How Do You Screenshot on a Mac?

Screenshot Mac Osx

Taking a screenshot is something we all want to do at some point. The first personal computers in the ’80s did not support this functionality, with the exception of dumping a textual version of a screen; however, these days, taking a screenshot of the whole desktop or just a particular application window is well-supported on all of the major operating systems.

Let’s see how this task can be accomplished on a Mac computer.

Capture the Entire Screen

To capture the entire desktop screen to an image file:

Hold down the COMMAND key and the SHIFT key and the 3 key.

cmd + shift + 3

How to capture the entire screen

In Mac OS X v10.6 and later, the screenshots are saved as PNG-formatted image files and named something like “Screen shot (date and time).png” by default. You can open these files with Preview or other image editing apps. To know how to save screenshots in other image file formats, please see the last two sections of this article.

Capture a Region of the Screen

Hold down the COMMAND key and the SHIFT key and then 4 key. Then, use your mouse to draw a rectangle (by clicking and dragging the mouse) in order to specify what section of the screen to capture.

cmd + shift+ 4

How to capture a region of the screen

If you want to cancel the rectangle-drawing action, you can press the ESCAPE key.

Capture an Application Window

This action is similar to the previous screenshot method, but instead of drawing a rectangle with the mouse, we press the SPACE bar and then click on the window we’re interested in screenshotting.

Hold down the COMMAND key and the SHIFT key and the 4 key. Now press the SPACE bar and then click on a window with the mouse.

cmd + shift + 4 + space

How to capture an application window

Save the Screenshot to the Clipboard

When working in various applications, it can be very useful to have direct copy/paste access to the screenshot image instead of loading the file manually. To save a screenshot to the clipboard (instead of saving it as a file):

Hold down the CONTROL key together with any of the previous commands described above.

The control key saves to the clipboard.

The control key saves to the clipboard

Paste the Screenshot from the Clipboard

To paste the clipboard image content into some document or application after the previous clipboard step:

Hold down the COMMAND key and press the V key.

cmd + v

How to paste from the clipboard

Taking Screenshots with Preview

You also can take screenshots without using any of the keyboard combinations.

Open the Preview application and click on the “File” dropdown menu. Select the “Take Screen Shot” sub-menu and select the screenshot method you would like to perform.

Save a screenshot from Preview

How to save a screenshot from Preview

Preview also allows you to save the screenshot in various image formats.

Taking Screenshots from the Command Line

On a Mac computer, there is a command line screenshot utility called “screencapture” that can be executed from a Terminal application or in a shell script.

The screencapture command has various options, which can be seen by typing this command into the Terminal window:

man screencapture

Let’s see some examples of these options in use.

Taking a screenshot as a JPEG-formatted image file:

screencapture -t jpg ~/Desktop/screenshot.jpg

Taking a screenshot with a 10-second delay:

screencapture -T 10 ~/Desktop/screenshot.png

Place the screenshot on to the clipboard:

screencapture -c ~/Desktop/screenshot.png

Open the screenshot in a Preview window.

screencapture -P ~/Desktop/screenshot.png