A screenshot is an effective way of capturing the contents of your device’s screen. It comes in handy when you want to save images that are otherwise not downloadable, keep a record of a transaction or a booking you made, or save something you find interesting.

how to take a screenshot on a mac

If you’re using a Windows PC, you can simply use the Print Screen key on your keyboard to take a screenshot. However, if you’re on a Mac, you don’t get a dedicated screenshot button to take screenshots directly. Instead, Apple requires you to press a combination of different keys on your keyboard to take a screen shot in macOS.

We’ll go over all the macOS screenshot shortcuts in this guide and also check out the other ways to take a screenshot on a Mac.

Method 1: Take a Screenshot on Mac Using Keyboard Shortcuts

Using keyboard shortcuts is one of the easiest ways to take screenshots on a Mac. Depending on what part of the screen you want to capture, Apple offers different screenshot shortcuts in macOS.

Here are all these macOS screenshot shortcuts and the purpose they solve.

1. Shift + Command + 3: To Take a Full-Screen Screenshot on Mac

macos full-screen screenshot shortcut
IMAGE: Apple

If you just want to capture the entire screen and all its content, then the Shift + Command + 3 keyboard shortcut does exactly that. To take such a screenshot:

  1. Open the page, website, or screen you want to capture.
  2. Press the Shift + Command + 3 key combination.

As soon as you do this, macOS will capture the screenshot, and you’ll see its thumbnail in the bottom corner of your screen. If you want to edit it, tap on it. Else, wait, and you’ll have the screenshot saved to the Desktop.

2. Shift + Command + 4: To Capture a Portion of the Screen

macos shortcut to capture a portion of the screen
IMAGE: Apple

Sometimes, a full-screen screenshot may not be desirable, perhaps because there’s confidential information on the screen that you don’t want others to see or you only want to grab the content that’s actually useful.

For such situations, macOS has the Shift + Command + 4 screenshot shortcut, which lets you take a screenshot of a particular area on your screen. Follow these steps to capture a particular portion of your screen:

  1. Open the app/program screen you want to capture.
  2. Press and hold the Shift + Command + 4 combination.
  3. When you see a crosshair pointer, click and drag it to select the area on the screen you want to capture. To move the selection around, press and hold the Space bar while dragging. If you wish to cancel taking a screenshot, press the Esc key.
  4. Release the mouse button or trackpad button.

macOS will take a screenshot of your selected area, and you’ll see its thumbnail on your screen. Click on it to edit or wait for it to save to your Desktop.

3. Shift + Command + 4 + Space: To Take a Screenshot of a Window or a Menu on MacOS

macos screenshot shortcut for capturing a window or menu
IMAGE: Apple

One way to capture screenshots of windows or menus on your Mac computer is to take a screenshot of either the entire screen or a selected area and crop off the part you don’t need. However, as you can see, this isn’t very efficient.

Alternatively, macOS offers a key combination—Shift + Command + 4 + Space bar—that lets you do this efficiently. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Open the window or menu you want to capture.
  2. Press and hold the Shift + Command + 4 + Space key combination.
  3. When you see the crosshair pointerc turn into a camera cursor, go over the window or menu you want to capture and click on it. By default, it captures the screenshot with a shadow. But if you wish to exclude it, press and hold the Option key when you click on a window or menu.

A thumbnail preview of the captured window or menu will appear in the bottom right corner of the screen. If you wish to edit this screenshot, click on it. Else, wait for a few seconds, and the screenshot image will appear on your Desktop. You can turn this feature on and off using the screenshot menu.

To copy a screenshot to the Clipboard, press and hold the Control key while you take the screenshot using any of the keyboard shortcuts mentioned above.
In case your MacBook Pro has the Touch Bar, you can also take a screenshot of what’s currently displayed. You can take a very wide and skinny screenshot of your Touch Bar by pressing Cmd-Shift-6.

Method 2: Take a Screenshot on Your Mac Using the Screenshot App

On macOS Mojave and later, Apple bundles a dedicated app, Screenshot, to help you take screenshots on Mac. Screenshot essentially gives you a panel with different options to take pictures or screen recordings of your screen.

