Last Updated on May 2, 2019 by Husain Parvez
How to Screenshot on Mac – it’s Easy
There’s always a time and a place for a screenshot. Whether you want to instantly capture something to look at later or ping someone an email to clarify that you’re looking at the right thing without the hassle of trusting that links load correctly, a screenshot is a handy tool that nobody should be without.
If you’ve grown up using Windows, you’ll be familiar with the print screen key, but if you then venture into the world of Apple, you may well be left scratching your head because you don’t know how to screenshot on Mac.
To put those questions to bed once and for all take a read of this handy article I’ve put together, and you’ll never be left scratching your head again.
How to Screenshot on Mac: A Beginner’s Guide
When you want to know how to screenshot on Mac, there’s a little more to it than meets the eye. Rather than the print screen button on Windows that captures the whole screen and then leaves you to it, Apple has a few different options that make their approach that little bit more user-friendly.
The Full-Screen Approach
Capturing the full screen on a Mac is nice and straightforward and only requires a 3-key combination. Work through these simple steps, and you’ll know everything you need to make use of this useful little shortcut:
- Open the files and windows that you want to capture and lay them out on your screen how you want them to appear in your Mac screenshots.
- Press Cmd-Shit-3 and you’ll hear a photo capture sound if you have your sound turned on. It’ll sound similar to the screen grab on your
- The file will be saved to your desktop automatically in .png format with a file name that lists the time and date; the screenshot was captured.
That is everything you need to know to capture a full-screen screenshot, to learn a few of the more advanced options read on…
How can you modify your screenshot file?
There’s rather a lot of options when it comes to changing your file: cropping, changing the name, altering the file type. To find out a little more about each of these options take a look at the handy hints and tips that follow.
Changing the filename
The name of a Mac screenshot is set to display the time and date they were created to allow you to keep track of your files. The only issue with this is that in a day or two you won’t remember what they contain. Which makes it awkward, if you have a dozen or more files to look through to find what you want.
In OS X you can change the filename of any file, including images, by ‘single clicking’ on the icon and then ‘choosing enter.’ That will highlight the text in the filename and allow you to change it to whatever makes the most sense.
One thing to have in mind is that the file type cannot be changed from .png by merely adding .jpg to the filename. More on that below…
Changing the filetype
You can quickly and easily change the file-type by ‘dragging and dropping’ your new screenshot into Preview. This will load up the screenshot and allow you to save it with a different extension. The most common conversion will be changing from .png to JPG but feel free to explore your options so that you find something that works for you.
Cropping your screenshot
Loading your screenshot into a program like Photoshop will allow you to crop and resize your image to remove any information you don’t want or need in the image.
Here are a few reasons to consider cropping your screenshot before you email it to a colleague or upload it:
- Are you unwittingly displaying any sensitive information such as login details, private notes, or information regarding your online banking?.
- Can you clearly see what you’re trying to highlight? If not then you could ‘crop out ‘some of the superfluous information so that your screenshot provides additional clarity?
- Do you have plenty of blank space that would look better if it were removed?
There’s another handy feature that Apple has added that actually removes the need to do any of the croppings we’ve talked about. Take a look at the following section, and you’ll be an expert when it comes to knowing how to screenshot on Mac and focus on any part of the screen you need to.
How to screenshot only the part of the screen you want
This is an excellent little addition that the print screen button on Windows does not allow you to do:
- Open the items you want to capture so that they’re clearly You don’t need to worry about clearing the screen as long as you have a clear view of what you want to capture.
- Press Cmd-Shit-4 and a crosshair cursor will appear on the screen.
- Click and drag it around the area you want to screenshot, and when you release it, you’ll hear the same photo capture sound like the whole screenshot method.
- The file will again be added to your desktop with a filename that contains the time and date it was created.
That covers the basics of how to screenshot on Mac when you want to focus on a specific area of the screen. However, there are a few more useful tips to know if you really want to master this useful little feature.
Advanced screenshot options
Look closer at the screenshot crosshair, and you’ll see some small numbers. These are the number of pixels of the horizontal and vertical dimensions of the image you’ll capture.
