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Taking Screenshots in Mac OS X

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There are several keyboard combinations that can be used to take screenshots in OS X. The SystemUIServer process
handles these commands.

1 Shortcuts
2 Formats
3 Changing Screenshot Options
4 Grab and Preview
5 From the Terminal
6 From Other Applications
7 Third Party Applications

Command-Shift-3: Take a screenshot of the screen, and save it as a file on the desktop
Command-Shift-4, then select an area: Take a screenshot of an area and save it as a file on the desktop
Command-Shift-4, then space, then click a window: Take a screenshot of a window and save it as a file on the
Command-Control-Shift-3: Take a screenshot of the screen, and save it to the clipboard
Command-Control-Shift-4, then select an area: Take a screenshot of an area and save it to the clipboard
Command-Control-Shift-4, then space, then click a window: Take a screenshot of a window and save it to the

In Leopard and later, the following keys can be held down while selecting an area (via Command-Shift-4 or Command-

Space, to lock the size of the selected region and instead move it when the mouse moves
Shift, to resize only one edge of the selected region
Option, to resize the selected region with its center as the anchor point

Different versions of OS X have different formats for screenshots.

Mac OS X 10.2 (Jaguar): jpg

Mac OS X 10.3 (Panther): pdf
Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) and later: png

In Mac OS X 10.4 and later, the default screenshot format can be changed, by opening Terminal (located at
/Applications/Utilities/Terminal) and typing in:

defaults write com.apple.screencapture type image_format

killall SystemUIServer

Where image_format is one of jpg, tiff, pdf, png, bmp or pict (among others). If you omit the second line, you will need to
log out and in again for the change to take effect.

Changing Screenshot Options

Various other screenshot settings can also be changed via the Terminal, listed below. These commands must be followed by
the following command for them to take effect:

killall SystemUIServer

Setting Key Parameters Example

image format
defaults write com.apple.screencapture
Screenshot format type (eg jpg, tiff, pdf, png,
type png
bmp or pict)
defaults write com.apple.screencapture
Location to save screenshots location
~/Desktop/ (default) location ~/Pictures/Screenshots/

-bool true to disable

Whether screenshots of windows disable- defaults write com.apple.screencapture
should show shadows shadow -bool false to enable disable-shadow -bool true
shadows (default)

defaults write com.apple.screencapture

Filename name "Screen Capture"
Filename prefix for screenshots name
"Screen Shot" (default) Results in filenames such as "Screen
Capture 2013-07-12 at 2.24PM"

Grab and Preview

Instead of using the keyboard shortcuts above, screenshots can be taken by using the Grab application included with OS X.
It is located at /Applications/Utilities/Grab.

Preview can also be used to take screenshots, by using the "Take Screen Shot" submenu in the File menu.

From the Terminal

The screencapture command in the Terminal can also be used to capture screenshots, and is useful for scripts. Here is an

screencapture -iW ~/Desktop/screen.jpg

From Other Applications
In Snow Leopard and later, screenshots can be embedded automatically in text editing areas of most applications, such as
Mail and TextEdit. Right-click (or control-click) in the text area, choose "Capture Selection from Screen", and select an
area of the screen. Alternatively, this command can be selected from the Services menu in the application menu. The
screenshot will be inserted at the current cursor location.

Although only "Capture Selection from Screen" is provided by default, other commands can be added for inserting
screenshots of the whole screen, or of the whole screen using a timer. To add these (as of Mountain Lion), go to System
Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard Shortcuts > Services, and check the corresponding commands in the Pictures section.
Keyboard shortcuts can also be added. Note that these changes may not take effect immediately in all applications.

Third Party Applications

There are a huge number of third party applications that can be used to take screenshots. Several popular ones are listed

Jing (http://www.jingproject.com/) Great for screen shots, video recording and has an extremely useful online
sharing feature.
Snapz Pro X (http://www.ambrosiasw.com/utilities/snapzprox/) is very popular and can even record movies. It has a
large range of features, and is shareware.
SnapNDrag (http://www.yellowmug.com/snapndrag/) is also popular and offers several features in addition to those
offered by the default screen capture tools. With SnapNDrag, users take a screenshot, then drag it to their
destination. SnapNDrag is freeware, but also has a pro version.
Screen Mimic (http://www.polarian.com/) is shareware that can be used to record animations of your desktop to .swf
files for tutorials, software demonstrations, etc.

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This page was last modified 15:00, 11 July 2013.

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