How to: Take a screenshot on a Mac (either to the clipboard or to a file on the desktop)

How to: Take a screenshot on a Mac (either to the clipboard or to a file on the desktop)

We all have from time to time the need to share a screenshot of something on the screen. If it is not to show someone else something on our screen it could be to capture information that otherwise could not be properly captured. Most operating systems therefore allow for users to take a screenshot of what’s on screen. With the passing of time the tools to take screenshots have also evolved. From simply printing the entire screen to being able to capture it to the clipboard, to then being able to save it directly to a file, take a rectangular screenshot or just a particular window’s, the options have grown. There are even third party tools that can take a screenshot of a website that is too long that you need to scroll down.

Getting back to the topic at hand, Mac OS X currently allows you to take 3 different type of screenshots and allows you either save them to the clipboard or a file directly on your desktop. This results in a total of 6 different options to chose from. Regarding of your needs you can take a screenshot of your entire desktop, a window or a rectangular box you’re free to place anywhere on screen. Unlike Windows’ Snipit which is a separate application that comes built-in, on the Mac there is no such utility you simply invoke the functionality through a keyboard shortcut.

The basic functionality offered by Mac consists of 3 main features:

  1. Screenshot of the full screen
  2. Selection box (to take a screenshot of only an area of the screen)
  3. Window screenshot

Each functionality requires you to use the keys: Command+Shift followed by the unique sequence of the function you wish to use. Below are the key combinations you’ll be needing:

  • Command+Shift+3: takes a screenshot of the full screen (or screens if multiple monitors), and save it as a file to the desktop
  • Command+Shift+4: brings up a selection box so you can specify an area to take a screenshot of, then save it as a file to the desktop
  • Command+Shift+4, then spacebar, then click a window: takes a screenshot of a window only and saves it as a file to the desktop

So what if you want it on the clipboard so you can paste it in another application? It’s pretty much the same as before except now you’ll add the Control key to each of the combinations resulting in the following:

  • Command+Control+Shift+3: take a screenshot of the entire screen (screens if multiple monitors), and saves it to the clipboard for pasting elsewhere
  • Command+Control+Shift+4, then select an area: takes a screenshot of selection and saves it to the clipboard for pasting elsewhere
  • Command+Control+Shift+4, then space, then click a window: takes a screenshot of a window and saves it to the clipboard for pasting

Remember that in order to use the screenshot on the keyboard you need to paste it into a supporting application using the Paste command on the toolbar or the keyboard shortcut: Command + V


 

Update:

I mentioned previously that the Mac does not have a stand alone application for taking screenshots, that you must do it using a keyboard shortcut. Actually, using the Preview application you can. Under File, near the bottom there is a Take Screen Shot option allowing you to select any of the three options we previously discussed: From Selection, From Window & From Entire Screen.

The default format the screenshots are saved is png, using Preview you can save the screenshot on an array of options like jpegs, pdfs, etc.

Also, you can leverage the command line (shell) to take screen shots. You can delay a screenshot or programmatically take screenshots every so often. The options open up when you think of it that way. Check out the help using man screencapture to see all you can accomplish with it.

You may also like...

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: