Taking super-quick screenshots

Camera lensScreenshots are great when you need to illustrate an article, troubleshoot an app, or even just show off your cool  desktop. To take screenshots of your Mac screen, you can fire up the Grab utility (in Applications/Utilities), which does a pretty good job. Or you can use built-in keyboard shortcuts to take instant screenshots at any time:

  • To take a screenshot of the whole screen, press Command-Shift-3.
  • To capture a selected area of the screen, press Command-Shift-4. The mouse pointer changes to a crosshair. Now drag out a selection rectangle over the area you want to capture, and release the mouse button. (If you decide you don’t want to capture anything after all, hit Esc.)
  • To grab a specific window, the menu bar, a menu, or the Dock, press Command-Shift-4 then hit the Space bar. The mouse pointer changes to a spiffy looking camera. Move the mouse over the item to highlight it, then click the mouse button to grab it. (Again, you can press Esc if you want to back out.) You can even capture a pop-up menu like this: right-click (or Control+click) to bring up a pop-up menu, then follow the above steps to highlight the menu and click.

By default, the Mac saves your screenshots as .png files on your desktop (as opposed to Grab’s TIFF files). If you’d rather save the screenshots straight to the Clipboard, ready for pasting into Photoshop or a similar app, hold down Control at the same time. This saves cluttering your desktop with temporary screenshot files.

Unfortunately, neither Grab nor the built-in keyboard shortcuts can capture your mouse pointer as well. (Well, Grab sorta can, but you have to choose from a limited range of pointers in its Preferences; you can’t grab the actual active pointer.) If you need to do this, check out third-party utilities like Snapz Pro, which offers mouse pointer grabbing, and all sorts of other goodies besides.

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One Response to “Taking super-quick screenshots”

  1. Cat Says:

    Great tip! Really useful.