Here’s how to use Screenshot to take screenshots and capture screen recordings on Mac:

  1. Launch the Screenshot app. Bring up Spotlight Search using Command + Space and search for Screenshot. Or simply press the Shift + Command + 5 key combination.
  2. When the Screenshot panel shows up, you’ll see three capture modes for screenshots and two capture modes for screen recording.
    macos screenshot app panel
  3. From left to right, here are all the capture modes you see in the Screenshot panel:
    i. Capture Entire Screen
    ii. Capture Selected Window
    iii. Capture Selected Portion
    iv. Record Entire Screen
    v. Record Selection Portion
  4. i. For taking a screenshot: Select a capture mode, depending on your requirements, and hit the Capture button or tap on the screen/window to take its screenshot. In the case of Capture Selected Portion, you’ll need to select the area you want to capture and then hit Return or click on the screen to capture the screenshot.
    ii. For recording the screen: If you select the Record Entire Screen mode, click on the screen to start recording it. On the other hand, to record a specific portion, tap on Record Selection Portion, select the area you want to record, and hit Return or tap on the screen to start recording its content.

Additionally, the Screenshot app also has an Options button. Clicking on it reveals a bunch of options. From here, you can specify the location to save your screenshots, set a timer delay for screenshots, include mouse pointers/clicks, and choose an audio source for screen recordings. In addition, you can also choose to show/hide the floating thumbnail based on your preference.

Where Are Screenshots Saved on Mac?

When you take screenshots on your Mac using either the Screenshot app or screenshot shortcuts, all your captured screenshots are saved to the Desktop as PNG (.png) files. Similarly, screen recordings are also saved to the Desktop as MOV (.mov) files.

Of course, as we mentioned above, you can change the location to save your screenshots and screen recordings inside the Screenshot app. Follow these steps to do this:

  1. Press Shift + Command + 5 to bring up the Screenshot app panel.
  2. Click on the Options dropdown and select a location listed under Save to.
    changing location of saved screenshots on mac

Method 3: Take a Screenshot on a Mac Using Third-Party Screenshot Apps

Apple’s native screenshot utility includes all the necessary features you need for basic screenshotting or screen capturing or screen recording. However, there will be times when you’d want more control over your screenshots and recordings, perhaps when you’re helping someone troubleshoot their PC via screenshots or when you want to share marked-up screenshots with better backgrounds.

For such situations, you need third-party screenshot apps, which come with multiple capture modes, a built-in editor, and several other advanced features. If you’re unsatisfied with the native screenshot utility on Mac, here are some of the best Mac screenshot apps you can use:

Capturing Your Screen on a Mac Is Easier Than You Think

Taking screenshots on a Mac is much easier than you think, thanks to the native macOS Screenshot tool and the multiple screenshot shortcuts you get in macOS. So depending on what you want to capture—and how you wish to capture it—you can pick either of the methods listed above to take its screenshot and save it to your Mac.

FAQs on Taking a Screenshot on Mac

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Yes, Mac devices come with their own snipping tool called "Screenshot". It's easy to use the snipping tool for Mac by pressing and holding Shift+Command+5. There are other variations of this depending upon your need. It's pretty versatile and well built-out feature on mac.

The built-in Mac snipping tool is called Screenshot.

To use the Mac snipping tool, press Shift+Command+5 and hold it for a few seconds. Here, the Mac snipping tool allows you to capture the entire screen, a specific window, or just a portion.

If you want to take screenshot on mac without keyboard, go to Applications -> Utilities -> Screenshot.

Upon launching the Screenshot app, a small toolbar will appear at the bottom. The Screenshot app can be configured to take a screenshot of the entire screen, a selected window, or a specific area.

If you are unable to take a screenshot on mac, it's possible that you have accidentally disabled the screenshot hotkeys. Go to System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Shortcuts tab and click Screen Shots in the list on the left. Check the boxes to re-enable.

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