How To Take A Screenshot On A Mac With Shortcut And Apps

By Mike Darrow
how to take a screenshot on a Mac computer

Are you recently switching from Windows to macOS? Do you know how to take a screenshot on a Mac computer yet? There are keyboard shortcuts and third-party apps that you can use to take one.

Taking a screenshot might seem straightforward for many Mac users. But for new users, especially those who are moving from Windows and are used to the Print Screen key, the answer to the question of how to screenshot on Mac is not immediately obvious.

Have you been using macOS for a while? You may already know one or two ways to take a screenshot on your Mac computer. But do you know all the methods to do it?

No? Let us give you more information on all the possible methods you can use, including Mac shortcuts and third-party screenshot apps.

Have a Windows machine? Here is how to take a screenshot on a Windows PC.

How To Take A Screenshot On A Mac With Shortcut And Apps

In the digital age, screenshots are useful and needed in many aspects. They are a convenient way to capture, save, and send information to your friends, colleagues, and whoever needs them.

For example, when your Mac gets a strange error that you can't describe to your company's IT department, sending a screenshot is better than explaining.

Font error on macOS
Image Caption: The system fonts of macOS got corrupted.

Furthermore, you may need screenshots to add to your documents, attach to your emails, or simply to archive an interesting moment that happens on your Mac screen. They can also act as digital proof of what has been said and done.

So as you can see, screenshots are quite handy!

Do you often use screenshots? Which method do you like most to use to take screenshots on Mac? A keyboard shortcut or screenshot application?

Let us explain more in-depth about each method with detailed instructions on how to use them!

How To Take A Screenshot On A Mac With Keyboard Shortcut

In macOS 10.14 Mojave or later, you can use the Screenshot app to take a screenshot. It is a revamped screenshot and screen recording tool, which can be accessed by pressing Command + Shift + 5.

Once you press the shortcut, your Mac screen will turn into semi-transparency with the grey color. There will also be a resizable rectangle frame, which you can move around to select the portion you want to capture. This mode is called Capture Selected Portion. It is the default mode when you open the Screenshot app for the first time. In the next use, it will stay in the last selected mode.

Mac Screenshot Application

When you are ready, just click on the Capture button, which is on the right end of the screenshot toolbar, at the bottom of your screen.

A thumbnail will appear at the bottom right of your screen. You can click on it to open the image editor, which allows you to crop, rotate, annotate, as well as highlight your screenshot and so forth.

If you don't click on that thumbnail, your screenshot will automatically be saved to your desktop by default.

When we mention "your desktop" or "the desktop" in this article, we mean the working area of your Mac screen containing icons. It doesn't mean the desktop computer.

Is your desktop too messy? You can choose where you want to save your screenshot from the Options menu.

Select the Other Location option and then choose the folder you want to store your screenshot.

This screenshot toolbar gives you various options. You can take a screenshot of the entire screen, a window, or a specific portion. You can also record a video of the entire screen or selected portion. If you don't want to take the screenshot instantly, you can set a short delay of 5 or 10 seconds from the Options menu.

If your Mac still runs macOS 10.13 High Sierra or earlier, you can use the old shortcuts to take a screenshot on a Mac.

Take A Screenshot Of A Portion On A Mac

To capture a screenshot of a chosen portion on your screen, you can use the Command + Shift + 4 keystroke. When pressing these keys, your cursor will turn into a crosshair.

Just drag the cursor to outline the desired portion to capture while holding the left button of your mouse. The screenshot will be taken when you release your mouse. If you are on a MacBook, drag and drop with your trackpad will also work as the mouse.

A screenshot file will be saved to your desktop with the following form: Screen Shot "date" at "time".png, e.g., "Screen Shot 2020-02-28 at 02.39.30.png."

Before the release of macOS 10.14 Mojave, this was the favored method to take a screenshot on a Mac for many users. The advantage of this method is that you can select the portion you want to capture flexibly. Then you don't need to crop your screenshot anymore.

