How to Screenshot on Mac: A Comprehensive Guide

how to screenshot on mac

Screenshots are a fundamental tool for capturing and sharing what you see on your Mac’s display. Whether you want to save a memorable moment, document an error message, or share information with others, knowing how to take screenshots on your Mac is an essential skill. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the various methods and techniques for capturing screenshots on your Mac, along with tips, tricks, and related information to help you become a screenshot pro.

Understanding the Different Types of Screenshots

Before we dive into the how-tos, let’s clarify the various types of screenshots you can take on your Mac:

  1. Full-screen Screenshot: This captures the entire contents of your Mac’s display, including all open windows, menus, and the desktop.
  2. Partial or Selected Area Screenshot: You can choose a specific portion of the screen to capture, allowing you to focus on a particular window, image, or section.
  3. Window Screenshot: This captures only the active window, which is the window currently in focus. All other windows and the desktop are excluded.
  4. Timed Screenshot: A timed screenshot lets you set a delay before the screenshot is taken, allowing you to prepare the screen, open menus, or navigate to specific content.

Now, let’s explore the various methods for taking these types of screenshots on your Mac:

Method 1: Using Keyboard Shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are the quickest and most convenient way to take screenshots on your Mac. Here are the primary shortcuts:

1. Capture the Entire Screen

  • Command (⌘) + Shift + 3: Press these three keys simultaneously. Your Mac will capture the entire screen, and the screenshot will be saved as a file on your desktop by default.

2. Capture a Selected Area

  • Command (⌘) + Shift + 4: Press these keys simultaneously. Your cursor will change to a crosshair pointer. Click and drag to select the area you want to capture. Release the mouse or trackpad button to take the screenshot.

3. Capture a Specific Window

  • Command (⌘) + Shift + 4 + Spacebar: Press these four keys in sequence. Your cursor will change to a camera icon. Move the camera icon over the window you want to capture and click. The screenshot will be saved as a file on your desktop.

4. Capture with a Timer (Delay)

  • Command (⌘) + Shift + 5: Press these keys simultaneously to open the screenshot toolbar at the bottom of the screen. Click “Options” and choose either a 5- or 10-second timer. After setting the timer, use the toolbar to take your screenshot.

Method 2: Using Preview App for Further Editing

The Preview app on your Mac is not only for viewing images and PDFs but also for basic image editing and taking screenshots.

1. Open Preview

  • Launch the Preview app from your Applications folder or use Spotlight Search (Command (⌘) + Spacebar, then type “Preview”).

2. Capture Screenshot

  • Click “File” in the menu bar, then choose “Take Screenshot.” A dropdown menu will appear with options for capturing the entire screen, a selected area, or a specific window.

3. Edit Screenshot

  • After taking the screenshot, it will open in the Preview app. You can make basic edits like cropping, annotating, adding text, and more.

4. Save or Export

  • Once you’re satisfied with your edits, click “File” and select “Save” to save the screenshot to your desired location. You can also choose “Export” to save it in different formats.

Method 3: Using the Screenshot App (macOS Mojave and Later)

If you’re using macOS Mojave or later, you have the convenience of the Screenshot app.

1. Open the Screenshot App

  • Press Command (⌘) + Shift + 5 to open the Screenshot app.

2. Capture Screenshot

  • In the Screenshot app, you can choose from various options, including capturing the entire screen, selected areas, specific windows, and even recording your screen. Click the corresponding button, configure your preferences, and take the screenshot.

3. Edit and Save

  • After taking the screenshot, a thumbnail will appear in the bottom-right corner of your screen. Click it to open the screenshot in the Markup tool, where you can edit, annotate, and add text. Once you’re done, click “Done” and choose whether to save or discard the screenshot.

Tips and Tricks for Taking Screenshots on Your Mac

Now that you’re familiar with the different methods, let’s explore some tips and tricks to help you make the most of screenshotting on your Mac:

1. Change Default Screenshot Location

By default, macOS saves your screenshots to the desktop. If you prefer a different location, you can change it by using Terminal. Open

Terminal and enter the following command, replacing [path] with your desired location:

defaults write location [path]

For example, to save screenshots to the Documents folder, you would use:

defaults write location ~/Documents/

2. Use Keyboard Shortcuts for Instant Editing

After taking a screenshot, press the Control (Ctrl) key along with the other keyboard shortcut keys (e.g., Command + Shift + 4) to copy the screenshot to your clipboard instead of saving it as a file. You can then paste it directly into an image editor or document for further editing.

3. Enable Floating Thumbnails

In macOS Mojave and later, you can enable floating thumbnails for screenshots. After taking a screenshot, a small thumbnail will appear in the bottom-right corner of your screen. Clicking it opens the Markup tool for quick edits.

To enable this feature, go to “System Preferences” > “Keyboard” > “Shortcuts” > “Screen Shots” and check the “Show Floating Thumbnail” option.

4. Capture Touch Bar (if applicable)

If you have a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar, you can capture its contents in a screenshot. Press Command (⌘) + Shift + 6 to do so.

5. Save Screenshots to the Clipboard Directly

To save a screenshot directly to your clipboard without saving it as a file, use the Command (⌘) + Control + Shift + 4 (or 3 for full-screen) shortcut. This is handy for pasting screenshots directly into documents or emails.

Conclusion: How to Screenshot on Mac

Taking screenshots on your Mac is a fundamental skill that can enhance your productivity and communication. Whether you’re capturing important information, creating tutorials, or simply preserving memories, knowing how to take screenshots in various ways allows you to work efficiently and share content seamlessly. With the methods, shortcuts, and tips outlined in this comprehensive guide, you’re well on your way to becoming a screenshot pro on your Mac.

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