How to Take a Screenshot on Your Mac: The Ultimate Guide

If you’re new to using a Mac, one of the first things you might be wondering is how to take a screenshot. Unlike Windows computers, Macs don’t have a dedicated Print Screen key, so the process might not be immediately obvious. Whether you’re looking to capture the entire screen, a selected area, or a specific window, there are multiple methods you can use. In this article, we’ll explore different ways to take screenshots on your Mac and provide you with the best tools and keyboard shortcuts to accomplish this.

How to Capture a Selected Area

An Apple keyboard with certain keys highlighted.

The fastest way to capture a selected area on your Mac is by using keyboard shortcuts. Simply press the Command + Shift + 4 keys simultaneously. This will transform your mouse cursor into a crosshair. Click and drag to draw a box around the region you want to capture. Release the mouse button, and the screenshot will be saved to your desktop.

How to Capture a Single Window

Apple keyboard with keys marked.

Capturing a single window is just as easy. Follow these steps:

  1. Press Command + Shift + 4 to turn your cursor into a crosshair.
  2. Press the Spacebar. Your cursor will change into a camera icon.
  3. Hover over the window you want to capture. It will be highlighted with a light blue overlay.
  4. Click on the window, and the image will be saved to your desktop.

This method allows you to capture not only windows but also other elements like the desktop, menu bar, dock, or open menus.

How to Capture the Entire Screen

Launchpad has a Utilities folder that contains Screenshot and other useful apps.

To capture the entire screen of your Mac, simply press and hold the Command + Shift + 3 keys simultaneously. This will instantly capture your complete desktop, including the dock, menu bar, and everything else on the screen. You’ll hear a sound effect and see a preview of the screenshot in the bottom-right corner of your screen. From there, you can quickly access editing tools.

Please note that the default image format for your screenshots is PNG. If you prefer not to include the shadow of windows in your screenshots, hold down the Option (or Alt) key while saving the image.

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How to Take a Screenshot Using the Touch Bar

If you have a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar, you can also use it to take screenshots. Here’s how:

  • To capture the Touch Bar display, press Shift + Command + 6.

How to Take a Screenshot Using the Native Mac App

The Screenshot toolbar appears at the bottom of a Mac screen with an arrow pointing to the Capture button.

While keyboard shortcuts are the go-to method for many users, Apple provides a built-in Screenshot app that offers more flexibility and control over your screenshots. This app allows you to set a delay before capturing, enabling you to open menus or prepare your screen. Here are three ways to access the Screenshot app:

  1. Open your Mac’s Launchpad and search for the Screenshot app. Double-click to open it.
  2. Use the Spotlight Search by pressing Command + Spacebar and typing “Screenshot.” Select the Screenshot app from the search results.
  3. Open the Finder, go to Applications > Utilities, and find the Screenshot app.

If you frequently use the Screenshot app, you can keep it in your Dock by right-clicking the app icon and selecting “Keep in dock” from the options menu.

How to Take a Screenshot with the Screenshot Menu

The Screenshot toolbar appears at the bottom of a Mac screen with an outline around the type and an arrow pointing to the Capture button.

The Screenshot app provides a convenient floating toolbar that allows you to capture different types of screenshots. The toolbar displays buttons for full-screen capture, window capture, partial-screen capture, as well as options for recording the screen. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Choose the desired screenshot button from the toolbar.
  2. Click the Capture button to take a screenshot.
  3. The captured image won’t include the Screenshot toolbar.

In the Options menu, you can set a delay for capturing, change the default save location, send screenshots to other apps like Mail or Messages, enable the display of the mouse pointer in the screenshot, and more. If you don’t want the floating thumbnail to appear during quick screenshots, you can turn it off in the Options menu.

How to Print Screen on Mac Using Preview

A screenshot of using Markup in the Preview app.

Preview, the default app on macOS for opening images and PDF files, also allows you to capture screenshots. To use Preview for taking screenshots, follow these steps:

  1. Open the image you want to capture in Preview.
  2. Go to the File menu and select “Take screenshot.”
  3. Choose the desired selection mode based on your preference.
  4. Preview allows you to name the file before saving it to your preferred location.
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Where to Find Screenshots on Mac

By default, your screenshots are saved to your desktop. However, if you find your desktop becoming cluttered, you can change the default location of screenshot saves in the Screenshot app if you have macOS Mojave or later.

To change the file format of your screenshots, you can use Terminal. Simply type the following command (without the quotation marks): “defaults write type” followed by a space and the desired file format (e.g., JPG, PDF). Press Enter to save the changes.

How to Add Annotations to a Screenshot

The Screenshot app on macOS also includes powerful markup capabilities. This means you can easily add highlights, draw arrows, make sketches, add your signature, and more to any screenshot.

How to take a screenshot on your Mac: the best methods in 2023

Here’s how to use the markup tools with the Screenshot app:

  1. After taking a screenshot, select the thumbnail that appears in the bottom-right corner of the screen.
  2. The screenshot will open in a window with the Markup toolbar at the top. This toolbar provides various drawing tools, a text tool, a signature option, and more.
  3. You can create perfect shapes using the Shapes tool, and the Sketch tool helps correct any wobbly hand-drawn shapes like boxes, stars, triangles, ovals, and arrows.
  4. To edit your drawings or annotations, deselect the current tool and use the arrow cursor to adjust their size, position, or color. You can also delete any sketches, text, or signatures by hitting the Delete key.
  5. Once you’re satisfied with your markup, click the Done button at the upper right to save the image. You can also use the Share menu to send the screenshot to other apps or delete it if you no longer need it.
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Screenshot Tips and Tricks

There are a few useful tips and tricks to enhance your screenshot-taking experience on a Mac:

  • Hold the Control key while capturing a screenshot to copy it to the clipboard instead of saving it as a file.
  • Option (or Alt) key can be used to remove the window shadow when taking a screenshot of a window.
  • Holding Option while resizing a partial screenshot allows you to keep the center in place while adjusting the size.
  • Use Command + Shift + 6 to capture the Touch Bar display if you have a MacBook Pro.

How to Take Screenshots on Other Devices

If you own other Apple devices, such as iPhones or iPads, you might be interested in taking screenshots on those devices as well.

  • On iPhones with a Home button, press and hold the Home button and Power button simultaneously to take a screenshot.
  • On iPhones without a Home button and iPads, press and hold the Volume Up button and Power button at the same time to capture a screenshot.

For Windows PCs or laptops, there are various keyboard shortcuts involving the Print Screen key, as well as the built-in Snipping Tool application for capturing screenshots. The same methods apply to Microsoft Surface devices, Windows tablets, or 2-in-1 devices.


Taking screenshots on a Mac is easy once you know the right methods and shortcuts. Whether you prefer using keyboard shortcuts, the native Screenshot app, or the Preview app, you have plenty of options to capture and annotate screenshots on your Mac. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you’ll become a pro at taking screenshots in no time.

For more information about Mac-related topics and updates, visit OnSpec Electronic, Inc, your trusted source for Mac-related products and services.

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