Change your mind? Press the Esc key before you click your mouse to cancel the screenshot.

Take A Screenshot Of A Specific Window On A Mac

To capture a screenshot of a specific application window, you can use the same shortcut as above, but you need one extra step: Spacebar.

Just press Command + Shift + 4 first and then hit the Spacebar key. Your mouse cursor will turn into a camera icon. Move this icon over the application window that you want to capture until it stands out and then clicks the left mouse.

Your screenshot will be captured and saved to your desktop automatically. Find and open it with an image editor to annotate or highlight if you want.

The advantage of this method is that it will take a screenshot of the selected application window with the corner radius. This made your screenshot looks better. 

If you use Command + Shift + 4 and move the cursor to choose the entire window, there will be a residual in each corner.

The disadvantage of this method is that you can't take a screenshot of a scrollable window, e.g., a full webpage on a web browser.

Take A Screenshot Of A Menu On A Mac

To capture a screenshot of a menu, you need to bring up the menu first. 

Next, press Command + Shift + 4 and then hit the Spacebar key. The mouse cursor will turn into a camera icon, as we mentioned above.

Move and focus the cursor to the menu until it stands out and then do a left-click. A screenshot of the selected menu will be saved to your desktop in the form of a .png file.

take a screenshot of a specific menu on macOS

You can also use this method to take a screenshot of a toolbar. The disadvantage is that you can't capture a screenshot of the menus inside apps, e.g., the settings menu on the Mail application or web browser.

Take A Screenshot Of The Entire Screen On A Mac

To capture a screenshot of the entire screen, you just need to press Command + Shift + 3. The screenshot will be taken and saved to your desktop automatically.

Very few people use this method because you need more time to adjust and crop the part you want. People only use it when they really need a full-screen screenshot.

So if you don't need one, just use the Command + Shift + 4 or Command + Shift + 4 & Spacebar.

Take A Screenshot On A Mac And Save To Clipboard, Not As A File

Instead of capturing a screenshot and saving it as a file to your desktop, you can choose to save it directly to your Mac clipboard. After that, you can paste it into other apps, such as an image editor or document composer, as you like.

To do so, you need to add the Control key to the shortcut you plan to use. For example, Command + Shift + Control + 3 or Command + Shift + Control + 4.

Too many keys? Sometimes, you may need both hands to press these shortcuts.

Change Default Screenshot's Format And Stored Location

By default, all the captured screenshots will be saved on the desktop. The file name should be in the following form: Screen Shot "date" at "time".png, e.g., "Screen Shot 2020-02-28 at 02.40.18.png". The date and time are generated automatically at the moment the screenshot is taken.

If you don't want your desktop to become messy with a bunch of screenshots, changing the default stored location is the best way. For example, you can create a new folder called "Screenshots" inside the "Documents" folder to store your screenshots. This is a good way to organize files on a Mac to keep everything looking tidy.

Besides, you can change the file format from .png to .jpg if you want to. The "Screen Shot" name isn't cool? It can also be changed, e.g., "Picture."

Don't know how to change these things? They can be done with a few commands in Terminal. Follow this guide to learn how to change the default format, file name, and the folder where macOS saves screenshots.

How To Take A Screenshot On A Mac With Grab

In macOS 10.13 High Sierra or earlier, you can't use the shortcut to capture a screenshot with a few seconds of delay. Instead, you have to use the Grab application to set a countdown timer in order to capture a screenshot. It aids you to take a screenshot of a menu or something else that will hide when you press a key or click the mouse.

Note: From macOS 10.14 Mojave, Apple replaced the Grab utility by the new Screenshot app. Therefore, you can only use this method if your Mac runs macOS 10.13 High Sierra or earlier.

To use this application, you can launch it by accessing Application -> Utilities and then select Grab.

You can also open it with Spotlight by pressing Command + Spacebar and then search for Grab. If you are a new Mac user, check out these useful Spotlight tips.

