If you’ve used a Windows-based computer, you may have noticed the Print Screen key, sometimes abbreviated as “PrtScr”. This key dates back to the early 1980s when PCs ran the MS-DOS operating system.
In Windows, it doesn’t literally print the screen, it simply takes a screenshot. That can be handy when you need to capture something on your display.
Unfortunately, the Mac doesn’t have an equivalent key on its keyboard. That doesn’t mean you can’t take screenshots though.
Let’s look at how to take a screenshot on a Mac.
Why Would You Want to Take a Screenshot On a Mac?
There are plenty of reasons you might want to take a screenshot on your Mac. Some of the most common uses include:
- Capturing a receipt or other information for your records
- Snapping a photo or another image from a website
- Showing someone else what you’re looking at on your Mac
Screenshots can be helpful for troubleshooting purposes as well. If you’re contacting customer support for an application you’re having trouble with, including a screenshot of what you see can make it a lot easier for them to figure out what’s wrong.
Built-In macOS Screenshot Features
The Mac’s keyboard might not have a dedicated Print Screen key but macOS (formerly Mac OS X) does have built-in support for screenshots. There are several Mac shortcuts for capturing information on your screen:
- Capture the entire screen
- Capture a custom selection
- Capture a specific application window
Capture the Entire Screen
To capture the entire screen on your Mac, press Command-Shift-3. In other words, hold the Command and Shift keys while you press 3.
macOS will immediately capture an image of what’s on your screen and save it on your desktop. If you have two or more displays connected to your Mac, it will save an image of what’s on each of them.
Capture a Custom Selection
If you want to capture a particular part of your screen, you can select exactly what you want to save by pressing Command-Shift-4. The mouse pointer will change to crosshairs and you can click and drag to highlight the part of the screen you want to save.
Once again, the screenshot gets saved on your desktop automatically.
Capture a Specific Window
If you only want to capture a particular window that’s open on your screen, press Command-Shift-4 but then press the Spacebar before clicking and dragging to make a selection.
The pointer changes to a camera icon instead and you can select any window on your screen to capture. When you hover over a window, it gets highlighted and you can click on the one you want.
As with the first two options, the screenshot gets saved on your desktop.
You can read more about the built-in screenshot features in macOS at https://setapp.com/how-to/screenshot-on-mac.
Marking Up Your Screenshots
If you’re running macOS Catalina (10.15) or later, you’ll see a preview of your screenshot in the bottom right corner of the screen after you capture it. Clicking on the preview opens an editing window that lets you make changes.
You can mark up the screenshot with highlights or arrows, circle important things, crop the image, and various other things from the editor. Once you’ve made the changes you want, click the Done button and the updated image gets saved to your desktop.
Third-Party Screenshot Apps
The built-in screenshot functions in macOS are fine for most users’ needs but sometimes you might want to do more complex things with the images. Or you might need to take more screenshots than a typical Mac user.
In those cases, third-party apps can be more effective.
CleanShot X is one of the more powerful screenshot apps on the Mac. It can handle all the same tasks as the built-in screenshot tools in macOS but it adds a lot more capabilities.
For example, CleanShot X can capture scrolling content. This lets you take a screenshot of a long webpage, capturing the entire page in a single image. It also lets you capture video where the built-in tools will only grab a still-frame image.
CleanShot X also lets you set a delay timer for your captures. This lets you set up your screen exactly the way you want it or click on a menu or something else that disappears when you press the built-in screenshot hotkeys.
Evernote is another powerful screenshot tool on the Mac. It’s designed for much more than just screenshots though. It’s a complete note-taking application.
You can save web pages, create your own text notes, save PDF documents, and much more. The screenshot feature will add those images directly to your Evernote notebook.
One of the biggest advantages of Evernote is that you can sync all your notes between different devices. Evernote is available for the iPhone and iPad, on Android devices, and on Windows PCs so you can use it on all major computing platforms.
Sharing Your Screenshots Online
Sometimes you might want to share your screenshots with someone else. For example, if you’re helping a family member figure out how to do something on their Mac, a screenshot can save a lot of time.
You can always email it to them but there are easier ways to share your screenshots.
An app called Droplr lets you take screenshots and record screencasts on your Mac then share them with other people through the Droplr cloud service. You just capture the screen as either an image or video, upload it to the cloud, and send the provided link to whoever you’re sharing your screen with.
You can also post the link to sites like Facebook and Twitter or anywhere else you can share links.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. That’s as true with modern technology as it has ever been.
Knowing how to take a screenshot on a Mac lets you quickly and easily show other people what you’re looking at or save information for yourself.
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