Some tips for grabbing screenshots

Coming from a Windows background, I’m used to grabbing a copy of the entire screen using the PrtSc key or the current window with Alt+PrtSc. When I first bought my Mac, I couldn’t work out how to do this without using the Grab application (which seems a little cumbersome for a simple screen shot) until Alex explained to me that, like so many things in OS X, there is some arcane keyboard shortcut that feels like it will induce a permanent strain on my fingers to do the job for me (I used to think the Ctrl-Alt-Del three finger salute was bad enough). I keep forgetting the keystrokes, so I’m blogging them here:

  • Command+Shift+3 – capture entire screen and save as a file
  • Command+Control+Shift+3 – capture entire screen and copy to the clipboard
  • Command+Shift+4 – capture dragged area and save as a file
  • Command+Control+Shift+4 – capture dragged area and copy to the clipboard
  • Command+Shift+4 then Space – capture a window, menu, desktop icon, or the menu bar and save as a file
  • Command+Control+Shift+4 then Space – capture a window, menu, desktop icon, or the menu bar and copy to the clipboard.

For more on this, see the O’Reilly description of OS X screenshot secrets, which also links to a really useful hack to take a screenshot from DVD Player in OS X – simply type screencapture -i ~/Desktop/dvd.png in a terminal window, then hit Space and click on the DVD Player window to avoid the annoying restriction illustrated in the error message below.

Error when attempt to screen grab from DVD Player

2 thoughts on “Some tips for grabbing screenshots


  1. This is a bigger issue than it appears.

    There’s so many times when I’m talking someone through a problem on their Mac and I’ll just say something like: “OK, look, I don’t know what you mean. Just send me a screen shot.”

    And then there’s a silence on the phone as they try to work out what I mean.

    In contrast, the last I worked for made excellent use of screen shots for the inner sleeves of back-up media.

    We’de just take a screen shot of the folder window and print it out, fold it and slide it into the jewel case.

    Simple!


  2. For reference, using GNOME on Linux (RHEL5), the keystrokes are the same as for Windows – i.e. copy the entire screen using the PrtSc key or the current window with Alt+PrtSc.

Leave a Reply