How do I take screenshots in Mac OS X?

migrated from stackoverflow.com Jul 31 '09 at 20:51

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  • Command + Shift + 3 takes a picture of the whole screen;
  • Command + Shift + 4 takes a picture of a portion of the screen;
  • Command + Shift + 4, then Spacebar, allows you to take a picture of a particular screen element (a window, the Dock, the menubar, etc.)

If you want to put the screenshot on the clipboard (rather than creating an image file), hold down control while pressing the key combo.

  • 2
    No ctrl is necessary in any of those – Louis Gerbarg Jul 31 '09 at 19:31
  • 16
    @Louis Gerbarg If you don't use control it will create an image file on your desktop, if you do it will only copy it to the clipboard – Amuck Jul 31 '09 at 19:38

Applications -> Utilities -> Grab

Not as easy as Print Screen, but gives you some more options.

  • Grab only allows files to be saved in .tiff format, which is an awkward limitation. Many common applications don't support .tiff files, hence using Grab involves adding file conversion steps to your workflow (e.g., using Preview). – Arthur Small Feb 20 '16 at 19:03

You can press Cmd-shift-3 to dump the whole desktop as an image in your ~/Desktop folder, or Cmd-shift-4 to grab a sub area. Hit Cmd-shift-4 then press the spacebar to switch to grabbing a whole window.

There's also /usr/sbin/screencapture if you want to script it, etc.

  • On Windows I use mspaint for simple graph process, on MacBook Pro, what tools to use? – George2 May 14 '10 at 3:55
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    There's no handy built-in alternative (that I know of). Acorn (flyingmeat.com/acorn) turns into a free lightweight image editor after the demo runs out though. You might give that a try. – Mike Kale May 14 '10 at 4:06
  • Thanks! I find Acorn is not free, do you mean the one called "ACorn for free"? – George2 May 14 '10 at 4:55
  • Thanks Mike! Question answered! I have started another discussion for image editing software from superuser.com/questions/141020/… appreciate if you could help further there. :-) – George2 May 14 '10 at 5:13

If you're a command-line junkie, check out man screencapture. It's surprisingly full-featured.

For example:

# Capture interactively - allow you to grab a portion of the screen
# Save item as snap.jpg
screencapture -i snap.jpg

# Capture interactive and open immediately in Preview
screencapture -iP snap.jpg

There are also options to pop the snap into a Mail.app right away (if you use that), for time delay, for including or removing the cursor, for window based or selected captures and so on.


If you are taking screenshots a fair bit, I reccomend LittleSnapper. Fantastic piece of software, and it can hide away in your menu bar and supports publishing to flickr, etc.


Jing is pretty good at this: http://www.jingproject.com/ The CMD+SHIFT+(3 or 4) is OK, but extremely limited.

I've assigned a CTRL + PRINT SCREEN keyboard shortcut for Jing, it's much more effective than the default. Plus, you can annotate the screenshots you take. I also turn off the 'little sun orb' thing, that's just a useless gimmick. But once you set it up, Jing can prove to be very powerful.

I also have Little Snapper (from a bundle), but it's much less mature and has a few annoying quirks.


If your not using Skitch, your doing it wrong. Serously, when it comes to grabbing an image, adding to it, sharing online, searching past clippings, or anything else screengrab related Skitch is far and away the best screen capture app out there for the Mac. And it's free

Don't believe me? watch the demo: Demo. In all seriousness this is close to my all time most essential OS X app.

  • The beta is free, true. But it might not be free after the long-lasting beta. And that might be a serious issue with all the Skitch-hosted images posted in forums... tinyurl.com/mvebp4 (I actually put the URLs of the sites where I use my Skitch-hosted images in the comments of those images. Just in case...) – Arjan Sep 25 '09 at 11:13
  • It's close to your "all time most essential OS X app"? How many screenshots do you take in a day? – Telemachus Sep 25 '09 at 22:13
  • A lot, all day long. To get feedback on design work by sharing an image with the team, to trouble shoot problems people might be having by sending them a screenshot of a settings pane, to just share random coolness on the web via twitpic, etc. I use skitch all day long. – Bryan Schuetz Oct 4 '09 at 12:45

the built in screen shot for mac is pretty good (as explain in other answer above, and I use that myself at home).

but if you would like a bit more control, a bit more options (a lot more actually), like taking video, or editing the screen-shots (remove sensitive information, adding numbers, arrows etc), then you should try Snagit it is not free, but I find that it is simply the best, and I use this at work all the time.

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