How to make a picture of your Mac’s screen

How to make a picture of your Mac’s screen
Mac Tip #436, 12 May 2010

Sometimes you just want to show how your screen looks — what a window shows, some confusing message, or the cool way you’ve set up your software. The way to do that is with a screenshot. Here’s how to make screenshots on your Mac. It’s easy, and free.


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Command Shift 3 captures the whole screen

A screenshot of screenshots.

A screenshot of screenshots.

Without doing anything special you can make screenshots any time you like.

Press and hold both the Command (⌘) and Shift (⇧) keys, then press and release the 3 key. Then release the other 2 keys. If you have the volume turned up you’ll hear a ‘shutter’ sound, as when you take a photo with your camera.

A new file appears on your Desktop, named like this one of mine: Screen shot 2010-05-10 at 9.54.26 AM.png. Note that the name includes the date and time when the screenshot was made.

Don’t see .png at the end of the filename on your Mac? Read How to set Finder Advanced Preferences.

Open that screenshot file with Apple Preview and it shows a picture of your whole computer screen, at full size.

Make partial screenshots with Command Shift 4

You may not want the entire screen, but only part of it. Command (⌘) Shift (⇧) 4 can help you out.

Press Command (⌘) Shift (⇧) 4 and the cursor changes to a ‘crosshair’. Drag the crosshair across the screen so as to enclose just the area you want to capture. When you let go the mouse the screenshot is saved to the Desktop. I didn’t hear a shutter sound when I used this technique.

To capture just one window it’s a little easier: Press Command (⌘) Shift (⇧) 4 and then press the Spacebar. This time the cursor changes to a small camera icon. Move the camera icon over the window you want to capture and then click. This time just the window is captured as a screenshot, and saved to the Desktop.

Capture to the Clipboard

Command (⌘) Shift (⇧) 3 and Command (⌘) Shift (⇧) 4 save screenshots to the Desktop as separate files. Instead you may want to save the image to the Clipboard so you can paste it in to another application. Both commands can save to the Clipboard instead of a file: just add the Control (⌃) key.

Other Tips will explain how to change the default key commands, how to use the built-in Grab application for screenshots, how to use Quicktime Pro to make a movie of your computer screen, and how to make the file size smaller for use on forums and blogs and in emails. These are all handy things to know about.

Tell us in the Comments at the website what you’ve used screenshots for.

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  1. Pingback: Como cancelar una captura de pantalla en Mac | mecambioamac

  2. Dave said:

    Oh, and another: if you’ve used one of the key combos (other than command-shift-3) and change your mind about wanting to take a screen shot right now, command-. (period) will cancel and reset the cursor to normal.

  3. Dave said:

    One quick addition to the command-shift-4/spacebar combo to capture a window: the window you want to capture does not have to be at the front. So long as you can see part of the window you can click on it (the “chosen” window will be highlighted, to show which one you’re capturing) – clicking will capture that window, and any overlapping windows will not show or hide part of the capture.

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