Mac Beginner’s Guide: How to Use Print Screen Function

Recently, a colleague reached out to me with a query, and I thought it might be beneficial to share the information here. She was curious if macOS offers a functionality akin to the Print Screen key found on Windows systems. For those unfamiliar, the Print Screen key on Windows keyboards allows users to capture the entire screen’s contents, which can then be pasted and used in other applications. On a Mac, capturing a screenshot is just as straightforward but involves a different method.

Press the Command key (also known as the Apple key and located next to the space bar), along with the Shift key and the number 3. This action will capture the entire screen and automatically save the screenshot as a PDF file on your Desktop.

If you need to capture only a specific area of your screen, you should press Command + Shift + 4. Doing this changes the cursor to a set of crosshairs, which you can then click and drag to select the desired area. Upon releasing the mouse button, you’ll hear a sound similar to a camera shutter, and a PDF file of the selected area will be saved to your Desktop.

Most Mac computers are equipped with a complimentary version of GraphicConverter, which can be used to convert these PDF screenshots into other image formats like JPEG, GIF, or PNG. Enjoy the process!

UPDATE: Dave mentioned in the comments: “For even MORE fun, after pressing cmd + shift + 4, hit the space bar and the cursor will transform into a camera icon. Hover over any window and click to capture a screenshot of just that specific window. :)” Thanks for the tip, Dave!

ANOTHER UPDATE: DF contributed, “By adding the control key to any of the macOS screenshot shortcuts, the screenshot will be copied directly to the clipboard instead of being saved as a file.

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Ronald is a dedicated writer for TUAW, bringing a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm for all things Apple. With a keen eye for detail, Ronald covers the latest news and updates on products like the iPhone, iPad, MacBook, and Apple Watch. His insightful articles help readers stay informed about the ever-evolving world of Apple technology. When he’s not writing, Ronald enjoys exploring new apps and discovering innovative ways to use his Apple devices.