How to Capture Your Screen in Mac OS X


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A community member named Angie recently asked Lockergnome writer Matt Ryan if there is an easy way to do screen captures within OS X. In fact, there IS such a feature and it’s one that not everyone knows about.

Mac OS X has a set of key combinations that you can use to take screenshots in a variety of ways. The methods discussed in this video and writeup work on Mac 10.4 and above.

If you want to capture your entire desktop, you would hit Command + Shift + 3. By default, this will save a .PNG file of the entire screen to the desktop.

Let’s say that you only want to capture a portion of what you’re looking at. To do this, hit Command + Shift + 4. You’ll now see a small selection box which you can move and resize in order to highlight the area you want to screenshot. Once you let go of the mouse cursor, a .PNG of only that area will appear on your desktop.

Sometimes, you may want to take a screenshot of a single window and not have to re-define the area every time you need to do this. Use Command + Shift + 4 + Space. Hitting the space bar at the end of that key combination brings up a little camera icon on your screen. Using the camera, click on any window and save only that image to your desktop.

There are a few other little tricks you may want to know about:

  • Adding the Ctrl key to the end of any of the above combinations will save your image to the Clipboard instead of saving as an actual file on the desktop.
  • Change the default save-as file type by using a free utility such as Screenshot Settings.
  • If you aren’t a fan of using key combinations, the Grab tool included with Mac OS X will work in a pinch. This is located in the Utilities folder under Applications.

If you have any OS X questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section and Matt will be happy to try and give you a hand.