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How to Take a Screenshot in Mac OS X

Five Methods:Screenshot a Portion of Your ScreenScreenshot the Entire ScreenScreenshot an Open WindowSave a Screenshot to the ClipboardUse the Grab Utility ToolCommunity Q&A

If you need to snap a picture of a funny chat conversation, show an expert an error message on your system, create instructions for performing a task, or even contribute to a wikiHow article, a screenshot is the ideal way to show someone exactly what is on your computer screen. To take a screenshot in Mac OS X, you can press Command + Shift + 4 and drag a box around the screen portion you wish to capture, or press Command + Shift + 3 to capture an image of your entire screen. These are the two most basic options, but there are also a variety of other simple ways to alter the screenshot image as you take or save it based on your exact needs.

Method 1
Screenshot a Portion of Your Screen

  1. 1
    Press Command + Shift + 4. Your cursor will turn into a small cross-hair reticle.
  2. 2
    Click and drag your cursor to highlight the area you'd like to take a picture of. A grayed rectangle should appear where you drag your cursor. If you need to adjust your windows at all, press Escape to return to a regular cursor without taking a picture. 
  3. 3
    Let go of the mouse. You should hear a brief camera shutter noise if your computer's sound is turned on. That signals that your screenshot has been taken.
  4. 4
    Find your screenshot on your desktop. It will be saved as a .png file named "screenshot" labeled with the date and time.
    • Earlier versions of OS X will save it as "Picture #"—for example, if it's the 5th screenshot on your desktop it will be labeled as "Picture 5".
  5. 5
    Use the screenshot. Once you have taken your screenshots, they are now ready to be used as needed. You can attach them to an email, upload them to the Web, or even drag them straight into an application such as a word processor.

Method 2
Screenshot the Entire Screen

  1. 1
    Make sure your screen displays exactly what you want to show in your screenshot image. Ensure all the relevant windows are visible.
  2. 2
    Press Command + Shift + 3. If your sound is on, your computer should make a brief camera shutter noise.
  3. 3
    Find your screenshot on your desktop. It will be saved as "screenshot" labeled with the date and time.
    • Earlier versions of OS X will save it as "Picture #"—for example, if it's the 5th screenshot on your desktop it will be labeled "Picture 5".

Method 3
Screenshot an Open Window

  1. 1
    Press Command+Shift+4 then hit the Space bar. The cross-hair will turn into a small camera. You can press Spacebar again to switch back to the reticle.
  2. 2
    Move your cursor over the window you want to capture. The camera will highlight different windows blue as it moves over them. You can use keyboard commands such as Command+Tab to shift through your windows while still in this mode.
  3. 3
    Click on the window. The picture of the window you selected will be saved to the desktop by default just like the other screenshot methods.

Method 4
Save a Screenshot to the Clipboard

  1. 1
    Press Command + Control + Shift + 3. This method works exactly like the one above, except the screenshot does not immediately create a file. Instead, the image is saved to the clipboard, the same temporary storage area where your computer remembers the text that you have copied.
    • You can also take a portion screenshot with this method using Command + Control + Shift + 4 and dragging your reticle over the appropriate part of your screen, exactly as the portion screenshot method.
  2. 2
    Use Command + V or Edit > Paste to paste your image. Your screenshot image can be pasted straight into any compatible application, such as a Word document, an image editing program, and many email services.

Method 5
Use the Grab Utility Tool

  1. 1
    Go to Applications > Utilities > Grab. This opens the Grab application. You will see the menus shown in the upper left of your screen, but no windows will open.
  2. 2
    Click the Capture menu and choose between the four different options.
    • To take a picture of your entire screen, click on Screen (or just use the keyboard command Apple Key + Z). A window will pop up telling you where to click and letting you know that the window will not appear in the shot.
    • To take a picture of a portion of your screen, click on Selection. A window will pop up instructing you to drag your mouse over the portion of your screen you'd like to capture.
    • To take a picture of a specific window, select Window. Then, click on the window you'd like to take a picture of.
  3. 3
    When the new window opens, choose Save. You can also choose Save As to give it a different name and/or move it to a more appropriate location, but note that it can only be saved as a .tiff file. Note that the file is not automatically saved.

Community Q&A

Ask a Question
If this question (or a similar one) is answered twice in this section, please click here to let us know.


  • Files from the screen-capture tool are saved to the desktop as PNG files by default. This is not the best method and fills your desktop if not managed. The easiest way to solve this is to make a screenshot folder, which is outlined in Altering the Default Location of the Saved Files.
  • An alternative but more long-winded method of taking screenshots is available via Mac OS X Lion's Preview application. The screenshot options appear on the "File" menu and match those available via the keyboard shortcuts.
  • Advanced users with knowledge of the Mac OS X Lion Terminal application can also use the "screen-capture" command to take a screenshot from the command line.
  • An alternative to saving a Grab file as a TIFF formatted file is to copy it and open Preview. Then in Preview, do File - New from Clipboard, and the image will open, which can then be exported as a jpg or png file to a folder of your choice. And if you do Select All and copy the image, you may directly import it via Paste or Paste Picture with the Shift Key depressed into Microsoft Excel for example.
  • It is possible to alter the shortcut used for taking screenshots by going into System Preferences, then to the Keyboard area, and clicking on the Screenshot section of Shortcuts. By clicking on the type of screenshot you want to change the shortcut for, you can press a combination of keys to create a new shortcut.


  • Posting screenshots that include copyrighted information could have legal implications, so be careful that you have the right to capture any of the information visible on your screen.
  • When taking screenshots to pass on to other people, or to publish on the Internet, ensure no personal or confidential information is captured within the image.

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Categories: Featured Articles | Mac OS X | Screenshots

In other languages:

Français: faire une capture d'écran sous Mac OS X, Español: capturar la pantalla con una Mac, Deutsch: In Mac OS X einen Screenshot machen, Deutsch: Einen Screenshot in Mac OS X aufnehmen, Nederlands: Een schermafbeelding maken op een Mac, Português: Tirar uma Foto da Tela no Mac OS X, Italiano: Fare uno Screenshot su Mac OS X, Русский: сделать скриншот на Mac OS X, 中文: 在Mac OS X上截取屏幕截图, Bahasa Indonesia: Mengambil Screenshot di Mac OS X, العربية: التقاط صورة للشاشة على نظام ماكنتوش, 한국어: 맥 (Mac) 에서 스크린 화면 캡처하는 방법, Čeština: Jak udělat screenshot v Mac OS X, Tiếng Việt: Chụp Ảnh màn hình trên Mac OS X, 日本語: Mac OS Xでスクリーンショットを作成する

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