Once the application is open, it will be shown on the top toolbar.

From the Grab's menu, click on Capture and choose the "Timed Screen" option to capture a screenshot on your Mac with a countdown timer.

Click on the Start Timer button on the "Timed Screen Grab" window to start counting down from 10 to 0.

When the timer comes to an end, the Grab app will take a screenshot of the entire screen and show it to you right away.

You can choose File -> Save to save this screenshot if you are happy with it or just take a new one. Besides, you can take a screenshot of a selected area, a specific window, or the entire screen like using the shortcuts.

However, it's not as quick and convenient as using the keyboard. You should only use this app when you need a countdown timer.

How To Take A Screenshot On A Mac With Preview

You can use the Preview app to capture a screenshot and save it in as many different formats as you like, e.g., JPEG, PNG, PDF, and TIFF.

To take a screenshot with this app, navigate to File -> Take Screenshot. Then choose the type of screenshot you want to capture, such as a selected portion, window, or the entire screen.

capture a screenshot on Mac with Preview application

Once the screenshot is taken, the Preview app will show it to you right away. After that, you can choose to save the screenshot or edit it with several basic tools, such as drawing, add text and shapes, or crop.

This is not purely a screenshot application, so there are no powerful features you need to know. It only has a few basic functions, like using the screenshot shortcuts. It  does not even have the timer option.

How To Take A Screenshot On A Mac With Third-Party Apps

Anyone who uses macOS frequently knows that its screenshot abilities are pretty solid. The screenshot shortcuts are quite handy with enough features to capture screenshots the way you want. Not to mention the Screenshot app in macOS 10.14 Mojave or later, which could be considered the best built-in screenshot application.

But there are always better options with third-party screenshot apps, such as Lightshot, Skitch, Monosnap, or Capto. They come with a lot of useful features that you might not have otherwise known existed.

Give us a few minutes to explain more in-depth regarding the abilities of these apps, as well as how to use them.

Lightshot

In another post, we have already mentioned Lightshot when discussing how to take a screenshot on Windows 10. This application not only works on Windows and Mac but is also available as a web browser extension that you can use to capture a screenshot of webpages.

The user interface is quite similar to the Screenshot app but comes with two horizontal and vertical toolbars, which is at the bottom and the right edges, respectively.

screenshot on Mac with Lightshot

The default shortcut for Lightshot is Command + Shift + 9, which is changeable. Just change it to another alternative that you feel comfortable using in its preferences.

Back to the features of Lightshot, as soon as you press the shortcut, a transparent layer will cover your entire screen. To start capturing a screenshot, press and hold the left mouse and then move the cursor diagonally over the portion you want to take a screenshot of.

The cropping tool will appear, and you can use it to adjust the size of the screenshot in any direction you like. To draw lines, add text and shapes, or highlight, you can use the vertical toolbar.

When you have finished editing, you can choose to save the screenshot to your Mac or upload it to Lightshot's server, which is at https://prnt.sc/. If you decide to upload the screenshot, Lightshot will display a link, e.g., https://prnt.sc/abcdef, when the process finishes.

Besides, there are a few other features in the horizontal toolbar, such as:

  • send the screenshot to the Mac clipboard
  • print the screenshot with your printer, or save as a PDF
  • share the screenshot over your social networking accounts
  • search for similar images on Google.com

Even though Lightshot has many good functions, particularly the ability to take a screenshot and quickly upload it to share with others, it still can't capture a screenshot of a scrolling window. If you need one like that, you need to find other apps.

To use Lightshot, visit this link to download it from the Mac App Store.

Skitch

Skitch gives you the ability to capture a screenshot of a selected portion (with or without a timer), window, specific menu, or the entire screen.

Once the screenshot is captured, you can dress it up with a bunch of image editing tools, such as arrows, shapes, annotates, highlights, and blur for hiding sensitive information.

use skitch to take a screenshot on Mac

When you finish editing, you can save the screenshot in one of ten file formats. Furthermore, you can share it over Messages, Notes, AirDrop, FTP, or your social networking accounts.

