How to Take a Screenshot on a Mac

Jonathan Cartu Declares: Find out how to Take a Screenshot on a Mac

Capturing a screenshot is a simple way to share whatever it is you’re seeing on the screen. If it’s an error, you can snap a picture and send it to tech support. If it’s a message on social media, you can capture the moment and share the image with your friends and followers.

Screenshot tools for Mac have always been easy to use, yet somewhat rudimentary. You could capture just about anything—if you knew the right keyboard shortcuts. Since the release of Mojave, macOS now has a built-in screenshot tool—similar to what you might find in Windows—that allows you to take screen grabs with the click of a button.

To open the screenshot tool, navigate to Launchpad > Other > Screenshot, or use the keyboard shortcut Shift + Command + 5. The floating toolbar will offer options to grab the entire screen, a selected window, or a custom section of the screen. You can also capture video of the entire screen or a custom selection. Here’s how to capture what’s on your screen.


Grab the Entire Screen

entire screen capture

You can take a screen grab of the entire screen by clicking the Capture Entire Screen button in the screenshot toolbar, then pressing Capture. Otherwise, use the shortcut Shift+Command+3 to instantly take a screen grab.


Capture a Custom Selection

custom screen selection

To capture a specific part of your screen, use the Capture Selected Window button on the toolbar, or press Shift + Command + 4, and your pointer will change to a cross-hair.

Click and drag the cross-hair so it covers the area you wish to capture. Let go to grab the selected area or press the Esc key to cancel. By holding down Shift, Option, or Space Bar, you can change the shape, size, and position of the selection area before capturing an image.


capture window

To take a screenshot of a specific window or menu, press Shift + Command + 5 and select the Capture Selected Window option in the toolbar. The pointer will change into a camera icon. Move the camera over a window to highlight it, then click to save the image. You can also switch back and forth between capturing a custom selection and grabbing a specific menu by hitting the space bar.


Take an Image of the Touch Bar

touch bar screenshot

If you have a Mac with a Touch Bar, you can take a screenshot of it by pressing Shift + Command + 6.


Record Video

record video

Record video by pressing Shift + Command + 5, then selecting Record Entire Screen or Record Selected Portion. When everything is ready, click Record to begin the capture. Click the Stop icon in the macOS menu bar to end the recording and save the .MOV file.


Change Where Your Mac Screenshots Are Saved

screenshot toolbar options

By default, screenshots are saved to your desktop, but you can change that. Open the screenshot tool with Shift + Command + 5, or by going to Launchpad > Other > Screenshot.

Click Options > Save to and select a new default location—Desktop, Documents, Clipboard, Mail, Messages, or Preview. Click Other Location to choose a specific folder.

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Instead of saving screenshots directly to your computer, you can send them to the clipboard by adding the Control key to any shortcut command. For instance, use Shift + Command + Control + 3 to capture the entire screen, or Shift + Command + Control + 4 to grab a portion of the screen, then paste the screenshot anywhere you like.


Change Image Format

change file type

By default, screenshots on Mac are saved as .png files, but those can get pretty big, especially if you have a large Retina display monitor. Switch to .jpg format with a small amount of coding. Go to Launchpad > Other > Terminal and type the following inside the new window:

defaults write com.apple.screencapture type jpg

Enter your password if asked, then restart the computer. Future screenshots should save in the preferred format you specified. You can always change it back by typing the above command with PNG at the end instead.


Alternative Options

snagit tool

If you prefer a third-party screen capture appSnagit has everything you could need, but also comes with a $50 price tag. The same company also makes a free program called TechSmith Capture (formerly Jing). Other free options include Skitch and LightShot, while Snappy can sync screenshots with the Snappy app for iOS.

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