How to Take a Screenshot on a Mac

So you just came across a funny meme and you want to share it with a friend, but now you’re wondering exactly how to share it. You could share a link to the meme, but that’s not only too much work, it also means your friend has got to open the link to see it. Screenshots are the obvious choice in such a situation, so if you’re wondering how to screenshot a Mac, here are all the ways you can take screenshots on macOS.

Note: For this tutorial, I’m using a MacBook Pro running on macOS Mojave. However, almost all of these screenshot methods work on older versions of macOS and OS X as well, except when stated otherwise.

How to Take a Screenshot on Mac

Command + Shift + 3

One of the most common types of screenshots people take is that of the entire screen, and this keyboard shortcut does exactly that on a Mac. All you need to do is simply press “command + shift + 3” on your Mac’s keyboard, and it will take a screenshot of the entire screen, complete with the menu bar and the dock (if it’s visible).

Also, if you have a multi-monitor set-up, your Mac will take a screenshot of all the screens and save them as separate files, which is awesome since you don’t need to do anything special for it.

Command + Shift + 4

On the other hand, there are times when you simply want to grab a screenshot of a particular area on your display. You know, for example, that meme sharing situation I discussed in the intro. In that case, you could obviously take a screenshot of the entire screen and then crop it out, but wouldn’t it just be easier to take a screenshot of the area you need?

Simply press “command + shift + 4” on your Mac’s keyboard and your mouse pointer will turn into a crosshair. You can now click and drag a selection around the area of your screen that you want to screenshot. Simply let go of the mouse-click when you’re done, and the screenshot will be saved.

With this shortcut however, there are other keys you can press for different types of screenshots. Take a look:

1. Take a Screenshot of a Window

Once you’ve pressed the command + shift + 4 key combo on your Mac, you can hit the spacebar to switch the crosshair into a camera-icon. This will let you take screenshots of entire windows (similar to the one you see below). It looks really nice, and macOS will even add a shadow underneath the screenshot to make it look more natural and real.

how to take a screenshot of a window on Mac

2. Take a Screenshot of a Window without Drop Shadows

While the drop shadows that are automatically added when you take a screenshot on Mac can look good, there are times when you just don’t want them. Again, you could crop it out later, but there’s a built-in way to take screenshots without those shadows as well.

Once you’ve pressed the command + shift + 4 combo, followed by the spacebar, you can press and hold the Option key while you take a screenshot to make sure the entire window is captured but no drop shadows are added to it. Check out the screenshot below to see what the final result looks like in that case.

how to take a screenshot in macOS

How to Take a Timed Screenshot on Mac

There are times when you need to take a timed screenshot on your Mac, and with macOS Mojave, Apple has made it extremely easy to do just that.

Note: This method only works on macOS Mojave and higher. If you’re running an older version of macOS, skip ahead to the next section to see how to take timed screenshots on your Mac.

Command + Shift + 5

This is honestly the best way to take a timed screenshot on a Mac. Simply press command + shift + 5 on your keyboard, and you’ll see a toolbar pop up on the bottom of your screen with all the three types of screenshots we discussed above, along with additional options.

how to take a screenshot in macOS Mojave

You can click on the button titled “Options” to change the save location for the screenshot, set a timer, and more. Plus, you can set a timer for any of the three types of screenshots we discussed in the previous sections, which is awesome.

How to Take a Timed Screenshot on Older macOS Versions

If you’re not on macOS Mojave or a newer version of macOS, the method I discussed above will not work on your MacBook or iMac. So, if you don’t want to upgrade to macOS Mojave, you can use the Mac’s built-in Grab tool to get timed screenshots on your device.

All you need to do is launch the pre-installed “Grab” application on your Mac. You can do this via the Spotlight (or from an alternative launcher like Alfred, which I personally recommend), or find Grab in the Launchpad on your Mac. Once you’ve done this, click on the “Capture” button in your menu bar, and you’ll see an option to take a timed screenshot.

That’s it, just click on this and your Mac will automatically take a screenshot after 10 seconds. Pretty easy, right?

How to Change Screenshot Format

By default, macOS saves screenshots in the “PNG” file format. While this is great for quality and for preserving transparency, it does take up more storage space, which makes it less than desirable for sharing and for uploading on websites. So what do you do? You could, obviously, convert the screenshot into something like a JPEG after taking it using online tools, or via Photoshop. However, that’s too much work for such a simple task. Plus, if you take multiple screenshots a day, this can quickly become time-consuming. Fortunately, there’s a way to change the screenshot format in macOS. Here’s how to do it:

Note: For this tutorial, we’ll change the screenshot format to JPEG. 

  • Launch the Terminal app.
  • Here, type in the following command, and hit the return (enter) key.
    defaults write com.apple.screencapture type jpg

how to take jpg screenshot

That’s it, all the screenshots you take from this point forward will be saved as JPG files. Which means you get to save storage space on your Mac, and it’s also better for use on websites, such as ours, where we also use JPG files.

You can use other formats here as well, by simply replacing “jpg” in the command above to your desired file type. Plus, if you later want to switch back to PNG, you can use the same command and replace “jpg” with “png”, turning the command into this:

defaults write com.apple.screencapture type png

How to Change Default Screenshot Location on Mac

For macOS Mojave

If you’re using macOS Mojave you can change the default screenshot location very easily. Just press “command + shift + 5” to open the screenshot tool in Mojave, and click on “Options”. You’ll see a bunch of locations where you can save the screenshot. You can choose one from the list, or click on “Other Location” to specify where you want the screenshots to be saved.

For Older Versions of macOS or OS X

If you’re using an older version of macOS, the screenshot tool won’t be available to you. But fret not, you can still change the default screenshot location using the Terminal.

  • Launch the Terminal.
  • Type in the following command, replacing “path_to_location” with where you want to save the screenshot. For this tutorial, I’ll save the screenshots in a folder called “Screenshots” on my desktop:
    defaults write com.apple.screencapture location ~/Desktop/Screenshots

how to change screenshot location in macOS

That’s it, your screenshots will now be saved in the location you specified in the command.

SEE ALSO: How to Take a Screenshot on iPhone

How to Take Screenshots on a Mac with Ease

Well those were all the methods you can use to take a screenshot on Mac without too much of a hassle. We discussed taking a screenshot of the entire screen, taking a screenshot of a window with and without a drop shadow on it, and even taking timed screenshots. While there are a lot of third party tools that you can use to take screenshots on your Mac, for the most part, macOS comes built-in with a pretty powerful screenshot tool itself, and I would suggest you take the time to learn using that instead of dropping money on a third party app that basically does the same thing. Anyway, what other questions do you have about using a Mac, or using macOS in general? Let me know in the comments and I’ll surely try to help you out.

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