Counting the pixels
Creating an image with a set number of pixels is useful because it allows you to create an image that you don’t have to resize at a later date. Here are a few valuable tips that will enable you to get a perfect size every time:
- Set the size of the item you want to capture so that everything is clearly visible by toggling the zoom function. Doing so will ensure that you don’t run the risk of capturing a tiny screenshot and then losing some of the clarity if you have to enlarge it at a later date for ease of viewing.
- Drag the crosshairs across the screen so that you see the number of pixels that your image will take up. If you’re capturing your image with a specific use in mind, such as a profile picture, then you’ll be able to look up the suggested image size that your chosen platforms
- Remember that if you want to alter the size of your image at a later date, you can still load it into a program like Photoshop and crop and resize it in there.
Free up your hands
When you want to capture the perfect screenshot, you’ll need a steady pair of hands. The moment the crosshairs appear on your screen you can stop holding down the 3-key combination that you use to bring them up. That will free up your hands so that you can focus on the task at hand and get a crisp and clean screenshot every time.
Escaping is easy
If at any point you want to abort your screenshot just hit the ESC key. This will instantly turn the crosshairs back into the cursor, and no further screenshots will be captured until you press the 3-key combination again.
You can fix the dimensions when you screenshot
When the crosshairs appear you can start your screenshot by clicking your mouse or trackpad, and dragging it over the area of interest. If you press the Spacebar at any point, you’ll be able to move your selected area around the screen so that you can overlay it wherever you like.
Alternatively, you can hold down the Spacebar and the Shift button, and you’ll be able to move the area along the horizontal axis of the screen. These two quick tips are handy if you want to take your screenshots to the next level and create the right size image every time.
Skip the keyboard shortcuts
If you don’t want to memorize keyboard shortcuts there’s a quick and easy way to get around that issue: it’s called Grab.
Grab is a built-in program that comes preinstalled on every Mac Apple ships. Here’s how to find it and get started:
Step 1: Grab is saved in the utility folder; you’ll find it inside your Mac’s Applications folder. Double click on the icon, and you’ll see the same icon appear in your desktop dock along the bottom of the screen. If you find it to be a particularly useful program you can also pin it there, so you never have to go searching through your folders and files to track it down.
Step 2: Familiarize yourself with the options that are listed under the Capture menu in Grab. They also display the keyboard shortcuts if you decide that you prefer that approach after all.
Grab is a rather simple and user-friendly program that will only take you a couple of clicks to get familiar with. As with the keyboard shortcuts we’ve already taken a detailed look at, you’ll be able to capture screenshots of the entire screen or a specific area of interest.
You can also focus on a given window that’s open on your desktop. There is, however, one very-powerful feature that you won’t find anywhere else…
Using Grab to take timed screenshots
Timed screenshots are particularly useful if you want your cursor to be in the shot so that you can point to something for a friend or colleague to see. This allows you to highlight items on the screen without having to load your screenshot into a drawing program and add an arrow at a later date.
By pressing Cmd-Shift-Z, you will enable the timed screenshot option with a simple 3-key combination. You also have the opportunity to change the way in which your cursor displays.
The default setting for it does not display at all, but if you want it to be captured so that you can use it as a pointer, you can choose anything from a cursor to a pointing figure. There’s even a question mark that you can use to highlight queries you have about what you’re seeing. This all helps you to customize your screenshots so that they convey exactly what you want them to.
Special uses for screenshots
As you’ve probably seen by now, there’s a whole host of powerful ways that you can quickly and easily capture screenshots using your Mac. With options at your fingertips why not take a look at a few of the reasons why they’ll prove to be useful tools for years to come:
- They allow you to show someone else exactly what you’re looking at without worrying whether the link you’d otherwise be sending will display the same on their screen.
- You can use screenshots to show a remote friend or colleague what you see on your desktop so that you don’t have to give them remote access to your workstation.
- You can customize screenshots by setting them to the exact pixel size you need. Plus there’s the option of using a range of different cursor icons to convey different information to the intended recipient.
- A picture is worth a thousand words. This means that screenshots act as the perfect guide. That is especially true when you’re creating anything from a walkthrough article, to an instruction manual.
By clearly capturing exactly what you’re talking about you’ll be able to increase your productivity and power through your work
We hope this guide helps to show you how quick and easy screenshots are to capture on your Mac and that you’ll be able to use some the advanced hints and tips that we’ve covered today.
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