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How to Take a Screenshot on a Mac: 4 Methods to Take a Picture of Your Screen


How to Take a Screenshot on a Mac

Most of Apple's venerable Macs now come in new M1 and M2 versions, but screenshotting is still done in the same way.

If you own a recent Mac, such as a MacBook laptop, an iMac all-in-one computer, a Mac Mini desktop, or a Mac Studio desktop, there are three standard keyboard shortcuts you can use to snap screenshots. There is even a fourth method if you have a MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar. You also have a good number of options in Apple's MacOS software to quickly save, remove, and open the screenshot for annotation.

These guidelines also apply to the newest Macs, such as the M2 MacBook Air and the recently updated 13-inch MacBook Pro with a new M2 chip. These suggestions have been tried and true in the most recent Mac operating system update, MacOS Ventura, as well.

Method 1: Cmd-Shift-3

This keyboard shortcut captures a screenshot of your entire screen.

Method 2: Cmd-Shift-4 

Use this keyboard combo to turn your cursor into a crosshair, which you can drag to select a portion of your screen to capture. Release the mouse button or trackpad to take the shot.

You have a number of other options after hitting Cmd-Shift-4:

When the spacebar is pressed and then released, the crosshair changes into a tiny camera icon that you can move over any open window. To take a screenshot of the window you want, click on it. This method produces screenshots with a white border around the window and a faint drop shadow.

After dragging to highlight a region, hold down the spacebar while still holding down the mouse button or trackpad: This allows you to move the selection area on the screen while locking in its size and shape. If your initial selection area is off by a few pixels, you can easily reposition it by holding down the spacebar before releasing the mouse button to take a screenshot.

Holding down the Shift key locks in all sides of the crosshairs-made selection area except the bottom edge, allowing you to move your mouse up or down to position the bottom edge after dragging to highlight an area but before releasing the mouse button or trackpad.

Reposition the right border of your selection area by releasing the Shift key while continuing to hold down the mouse button. By holding down the Shift key while using the mouse button or touchpad, you can switch between moving the bottom and right edges.

Method 3: Cmd-Shift-5

A shortcut command introduced way back in MacOS Mojave in 2018, Cmd-Shift-5 calls up a small panel at the bottom of your display with your screen capture options. There are three screenshot buttons that let you capture the entire screen, a window or a selection of your screen. 

Likewise, the two video-recording buttons let you record your entire screen or a selection of it. On the left is an X button to close the screenshot panel, but you can also just hit the Escape key to exit out.

There is an options button on the right side. You can set a 5- or 10-second delay to allow you to line up items that might otherwise disappear when you use your screenshot tool. It also lets you choose where to save your screenshot: Desktop, Documents, Clipboard, Mail, Messages, Preview, or Other Location.

The Show Floating Thumbnail option, which by default is enabled, displays a tiny preview thumbnail of the screenshot you just took in the lower-right corner of your screen, much like how iOS handles screenshots. On your Mac, you have the option to disable this preview thumbnail, unlike on your iPhone. Finally, you can decide whether to include a screenshot or video of your mouse pointer.

If the screenshot panel is in your way, you can grab its left edge and drag it to a new spot on your screen.

Bonus for Touch Bar MacBooks: Cmd-Shift-6

If you've got an older 15- or 16-inch MacBook Pro or a current 13-inch MacBook Pro, which is the very last model with the Touch Bar, you can also take a screenshot of what's currently showing on the Touch Bar. Just hit Cmd-Shift-6 to take a very wide and skinny screenshot of your Touch Bar.

Easy annotation

You'll have quick access to Markup tools to annotate your screenshot if you use the Floating Thumbnail. It will be saved to the location where you most recently saved a screenshot whether you swipe away the floating thumbnail or just let it disappear on its own. Click the Floating Thumbnail and it'll open in a Markup View preview window (but not Preview) with all of the markup tools you get in Preview.

You can right-click the Floating Thumbnail to:

  • Save the screenshot to your desktop, Documents folder or clipboard
  • Open it in Mail, Messages, Preview or Photos
  • Show in Finder
  • Delete
  • Open it in the Markup preview window described above
  • Close (and save)

Longtime Mac screenshotters may be slow to adopt the Cmd-Shift-5 shortcut, but I find myself using it more for the ability to annotate screenshots without needing to open Preview, and quickly delete screenshots that I know immediately I messed up. The 5- and 10-second delay options are also useful and appreciated additions


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