How to take a Screenshot on a Mac

how to take a screenshot on a macDespite the Mac’s friendly interface for new computer users, many Mac users who already know how to use Windows computers struggle with the switch. Normal short-cuts don’t seem to work. “Where’s the right-click?” “How do you copy-paste?” “How to screenshot?”

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Many computer enthusiasts and programmers prefer the PC for its more open structure, but there’s big money in understanding Apple’s GUIs–just ask anyone learning to program iPhone or iPad apps–and in reality, many of those beloved short-cut functions are shorter or easier on a Mac. While PC screenshots require print-screening, opening a tedious Paint application, and then copy-pasting, Mac users just have to press three buttons to get perfect high-resolution jpegs right on the desktop. Ready? It’s literally as simple as 1, 2, 3.

1. Hold down the shift key. Do not let go.

2. Hold down the command key. That’s the Apple key, or the key with the little swirly box, right next to the space bar. It says command on it. Keep your fingers on both of these keys.

3. Hold down the number 3.

That’s it! If you have the volume up, you’ll hear a “ka-chink” sound, like the shutters of an old camera, to let you know you’ve taken a picture. You’ll find your screenshot on the desktop, titled “Screen Capture” or “Screenshot” and then the date.

If you’d like to modify your screenshot, there are a few other short-cuts you can take:

Command-Shift-4: Use this to select just an area of your screen. You can either press these three buttons, and click the window you want to screenshot, or press these three buttons and use the mouse to select an area you like. Just like with command-shift-3, this combination will put a jpeg on your desktop.

Add Control: You can simply press down the control button in addition to either command-shift-3 or command-shift-4. That takes the screenshot of the whole screen, window, or area you selected, and saves it to your clipboard. Then you can copy-paste it wherever you want.

Grab: Finally, there’s a Grab application under Applications/Utilities/ that will get screenshots for you.

Here are a couple other “short-cut translations” from Mac to PC:

  • Copy-paste: Remember control-C and control-V on the PC? Now it’s just command-C and command-V. Just as easy.
  • Right-click: Depress the control key while you press the mouse. This is the only shortcut that’s arguably more difficult to use on the Mac, and even that’s just a slight step to the side for your index or middle finger. (If only we could do this on our iPhones!)
  • Quit application: command-Q. This is a good one to use, because frequently PC users will try to press the little red button in the corner to close Mac applications–while unknown to them, the application continues running in the Finder’s background. Mac applications don’t close with the little red button: you have to go “File-Quit.” Better just remember the command-Q shortcut. It’s faster than moving the mouse anyway!
  • Control-Alt-Delete: Click on the Apple in the right hand corner of the Finder. You’ll see a “Force Quit” option, which includes a little shortcut.

You’ll find plenty more short-cut tips in the Mac Dojo Short-cut Experts Course here at Udemy. For those who really need personalized help to get started, there’s always the One on One Apple Personal Training for Mac, and on the other end of the spectrum, if you’d like to delve a little deeper into hardcore programming, there’s a free Stanford University programming course that includes Python, C, C++, Assembly, and several other languages. Enjoy the ease, productivity boosts, and fun new world of your Mac, and let us know if there’s anything we can do to make your switch smoother!