How to take a screenshot on a Mac

Apple iMac

One of the most common questions I get from Mac users is how to take a screenshot in Mac OS X. It’s easy to remember on a Windows PC (Alt+Print Screen), but not so much on a Mac where there are many different ways to do it with varying results. Here’s a guide to help you learn how to do it and hopefully how to remember how to do it.

Method #1 – Grab


Grab (icon above) is an app that comes standard with OS X (located in Applications > Utilities). This is the easiest way to get screenshots on a Mac as it allows you to take a shot of the full screen, an area of the screen you select, or a shot of a specific application window. You can also use a timer to get a shot at an exact moment. These settings are found under the Capture menu when you run Grab. Once you have the screenshot you want you can save it (Grab saves in .tiff format only) and then use Preview (another app standard in OS X) to edit and export it as a more common file type, such as .jpg or .png.

Method #2 – Key combinations

Of course Apple has key combinations to get a screenshot if you don’t want to use Grab. Again, these are not as simple as Window’s Alt+Print Screen, but there are many different functions available to give you more control. All of the combinations use the Command key, which looks like this Command key icon and sometimes also has the apple logo logo on it, and the Shift key, which sometimes looks like Shift icon.


This will take a screenshot of the entire desktop and save it as a .png file on your desktop.


This will allow you to select a portion of the screen and will save it as a .png file on your desktop.


This will allow you to take a screenshot of a specific application window and will save it as a .png file on your desktop.

NOTE: Older versions of Mac OS X might save the files to the desktop as a .pdf (OS X 10.3 – Panther) or a .jpg (OS X 10.2 – Jaguar). Adding the Control (Control key icon) key to any of these combinations will copy the image to the clipboard instead of saving it to the desktop.

Method #3 – Extra software

If you don’t like the first two methods you can purchase software such as SnagIt or Skitch to get the job done. Lifehacker has put together a nice list of some of the best screen capture apps available that might help you decide if this is the way for you.

Was this post helpful? Have something to add to it? Leave a comment below, drop me an email at or Tweet me @bamcat.

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