Mastering Screenshots of Your Mac

Have you ever wanted to take a screenshot of something on your Mac to share with a friend or colleague? This blog entry will explain the keyboard combinations and a tool that you can use to do just that.

Keystroke Combinations

    The keystrokes used for capturing screenshots are multiple keys that should be pressed and held down together and then immediately released.  By default, the screenshot is saved to your desktop into a file in the following format: “Screenshot <date> <time>.png”, where <date> and <time> are replaced with an appropriate timestamp. However, also holding down the Control key when performing any of the specified key combinations temporarily saves the image to the clipboard instead of to a permanent file. This allows you to copy and paste what you see on the screen into an document creation or image editing application. To cancel any of these operations, press the Escape key before clicking the mouse.

Useful key combinations for screen capturing:

  1. To capture an image of the entire screen, hold down command-shift-3 and release the keys.
  2. To capture an image of a dialog box or other window, hold down command-shift-4 and release the keys. The mouse cursor will temporarily change to a circle icon with crossed vertical and horizonal lines through it. The screen coordinates will be displayed to the right of the icon and will fluctuate as the mouse is moved.  Once the cursor is positioned over the dialog box or window to be captured, tap the space key and then click the mouse once.  
  3. To capture an image of a rectangular portion of the screen, hold down command-shift-4 and release the keys.  Move the mouse to the starting position of the desired rectangle, click and drag to the ending position, and then release the mouse. — Built-in Tool


The built-in tool,, provides a user interface for gathering screenshots. To run the app, open Spotlight Search by clicking the magnifying glass icon in the upper right-hand corner of your Mac’s screen. Type Grab and then hit enter. The application’s menu will appear across the top of your Mac’s screen and its icon will appear in the dock to indicate that Grab is running, but no window will appear until you capture something.

To get started, choose one of the options from the Capture menu.


The top three options work similiarly to the three manual keystroke options described above, whereas the bottom two options provide a 10-second delay in capturing either the full screen or the touch bar, on a newer MacBook Pro.

  1. Selection: When selecting this option, you are instructed how to capture a part of the screen by dragging the mouse over the desired section of the screen.  
  2. Window: When selecting this option, you are instructed how to capture the image of an individual window on the screen. 
  3. Screen or Timed Screen: When selecting these options, you are instructed how to capture an image of the entire screen immediately or with a 10-second delay, respectively. 
  4. Timed Touch Bar: When selecting this option, you are instructed that a screenshot of the Touch Bar will be captured in 10 seconds. 

Upon completing each of these options,  the selected image is displayed in its own dialog box. Clicking the red x in the upper left-hand corner of the dialog box gives you the opportunity to either save the image file, with an appropriate name or delete the image.


NOTE: After dismissing the above dialog box, either by saving or deleting the image file, the Grab application will terminate itself. It must be re-launched for each subsequent screen capture.

Capture away!

Joey Nessif