Master the Art of Screenshots - Mac OS X

Mac Screenshots

Having a screenshot of something you see on your Mac can sometimes be priceless, especially if something happens that you want to show someone else, or if you want to email someone a picture of how to do something on their Macs. Fortunately, Mac OS X has a ton of options for taking pictures of the screen, or even individual elements of the screen. We'll get into the basics, and we'll also show you some advanced techniques that many 'power-users' may not know of (yet).

If you'd like to take a picture of the whole screen, from the menubar to the dock, the process is quite simple. Press the following keys all at the same time: ShiftCommand (Apple) + 3. That's all there is to it. Once you do that, you should hear your make make a camera sound, and then a file named 'Picture 1' will appear on your desktop. You can attach it to an email, print it, or do whatever else you'd like with it.

However, it's probably more likely you'll want to take a picture of just one window or dialog box. In this case, you can do one of two things:

  1. If you want to select the area of the screen to capture, press the following keys all at the same time: ShiftCommand (Apple)4. Then, your mouse will change into a selection cursor, and you can drag over whatever area you'd like a picture of. The file will be saved to the desktop.
  2. If you want to take a picture of a whole window or dialog box, do the same as step one, but instead of dragging over an area you'd like a picture of, press the spacebar while you see the selection cursor. The cursor while change into a camera icon, and you can click on whatever window you'd like to take a picture of.

Even More Advanced

Now, you may already know about these steps. But you can go further—much further—into making better screenshots and managing them. If you want, you can take the picture and send it to the Clipboard instead of to a file on the desktop. This way, you can simply paste the screen shot into Photoshop or an email or wherever else you want. To do this, just add the 'Control' key into the key combinations above (e.g. ControlShift + Command (Apple)3 or 4).

Also, the more astute might notice that the file that your Mac saves the screenshot to is a PNG. While this is handy for most purposes, you might want to have it as a JPEG, TIF or PDF instead. Well, that is easy to do as well! You just fire up the trusty old Terminal (in Applications > Utilities) and type in the following command (after the dollar sign):

defaults write type <em>png</em>

Replace 'png' with whatever image type you'd like. The list of available types includes: BMP, GIF, JPG, PDF, PICT, PNG, PSD, SGI, TGA, and TIF. Hit enter after you type in the command, then quit Terminal. Next time you take a screenshot, it will be in the format you chose. (Note: You may have to restart your computer for changes to take effect).

Other Methods

There are even more ways to take fabulous screen shots in Mac OS X. The built in 'Grab' application lets you time the screenshots, and also lets you choose whether or not the mouse appears in the screenshot. Other third-party applications, like Snapz Pro X and iShowU, add even more functionality, such as screen recording and audio recording (check their websites for more information about them).