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How to take a screenshot on a Mac

Taking screenshots on a Mac is not as simple as it is on the most popular computing platform in the world, for example Microsoft Windows, and if you made a switch from the latter to the one recently, you would understand exactly what it means. You would have found yourself looking for the familiar Print Screen key on your keyboard, just to realize that it doesn't exist in the world of OS X. Also, there is no obvious and apparent way that will allow you to save whatever you have by going to your screen as an image. Well, while taking screenshots on OS X may not be as easy as on Windows, still quite simple, and in this article we will tell you all there is to know about screenshots on a Mac.

Take a screenshot on a Mac using keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are the most natural and logical way to move within an operating system and therefore Mac supports a series of shortcuts to be used to save screenshots in different desktop modes. Let's take a closer look at all the options available here.

Save screenshots of the entire screen on the desktop

If you simply want to capture the whole screen (or screens, depending on the configuration) and save it as an image file in the default format on the desktop, the keyboard shortcut would be this:

 Comando + Maiusc + 3 

Save screenshots of a specific area on the desktop

Assuming you don't want to capture the entire screen, but only a particular area inside, and save it to the desktop, your shortcut will change slightly. The combination you will now use will be:

 Comando + Maiusc + 4 

This will turn the mouse pointer into a crosshair, which you can click and drag to identify the region of the screen that needs to be captured. As soon as you release it, the selected area will be scanned as saved on the desktop as an image file.

Save screenshot of a window on the desktop

Suppose that the area you want to capture in your screenshot actually constitutes an application window, which you may need to show for an article like this. The shortcut from the previous one will change slightly, so you will use Command + Shift + 4, and when the cursor turns into a crosshair, instead of dragging with the mouse, press the Space key, then click on the window you want to capture. So the syntax should look something like:

 Comando + Maiusc +4 -> premi Spazio -> fai clic sulla finestra che deve essere catturata 

Take screenshots of the entire screen and copy to the clipboard

The three methods described above basically put an image file on the desktop with no other options. Mainly, what you would prefer too. However, what if you want to copy the screenshot of your Mac's entire screen to the clipboard for immediate reuse. Here, the link will be slightly modified:

 Comando + Controllo + Maiusc + 3 

With the addition of Control in the mix, the screenshots will go to the clipboard instead of being saved to the Desktop.

Take a screenshot of the selected region and copy to the clipboard

Following the same principle as above, you will change the keyboard shortcut for acquiring the region by adding a control to it. So, you will hit:

 Comando + Controllo + Maiusc + 4 

And the cursor will turn into a viewfinder, allowing you to define the region that needs to be captured and copied to the clipboard.

Take a screenshot of a window and copy to the clipboard

As you might have guessed, the same model with the addition of Control also applies here. Instead of just doing Command + Shift + 4 and then Space Key, you will use the following combination:

 Comando + Ctrl + Maiusc +4 -> Spazio -> Fai clic su Finestra per acquisire 

The image will be copied to the clipboard and will be ready for reuse as you see fit.

Keyboard shortcut modifiers for advanced manipulation of screenshots on Mac

While you're considering Mac screenshots using keyboard shortcuts, there are a few keys that you can use along with the ones described above to achieve certain results. Remember that these are only applicable when you are going to acquire the region (whether it is saved on the desktop or copied to the clipboard), and will not work if you use full screen screens. Furthermore, they only work on OS X Leopard and later versions.

Space Key

While capturing the region, once you have drawn a region on the screen using the mouse, you can hold down the space key to move the entire region as the mouse moves without changing its size. This will be useful when you need a screenshot of a certain size and you have already obtained the perfect size, but not in the right place. The system will allow you to drag your capture box anywhere on the screen and capture anything you want.

Capital key

This apart from pressing the Shift key you need to start the acquisition process. By pressing and holding shift while capturing the region, you can change one size of the capture box without affecting the other. So, you can practically increase or decrease the size horizontally without changing the vertical size and vice versa.

Key option

By pressing and holding the Option key while capturing the region, you will be able to resize the capture box while taking its center as anchor and focal point. This means that capturing the box will shrink and grow proportionally and equally in all sizes with reference to whatever was in the center of the box. Useful if you have a "must-have" type of object in your screenshot and want to have edges evenly distributed around it.

Change the default screenshot format in Mac OS X

Recent iterations of OS X have used PNG as the default screenshot format for some time, but there are numerous other supported formats that you can use, such as JPG, BMP, TIFF etc. Changing the default screen capture format requires using Terminal. Just start a new Terminal session and enter the following command:

 i valori predefiniti scrivono tipo image_format 

where is it Image_format it must be replaced with whatever format you want to use, such as jpg, for example. Note that you must log out and log back in for the changes to take effect. Alternatively, you can use the following command after the previous one for the changes to take effect immediately:

 killall SystemUIServer 

Change the default location of the screenshot in Mac OS X

As noted earlier, OS X automatically saves the screenshots to your computer desktop. However, you can specify a different location to save the images. Let's say you want to save all screenshots to Pictures / Screenshots on your Mac. To do this, start a Terminal session and enter the following command:

 le impostazioni predefinite scrivono la posizione di ~ / Immagini / Screenshot / 

You can replace the last bit with any path you want and the screen captures will change the default save path. You will need to log out and log back in or use the killall command above for the changes to take effect.

Take a screenshot on a Mac using Terminal

Given that Terminal is one of the most powerful areas of a Mac, it should come as no surprise that you can take screenshots even with the command-based utility. The input for this will look like:

 screencapture -iW ~ / Desktop / screen.jpg 

While it may not seem very useful, this type of method will work best if you are doing some sort of script that requires screen capture.

Take a screenshot on Mac OS X using Grab

Similar to Snipping Tool in Windows, Apple has also introduced a tool in OS X that aims to facilitate the whole process with a GUI. The utility is called Grab and is located in Application / Utilities / Grab. Alternatively, you can also quickly find Grabs using the Spotlight search that OS X has on offer.

One of the main advantages offered by Grab compared to keyboard-based methods is that of allowing timed screens, in which the system will acquire everything and everything on the display 10 seconds after giving the command. It allows us a great way to show menus, suggestions and anything else that can be difficult to capture using other conventional methods.

This is practically necessary when it comes to the default screen capture features of a Mac. As you will notice, the native options are quite robust and powerful compared to a Windows system, but they are equally more complicated. There are also several third-party tools that offer this type of functionality with additional functionality, but this is a discussion for a separate article.