Back to Mobile View

Skip to Content

Mac 101: How to take screenshots on your Mac using OS X's built-in controls

Did you know that OS X has a little-known utility for taking screenshots? It's a small tool called Grab that's tucked away in the /Applications/Utilities folder and is exceptionally handy for taking screenshots, especially timed shots that require a few seconds of preparation.

Grab is very easy to use. Just open it by going to /Applications/Utilities or by hitting CMD-SPACE and typing in Grab in the Spotlight search field. There is not much to the app; the bulk of its utility can be found in the Capture menu. You can use this menu or the shortcuts to grab your screenshot.

Once you have snapped a shot of your computer screen, the image will open in a preview window. Just tap on the "Untitled" name of the file in the preview window to rename it and choose where to save it.

Besides the Grab app, there are a few keyboard shortcuts that'll allow you to take screenshots of your Mac. The full window shots are nice as they preserve the window drop shadow with full alpha transparency. The resulting images look great in documentation or on the web.

  • CMD+Shift+3 will capture the entire screen and save it as a file.
  • CMD+CTRL+Shift+3 will capture the entire screen and copy to the clipboard.
  • CMD+Shift+4 will capture an area that you select and save it as a file.
  • CMD+CTRL+Shift+4 will capture an area that you select and copy it to the clipboard.
  • CMD+Shift+4 then space will capture a full window, menu, desktop icon or the menu bar with drop shadows and save as a file.
  • CMD+CTRL+Shift+4 then space will capture a full window, menu, desktop icon, or the menu bar with drop shadows and copy to the clipboard.
  • Holding down the SPACE key after you start drawing an area will allow you to reposition it.
  • Holding down OPTION right after you start drawing an area will allow you to adjust the width and height of the selected area.
  • Hit ESC while capturing an area or window to exit the capture mode.

Images captured using the keyboard shortcuts are stored on the desktop by default, but you can easily change the location using the following terminal commands.

defaults write com.apple.screencapture location ~/Pictures

killall SystemUIServer

This will change the default location to the Pictures folder, but you can replace "Pictures" with any other folder you prefer. I changed it to Downloads as I use the downloads folder as my catch all for items that I need for a moment, but don't want to keep.



Categories

How-tos Mac 101 OS X

Did you know that OS X has a little-known utility for taking screenshots? It's a small tool called Grab that's tucked away in the...