Take a Picture of the Screen – Mac Kung Fu, 2nd Edition

Tip 233Take a Picture of the Screen

Your Mac has a powerful screen-grabbing facility built in, with a variety of ways of accessing it.

Using Keystrokes

The simplest way to take a shot of the screen is to tap Shift+Command+3. This will output an image to the desktop, although beware if you’re playing a DVD movie—the DVD movie window will be blank because movies are copyrighted.

If you want to grab a specific area of the screen, hit Shift+Command+4 instead. The cursor will change to a crosshair, and you can click and drag to define an area that will be turned into a screenshot and output to the desktop. Hold Space while dragging, without releasing the mouse button, and you can reposition the screenshot frame. Hit Esc to cancel.

To capture one program window in particular, tap Space once after this series of keystrokes, as in Shift+Command+4, and then tap Space. Then click the window you want to capture. It doesn’t matter if it’s behind another window—it’ll still be captured in its unobscured entirety.

See also Tip 157, Supertip: Make Better Screenshots.

Screengrab to the Clipboard Rather Than to a File

To capture a screen to the clipboard instead of creating a file so you can then paste the snapshot into your own document or image, hold down Control in addition to the standard capture shortcuts. For example, Shift+Control+Command+3 will capture the entire screen to the clipboard. Shift+Control+Command+4 will let you click and drag to capture a portion of the screen to the clipboard.

Using the Grab App

If key combinations are a little confusing, you can use the Mac’s Grab utility, which is found in the Utilities folder of Applications within Finder. Once the program starts, select the entry you want from the Capture menu. Grab also gives you the opportunity to take a screen grab after only ten seconds have passed—just select the Timed Screen option on the Capture menu.

Additionally, if you click the program menu and then Preferences, you can select to include various cursor images within the screenshot (usually cursor images are hidden when using Grab and also when using OS X’s built-in tools, as mentioned previously). Just select a cursor type you’re interested in, close the Preferences dialog box, and then capture a screen using one of the menu options as described previously. During the capture process, the cursor will change to the one you selected.

Grab can capture images only in the TIFF format.

Using Preview

The Mac’s general-purpose image viewer, Preview, also has screen capture abilities built in. The advantage of using Preview is that you can crop, edit, or annotate the image once captured. You can also save images in a variety of image formats.

Just start Preview (open Finder, select the Applications list, and then double-click Preview), click FileTake Screen Shot, and choose from the options. The captured image will appear within Preview as if it’s an image file you’ve just double-clicked. You can annotate it by clicking ToolsAnnotate. To save it, click FileSave. Select the image format you want to use from the Format drop-down list in the dialog box that appears (hold Option before selecting the drop-down list to see more file choices).