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How to take a screenshot on the Mac

Apple iMac 2021 Design

Taking a screenshot is almost a daily occurrence in my line of work. But even if you’re not a tech writer putting together how-to guides, you may need to take a screenshot every now and then — and to do so, you’ll need to know how to take a screenshot on the Mac.

There are actually a number of ways to take a screenshot on the Mac, and the different methods offer different results. For example, you can take a screenshot of everything on the screen and attached screens. Or, you could take a screenshot of just a portion of the screen. You can even select individual windows to take a screenshot of.

No matter what you want to take a screenshot of, here’s how to take a screenshot on the Mac.

How to take a full-screen screenshot on the Mac

16-Inch MacBook Pro Display
16-inch MacBook Pro. Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

If you just want to take a quick screenshot of the entire screen of the Mac, it’s pretty easy to do. If you have multiple displays, this method will take a separate screenshot for each of those displays. Here’s how to take a screenshot on the Mac.

  1. Press Shift, Command, and 3 at the same time.
  2. Your screenshot will appear in the bottom right-hand corner of the display. You can click on it to edit it, or just ignore it and it will save to your computer.

That’s all there is to it. Easy!

How to take a screenshot of the portion of a screen on the Mac

Perhaps you just want to take a screenshot of a portion of your Mac’s screen. This method will allow you to draw a rectangle around the portion of the screen you want to screenshot. Here’s how to do so.

  1. Press Shift, Command, and 4 at the same time.
  2. Use your mouse or trackpad to highlight the section of the screen you want to take a screenshot of.
  3. When you release the mouse button, the screenshot will appear in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen. You can click on it to edit it, or leave it and it will be saved to your computer.

How to take a screenshot of a window on the Mac

If you want to take a screenshot of just a window of your Mac, you can do that too. This is more precise than using the previous method to take a screenshot of a window, but obviously only works if everything you want to be screenshotted is in one app. Here’s how to take a screenshot of a window on a Mac.

  1. Press Shift, Command, 4, and Space at the same time.
  2. Highlight the window that you want to take a screenshot of and click.
  3. Your screenshot will appear at the bottom right-hand corner of the display. Click on it to edit it, or leave it and it will automatically save to your computer.

Where are screenshots saved on a Mac?

By default, screenshots are saved to your desktop. You can, however, change that. Follow the instructions below to change where screenshots are saved on your computer.

  1. Open the Screenshot app on your Mac.
  2. Press the options button, then select a new location for your screenshots to save to. You can choose from a number of common locations, including straight to the computer’s clipboard. Alternatively, you can select a folder on your computer.

How to change screenshot format on a Mac

By default, Macs save screenshots in PNG format, which may or may not work for you. I tend to prefer JPG format, as it’s usually smaller in file size, and therefore better for the internet — and I take the vast majority of my screenshots for articles like this. Here’s how to change the file format for screenshots on your Mac.

  1. Open the Terminal app. You can do so by pressing Command and Space at the same time, typing “Terminal,” and clicking on the app that shows up.
  2. Ignore whatever text that shows up in the app when you open it. That’s normal, and you don’t need to do anything with it.
  3. Type “defaults write com.apple.screencapture type JPG” without the quotations if you want to save screenshots to a JPG. Alternatively, you can save to a TIFF, GIF, PDF, or PNG file. To do so, replace JPG with the option you want.
  4. Press return.
  5. Your screenshots should now save in your preferred format. If they don’t, restart your computer. Then they should save in your selected format.

Christian de Looper was born in Canberra, Australia, where he lived until the age of 14. After his father got a job in Paris, France, Christian lived there for five years, after which he moved to Minnesota for college. During college, Christian developed a passion for consumer technology by writing for tech blogs. Christian now lives in sunny Santa Cruz, California.