Mac OS X screenshot secrets

Mac OS X makes it easy to take screenshots—images of your screen or objects on it. But even veteran Mac users are often unaware of the many options available for getting the perfect screenshot. Here's a quick look at these underused options.

Download Macworld Video #161

• Format: MPEG-4/H.264

• Resolution: 480 x 240 (iPhone & iPod compatible)

• Size: 5.8 MB

• Length: 3 minutes, 46 seconds

Show Notes

I mention in the video that, by default, Mac OS X saves screenshots to the desktop, using the name format Screen Shot followed by the date and time. If you don't like this location or name, the free utility Savescreenie lets you choose where screenshots are saved, the base name (the part before the date and time, which is always added), and even the image format.

For even more control, check out Sharpshooter, which lets you choose the name, location, and format of each screenshot as the screenshot is taken. Sharpshooter also gives you an on-the-fly preview of the actual image, letting you delete it immediately if it didn't quite capture what you wanted.

To subscribe to the Macworld Video stream via iTunes, click here.

You can also see a complete archive of all our videos on Macworld’s YouTube channel. Subscribe to that channels and you will be notified whenever we post a new video.

Or just point your favorite podcast-savvy RSS reader to: http://feeds.macworld.com/macworld/video/

Show Transcript

Hi, I'm Macworld senior editor Dan Frakes with this week's Macworld Video Tip.

Mac OS X offers a number of useful options for taking screenshots—images of your screen, or parts of it—that you can use for how-to guides, for sharing with others, or even for sending to tech support. Here's a quick look at those options, including some tricks for getting the best screenshots.

The simplest screenshot option is to snap an image of your entire screen. You do this by pressing Shift+Command+3. The resulting image is saved, one for each connected display, to your desktop with the name Screen Shot, followed by the date and time.

If you don't want the entire screen, press Shift+Command+4. Your cursor changes to a marquee for selecting an area of the screen to capture, with the dimensions of the selected area appearing next to the marquee. Release the cursor button to take the shot.

But what if you want to take a snapshot of a particular object on the screen? Press the shortcut for a selection, Shift+Command+4, but instead of selecting an area, press the Space Bar. The marquee turns into a camera icon that highlights any object or interface element beneath it. Click the mouse button, and the highlighted item—and just that item—is captured in your screenshot.

Here's a quick look at the screenshot I just took of a Finder window using this trick.

A common issue I have is that I select a screen area, but it's not quite the area I want. Instead of starting over, just press the spacebar—this lets you move the entire selection. If you let go of the spacebar, you can continue to resize your selection from there.

Mac OS X also offers some options for controlled resizing. Press the screen-selection shortcut and select an area of the screen, but then hold down the Shift key. This lets you resize your selection in a single dimension, horizontally or vertically, without changing the other dimension. If you need to resize in the other dimension, release the Shift key and then press it again to reset the axis lock.

You can also resize a selection rectangle proportionately. Just hold down the Option key, and drag the mouse cursor away from or towards the center of the rectangle. The rectangle retains its height-to-width ratio while resizing.

You can even combine all these special features for resizing and moving your selection in order to get the perfect screenshot framing.

What if you plan to edit your screenshot immediately? It turns out that if you add the _Control_ key to either your fullscreen or selection keyboard shortcut, instead of saving your screenshot as a file on the desktop, OS X copies the image to the clipboard. You can then paste it right into an image editor. Or you can just open OS X's own Preview app and use the New From Clipboard command.

If you don't like OS X's stock keyboard shortcuts, you can change them by going to System Preferences, clicking the Keyboard pane, and then clicking Keyboard Shortcuts. Select Screen Shots on the left, and you can modify any of the listed shortcuts by double-clicking it.

Finally, here's a bonus tip: If you've ever tried to take a screenshot, but the keyboard shortcut for the screenshot itself performs some other action in the window or program you're trying to capture, ruining your shot, you'll want to turn to Grab, an app inside the Utilities folder. Grab's handiest feature is a Timed Screenshot, which gives you a few seconds to prepare your screen, then takes the shot with no intervention from you. Grab screenshots are then immediately opened in a preview window that lets you save or discard the image.

That's it for this week's tips. Thanks for watching.

Subscribe to the Help Desk Newsletter

Comments