How to take screenshots in OS X

Quick answer: (different tabs for different systems)

Use these shortcuts to take pictures of the screen in Mac OS X. Screen shots are saved as files on the desktop as Picture 1, Picture 2, etc. If you want to put the screen shot in the Clipboard, rather than create a file, hold down the Control key when you press the other keys. You can then paste the picture into a document.

  • Take a picture of the whole screen: Command-Shift-3
  • Take a picture of part of the screen: Command-Shift-4, then drag to select the area you want in the picture.
  • To cancel, press Escape.
  • Take a picture of a window, a menu, the menu bar, or the Dock: Press Command-Shift-4, then press the Space bar. Move the pointer over the area you want so that it’s highlighted, then click.
  • To drag to select the area instead, press the Space bar again. To cancel, press Escape.

You can also take pictures of the screen using the Grab application (in the Utilities folder). This has the advantage that you can save the file wherever you want.

Some applications, such as DVD Player, may not let you take pictures of the screen.

The above was borrowed and modified from the Finder’s built-in Help


If you want to change the default location where the pictures are stored, or you want other options, consider the answers to this question to the UCLA OSXForum List

Question: Is there any way to configure the OS/X screencapture utility to save the images in a specified directory? Ideally, it could ask me each time where to save it, but it would still be very useful to just always save somewhere besides my desktop.

I vaguely remember seeing something about all OS/X apps having config files stored somewhere and that they could be edited for really specific preferences.

I did try going to the Keyboard Shortcuts Preference setting but that didn’t show me the command that was being executed.


  • Screenshot Settings by Dan Frakes – article that includes several products for customizing where (and
    in what format) screenshots are saved
  • There’s the Grab utility (in Utilities) which asks where to save the screenshot.
  • Also, there are third party solutions…
  • A script to create uniquely-named screenshots – read the comments for improvements to the script.
  • Using Automatorr (/Applications) you can create your own AppleScript as well. When you launch Automator, select ‘System’ from the Library column, then select ‘Take a Screenshot’ and drag it to the Workflow column. There you can set all sorts of options, such as where to save it to. The other neat options are; what type of screen shot (full screen or selective), a timed setting as well.
  • And yet more…. If you want to use the built-in screencapture and have it same somewhere else you can do this in the terminal:
    defaults write location /Path/To/Location
  • This article covers some of the “extras” for screencapture.
  • You can also do “man screencapture” in if you want to see what options are available there for scripting.
  • Enthusiastic recommendation for Ambrosia Software’s Snapz Pro X. Affordable, flexible, and the support is excellent. Snapz Pro X permits you to select both destination and file type
    on the fly, and gives you the option of capturing a particular object or group of objects (open windows), a selected area, or the entire screen, again on-the-fly, and all from one capture command (which is Command-3 by default, but is user-definable, so you can retain OS X’s built-in screen capture facility, if you wish). Snapz Pro X will capture menus with the cursor visible, and for a bit more money you can purchase the video capture option (nice for creating support docs with video—i.e., you can create QuickTime movies actually displaying the on-screen actions).