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How to screenshot on Mac

Dmitry Yedin

Dmitry Yedin is an analyst and author, a part of the “multimedia” crew of ThinkMobiles. Don’t even start with him on games, graphics, video content or messengers.

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This is a brief guide in response to numerous user requests. Screenshots can be made both by OS built-in functions (each OS has different methods) and special software by third-party developers. This is a life-simplifying option that helps to transfer information vividly, as it is often to show than to explain. There are several methods of making screenshots in macOS, each useful in its own way.

1. Hotkeys

You can take screenshots on macOS with “global” hotkeys – active for all programs, games, videos, etc. This is the fastest and the easiest way, probably, and there are a few key combinations for it.

  • Shift⇧ + CMD⌘ + 3 – full screen.

How to make screenshots on Mac

  • Shift⇧ + CMD⌘ + 4 – selected area.

screenshot hotkeys Mac

  • Shift⇧ + CMD⌘ + 4 + Space – window, folder, etc.

screen grab in macOS

All screenshots are automatically saved to Desktop. The interesting part to notice about window-only screenshots is the transparency and border shadows.

2. Preview

Preview is a multifunctional Apple application. We’ve mentioned it previously in our top free photo editors for macOS. Screen capturing is one of its features. To open Preview search it in Spotlight – click Ctrl⌃ + Space or CMD⌘ + Space (depends on settings) > type Preview > click Enter.

Then click File > Take Screenshot > pick one of three options: From Selection, From Window, From Entire Screen. Some more details to keep in mind: 

  • a mouse pointer will be visible on screens;
  • when capturing full screen, 10 seconds timer is on;
  • image formats: heif, jpeg, jpeg-2000, openEXR, pdf, png, tiff;
  • snapshot immediately opens in Preview edit mode.

3. Grab

Grab is another macOS utility for screenshots. To open Grab search it in Spotlight – click Ctrl⌃ + Space or CMD⌘ + Space (depends on settings) > type Grab > click Enter. Control Grab with hotkeys:

  • CMD⌘ + 4 – selection
  • CMD⌘ + 5 – window
  • CMD⌘ + 3 – full screen
  • Alt⌥ + CMD⌘ + 3 – timed screen (10 seconds)

or you can navigate to Menubar > Capture > select one of four options. After you take a screenshot, save it in png, jpeg, tiff. Note: there is no shadow on window-only screenshots.

4. Screenshot apps

If you seek an even easier way of how to screenshot on Mac, use third-party screen capturing apps. Find more info about 5 such tools below. We’ve also added a usability column to the comparison table, according to general experience, speed, response, image quality.

Area selection Window capture Full screen Timed screenshot Screenshot format Hotkeys Usability App Store link
Lightshot Screenshot + + png ⇧⌘9 or custom 8/10 Link
ScreenShot PSD + + psd ⇧⌘5 8/10 Link
Apowersoft Screenshot + + png, bmp, tiff, jpg, gif ⌘1/⌘2 or custom 8/10 Link
ScreenshotMenu + + + png 7/10 Link
Light Capture + png, jpg, tiff, gif custom 7/10 Link

Lightshot Screenshot

Download: App Store | Version: 2.22
macOS: 10.7 or later | Size: 1.5 MB

A simple app with tools to make screenshots more informative: arrows, pointers, circles, squares, text. Add to that social sharing options and cloud upload with instant link.

lightshot for mac

ScreenShot PSD

Download: App Store | Version: 1.1
macOS: 10.6 or later | Size: 1.2 MB

Captures and saves all screenshots in PSD format, as a layered project. Thus every single item is editable, which could be useful for graphic designers. Quite outstanding.

ScreenShot PSD

Apowersoft Screenshot

Download: App Store | Version: 1.2.4
macOS: 10.8 or later | Size: 9.1 MB

Similar to Lightshot, area selection comes quite handy, along with additional items such as lines, arrows, circles, text. Upload and sharing options are in place too. In Settings, you can change hotkeys for selection, full screen, and image format (png, bmp, tiff, jpg, gif).

Apowersoft app

Screenshot Menu

Download: App Store | Version: 1.2.1
macOS: 10.6 or later | Size: 329 KB

A tiny utility to capture screenshots, copy images to the clipboard. Activate auto-launch and you won’t even notice it in the background. No settings, no interface, only straight controls.

Mac screenshot apps

LightCapture

Download: App Store | Version: 1.0.7
macOS: 10.11 or later | Size: 12.2 MB

A peculiar thing about this app is the ability to screen capture to Clipboard, in other words, without saving an image to a hard drive, pasting it into a photo editor or Skype directly. Go to Preferences to configure: open screens in Preview (default macOS viewer), output format, sounds.

LightCapture

Read next: Free screen recording software.

About author

Dmitry Yedin
Dmitry Yedin

Dmitry Yedin is an analyst and author, a part of the “multimedia” crew of ThinkMobiles. Don’t even start with him on games, graphics, video content or messengers.

Dmitry Yedin is a self-motivated and goal-oriented guy, a technology geek throughout his life, interested in computers, music, photography, and tech trends. Through diligence, analysis and care for detail he assists people in picking the best available options.