Additionally, because Skitch is an Evernote product, you can log in to your Evernote account and save your screenshots there. Unfortunately, this application still can't take a screenshot of a scrolling window.

To use Skitch, you can download it from here.

Monosnap

Unlike Lightshot and Skitch, Monosnap does not have much robust screenshot capture options. There are only two capture modes that give you the ability to take a screenshot of a chosen portion or the entire screen.

capture a screenshot with monosnap

However, it has great features that you might be interested in, such as:

  • take a full-screen screenshot with a 10-second countdown timer
  • upload screenshots to your Monosnap cloud storage
  • screen recording
  • selfie mode 
  • short links
  • editing tools, including text, arrows, lines, drawings, cropping, and blur sensitive information

Monosnap also supports uploading your screenshots to your cloud storage accounts, such as Amazon S3, Dropbox, Google Drive, and so forth. If you want to use this advanced feature, you can upgrade for $4.99 per month.

To use Monosnap, you can download it from here.

Capto

Although Capto isn't a free screenshot application, it's totally worth it. Capto is one of 170+ Mac apps that Setapp.com offers on its subscription plans, starting from $9.99 per month. By subscribing to Setapp membership, you can use CleanMyMac X, Gemini, XMind, Disk Drill, and many more superb apps.

Back to Capto, this application allows you to take a screenshot or record screen video quickly. Like many other screenshot apps, you can capture a screenshot of an area, a window, a menu, or a full screen. Besides, you can take a screenshot of a scrolling window, e.g., a full webpage on your browser.

Once your screenshot is captured, you can edit it with many tools, such as resize, crop, line, text, shape, callout, blur, and so on. It's basically a combination of a universal screen capture tool and a quick editor.

capto review - screenshot annotation

To record a video of your Mac screen, Capto gives two options: record a selected portion or a full screen. It's one of the most straightforward ways to record screen video on your Mac.

It also offers a ton of useful features to deal with the video when recording is finished. For example:

  • edit tools: cut, crop, or trim the video
  • annotations: maker, arrow, text, callouts, blur, and images
  • add audio tracks

Capto enables you to edit and annotate the recorded clip right away without having to leave the app. It looks like a mixture of QuickTime and iMovie.

Plus, Capto keeps and manages all screenshots and videos well and intuitively so you can work on them later efficiently.

To use Capto, you can download it from the official website, the Mac App Store, or your Setapp account. Nevertheless, the price varies depending on where you get it.

For example, the official website, GlobalDelight, is offering Capto with 40% off. So basically, you only need to spend $17.99 to have it. But if you purchase it from the Mac App Store, it will cost you $29.99.

On the other hand, you can use Capto from Setapp for $9.99 per month. Here, you can access not only Capto but also all other superb apps in its bundle. If you want to try this screenshot application before spending the money, sign up for a Setapp account and download Capto to use its full features. It only takes you a minute to do so. Furthermore, you can also try more than 170+ Mac apps from Setapp for free in 7 days.

We also published a detailed Capto review on how to use it to capture screenshots and record videos on your Mac screen. Let’s spend some more time to find out how powerful and friendly it is.

Final Words

As you can see from above, learning how to take a screenshot on a Mac is not extremely difficult. In fact, screen capture on a Mac is now more straightforward than ever thanks to the Screenshot app in macOS 10.14 Mojave.

With this new improvement, it's clear that Apple understands the difficulty and unintuitive of how to print screen on Mac in the past. Therefore, the expectation of the next updates to improve the features of the Screenshot app is very positive.

On the other hand, if you still use macOS 10.13 High Sierra or earlier, pressing a couple of keys to screenshot on Mac isn't quite complicated. Besides, there are many superb screenshot apps from third parties that can aid you in capturing a perfect screenshot or record a screen video with a few mouse clicks.

Please let us know if we have missed out on anything, especially surprising ways to screenshot on a Mac.

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