How to take a screenshot on a Mac computer?

How to take a screenshot on Mac?

The 'Print Screen' feature is well known among Windows OS users, since keyboards have a button with an associated label. If you are a new Mac user, you might not be aware of this feature, but it will enable you to capture a screenshot of the entire screen, or any window within it.

Apple decided to manufacture keyboards without a dedicated Print Screen key (and other dedicated keys) to make keyboards look simpler. Despite this, a combination of simple key presses will invoke the exact function you are looking for. The combinations (six available) are easy to remember and deliver more options when choosing the type of screen capture you prefer.


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How to capture screen to a specific file on the desktop?

A screenshot in the Mac OS takes a 'picture' of your screen, a portion of it, or the active window. This is automatically saved to a unique file on your Mac desktop (unless you have changed the destination folder where screenshots are saved). We describe how to change the destination folder below. For each type of screen capture, we will use the Command and Shift buttons to execute a function, followed by a number or another key.

  • Hold down the Command and Shift buttons and click the number '3' to capture the whole screen (or screens if using multiple monitors).
  • Command, Shift and the number '4' captures a custom area, which is selected by your mouse or touchpad when left clicking and dragging to select a preferred area. When dragging, you will see figures near the mouse pointer, which are the pixel dimensions of your selected box. Before you drag, the coordinates of the start of the selection are displayed.
  • Command, Shift and number '4', and pressing the space bar captures a specific window. When you click the space bar, your mouse pointer changes to a 'mini camera' - drag it to your preferred window and left click.


The Mac automatically saves screenshots to a unique file, thus saving you unnecessary steps (you would otherwise have to paste images to export as files). The Mac also allows you to save your screen images onto a Clipboard (as Windows does by default).

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How to capture screen to the Mac's Clipboard?

Saving screen images directly to the clipboard is useful when you do not need to store the image as a file. For example, if you want to send the screenshot via third-party apps. To save a screen capture to the clipboard, the combinations similar to those used to save them to a file, just adding the Control button. We repeat the combinations here:

  • Hold down Command, Control and Shift, and then click number '3' - this will take a screenshot of the entire screen and save it to the clipboard (you can then paste it anywhere).
  • Use the Command, Control, Shift, and number '4' combination to select a specific area, which will be saved to your clipboard. When dragging, you will see a small figures near the mouse pointer, which are the dimensions of your selected box in pixels. Before you start to drag, you will see the coordinates where you are starting the selection.
  • If you want to save the image of the active window, use the combination of Command, Control, Shift and number '4', but before left clicking the mouse, push the space bar - your pointer will change into a 'mini camera'. Then click your preferred window.


Note: if you own an older Mac, your keyboard command key might have an Apple logo. Also, entire screen images will capture all displays if you are using multiple monitors (in which case, the rectangular drawn box method or specific window does not apply).

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How to change location where screen images being saved?

By default, your Mac will save screenshots to your desktop with the filename (including the date it was created). This can be changed by following some easy tips - all you need to know is the path of your desired folder. To change your destination folder, open Terminal, which is listed under Utilities in the Application folder. Type the command: defaults write location ~/Desktop/screenshots - screenshots is the folder for screen captures (use a path to your desired folder). Click Return. Next, type: killall SystemUIServer, and click Return. Take a few screenshots to check where your images are being saved.


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Timed screenshots.

If simple screen capturing functions are not powerful enough for you, you might wish try the Grab application, which you can find under Utilities in the Application folder. This app has some improved screen-capturing functions, one of which is delayed screenshots. When you launch Grab at the top menu, you will see options for regular screenshots (such as small selection, entire screen, or specific window), but there is also a function called timed screen that allows you to choose a time period after which it will take a screen picture.


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Screenshot troubleshooting.

Taking screenshots on a Mac are is quite simple, and in most cases, works perfectly. Unfortunately, even these easy tasks can fail. You might follow the above instructions/key combinations exactly and see a blank, white image. In most cases, the screen is blocked by the software you are trying to capture. For example Apple DVD player software blocks for reasons of copyright. Of course, there are alternatives to solve this issue - you can use a third-party DVD player or third-party screen shot software to avoid blocking issues.

Video Showing how to take a screenshot on Mac.

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