Screenshot Settings on a Mac
If you’re struggling to find all your Mac screenshots, you might want to change the default screenshot format or change where screenshots save on your Mac. In such cases, you’ll need to execute a command from the Terminal app.
For this, open the Terminal from the Utilities folder and type the commands below. We have appended each command with a second command that’s needed to cement the changes. It reads as follows:
To Change the Default Screenshot Format
You can save screenshots in other formats, like JPG, BMP, and PDF. To do so, you’ll need to replace [file type] in the command below with the relevant three-letter format name:
defaults write com.apple.screencapture type [file type] && killall SystemUIServer
To Change Where Screenshots Get Saved
On macOS Mojave and later, you can change the default destination folder directly from the Screenshot app. To do this, click on the Options button in the screenshot toolbar and select a folder of your choice under the Save To section of the resulting menu.
On macOS High Sierra and earlier, you need to rely on this Terminal command:
defaults write com.apple.screencapture location [path] && killall SystemUIServer
Replace [path] with a new Finder save location that reads something like this:
You can either type the file path into Terminal, or drag and drop the relevant folder into Terminal to paste its file path.
Alternatively, you can also copy the file path and then paste it into Terminal. You’ll find the Copy as File Path command in the destination folder’s Control-click menu. However, the command appears only when you hold down the Option key while control-clicking.
To Change the Default File Name for Screenshots
If you want to replace the default prefix (Screenshot) in screenshot names with a different keyword, try this command:
defaults write com.apple.screencapture name [file name] && killall SystemUIServer
Be sure to replace [file name] in the command with the new prefix before execution. If you’d rather not fiddle with the Terminal, install a utility that lets you tweak macOS settings without Terminal commands.
How to Take a Screenshot on a Mac With Preview
The Preview app on your Mac also allows you to take screenshots. The advantage of using Preview for screenshots is that you can specify a different file format and save location with each new capture. Of course, you can also instantly edit the screenshot in Preview before saving it.
You’ll find the screenshot tools in Preview under File > Take Screenshot. Unfortunately, a timed screenshot option is not available here.
How to Take a Screenshot on a Mac With Third-Party Snipping Tools
Want advanced features that aren’t included in the built-in screenshot tools on your Mac? While this not an exhaustive list of the best screenshot apps for Mac, you can try one of the three third-party snipping tools from below.
This app sits in your Mac’s menu bar, and you can access it with a keyboard shortcut. Monosnap lets you edit screenshots and add arrows, boxes, and text to them. You can also blur elements, highlight specific areas, and upload screenshots to the cloud.
Download: Monosnap (Free)
This app lets you capture various onscreen elements and edit or annotate them without having to open another app. Skitch also supports timed screenshots.
Download: Skitch (Free)
Get Snappy if your work involves collaborating on screenshots or “snaps” often. You can not only edit and annotate screenshots as usual, but also share them with ease. The sharing options include a password-protection feature and a self-destruct timer.
If you take screenshots throughout the day and would like them organized automatically, then Snappy is just the right snipping tool for your Mac.
Download: Snappy (Free)
You Can Take Screenshots on Other Apple Devices, Too
Now you know how to take a screenshot on your Mac quickly and efficiently. macOS gives you the tools to capture whatever you need, whether you need to take screenshots on a MacBook Pro, iMac, or another macOS device. But your Mac isn’t the only Apple device that makes it easy to take and annotate screenshots.
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