If you take lots of screenshots on a Mac, you’ll love these little-known tips

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Last updated: April 2020

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When you’re improving a website, you need to take many screenshots. Our team members take hundreds or thousands of them each year. So we were pleased when Corey Ginnivan of Appbot posted some extremely useful (and little-known) tips for taking screenshots with a Mac. To help our team members learn the techniques (along with a few tips of our own), we created the following video:

A video showing how to take screenshots on Mac.

A cheat sheet

You may find the following cheat sheet useful, to help when you’re committing the keyboard shortcuts to muscle memory:

  • Command+Shift+3 captures the whole screen.
  • Command+Shift+4 captures an area of the screen or Command+Shift+Control+4 does the same but saves the screenshot directly to your clipboard and not to anywhere else (we wish this were the default). Then…
    • to capture a whole window, hover your mouse pointer over the window and press the space bar and then hold down the Option key (⌥) and click. If you’d like the screenshot of the window to have a drop shadow around it, omit the Option key (⌥).
    • to size the window, click and drag your mouse pointer to the desired height and width, and then release to capture. (To cancel, hit the Esc key.) Before you release, you may…
      • hold down the space bar to move your selection.
      • hold down the shift key to extend your selection in one direction (horizontally or vertically depending on which direction you move in first).
      • hold down the Option key (⌥) to transform your selection symmetrically from the center.
  • Command+Shift+5 shows a menu that lets you change settings—and capture video. The menu has several useful settings, including…
    • Disable “Show Floating Thumbnail” to get rid of the frustrating lag of about five seconds before the screenshot gets saved.
    • Choose the folder into which you’d like all screenshots to be saved.
    • Specify a lag before the screenshot is captured, and specify whether you want the mouse pointer to be visible in the screenshot—both of which can be useful when you’re screenshotting user-interface elements like menus. The “lag” and “mouse pointer” options are remembered only when you’re capturing screenshots using the Command+Shift+5 menu.
  • Command+Shift+6 captures a screenshot of your Touch Bar (if you have one).
  • In Terminal…
    • To change the file format of your screenshots, enter the following command into Terminal:
      • defaults write com.​apple.screencapture type -string “png”

…and choose between png, bmp, gif, jpg, pdf, and tiff.

  • To disable the drop shadows around full-window screenshots, enter…
    • defaults write com.​apple.screencapture disable-shadow -bool true

…or replace true with false to re-enable them.

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