How to take a screenshot on a Mac

Mac screenshot - command plus shift plus 3

Compared to a PC, taking a screenshot on a Mac is relatively complex. There are various options and customisations. I’ve written this guide to help myself remember all the possible options and hopefully help you too.

How to…

How to take screenshot

Screenshot the entire screen

Command plus shift plus 3

  1. press Command (Cmd) + shift + 3
  2. find your screenshot as a .png on your desktop

Screenshot part of the screen

Command plus shift plus 4

  1. press Command (Cmd) + shift + 4
  2. move the crosshair to select which part of the screen you want
  3. when you’ve selected the area you want, release your mouse or trackpad button. To cancel, press the Esc (Escape) key before you release the button
  4. find your screenshot as a .png on your desktop

Screenshot the selected window / application

This method allows you to screenshot the whole window you currently have selected for example your chrome browser.

  1. press Command + Shift + 4
  2. press Spacebar (the crosshairs will turn into a camera icon)
  3. click the mouse or trackpad once
  4. find your screenshot as a .png on your desktop

Take a screenshot to paste into a document

Normally when you take a screenshot a .png is added to your desktop. However you can take a screenshot and paste it straight into a document or email. You can do this for the entire screen or part of the screen:

Screenshot entire screen and paste:

  1. press Control (ctrl) + Command (Cmd) + shift + 3
  2. go to the document where you want the screenshot and press Command (Cmd) + v

Screenshot part of the screen and paste:

  1. press Command (Cmd) + shift + 4
  2. when you move the crosshair to select which part of the screen you want whilst holding down Control (ctrl)
  3. go to the document where you want the screenshot and press Command (Cmd) + v

Screenshot the selected window / application

  1. press Command + Shift + 4
  2. press Spacebar (the crosshairs will turn into a camera icon)
  3. hold down Control (ctrl) and click the mouse or trackpad once
  4. go to the document where you want the screenshot and press Command (Cmd) + v

Change the screenshot file format

All screenshots are saved to the desktop as a .png. If you want to change the screenshot file format on your Mac you can. You need to go to the Terminal. To get there press Command (cmd) and the Spacebar and then search ‘Terminal’.

Mac Terminal icon

Once in the Terminal just paste the following and hit enter to change the file format to JPG.

defaults write com.apple.screencapture type jpg;killall SystemUIServer

It should look like this:

Mac Terminal screenshot

Or to save as a PDF

defaults write com.apple.screencapture type pdf;killall SystemUIServer

Or GIF

defaults write com.apple.screencapture type gif;killall SystemUIServer

And back to a PNG

defaults write com.apple.screencapture type png;killall SystemUIServer

Change the save location

By default screenshots are saved to the desktop. But you can change this by going to the ‘Terminal’. In the example below it will save the screenshots to the folder ‘Screenshots’ which is within the folder ‘Documents’. To choose your preferred location just change the bit in bold.

defaults write com.apple.screencapture location ~/Documents/Screenshots;killall SystemUIServer

If you want to select a folder which has a space in the name just add quotes around the folder name like the example below. You can also save your screenshots straight to your Google Drive if you have installed the desktop app.

defaults write com.apple.screencapture location ~/"Google Drive"/Screenshots;killall SystemUIServer

…don’t forget to create the folder first.

Turn off the screenshot sound

You can turn off the screenshot sound effect by going to your sound settings (press cmd + spacebar and then search ‘sound’).

Once there uncheck ‘Play user interface sound effects’. The downside of doing this is it turns off all the sound effects like the noise made when you moving something to the trash folder.

Screenshot of the sound systems preferences

Disable window drop shadow

Taking a screenshot of the selected window will automatically add a drop shadow to the image, but you can disable this.

For example this is a screenshot of the spotlight search tool.

Screenshot of the spotlight search with drop shadow

And this is a screenshot without the drop shadow.

Screenshot of the spotlight search without drop shadow

To remove the drop shadow go the Terminal, add the following and hit enter:

defaults write com.apple.screencapture disable-shadow -bool true;killall SystemUIServer

To add the drop shadow back again go to the Terminal, add the following and hit enter:

defaults write com.apple.screencapture disable-shadow -bool false;killall SystemUIServer

Hope my tips help.

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