Taking a Screenshot on Mac: 4 Simple Ways to Do It

Taking a Screenshot on Mac: 4 Simple Ways to Do It

If you own any kind of modern Mac — including MacBook laptops, iMac all-in-one or Mac Mini and Mac Studio desktops — there are three basic ways to take a screenshot using keyboard shortcuts. MacBook Pro owners can use the Touch Bar for a fourth method. Apple’s MacOS software also gives you a fair number of options to easily save, delete, and open the screenshot for formatting.

These tips also apply to the latest Macs, such as the recently updated 13-inch MacBook Pro with a new M2 chip and the M2 MacBook Air. We also tested these tips to confirm that they work MacOS Venturathe latest operating system update.

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How to take Mac screenshots


Method 1: Cmd-Shift-3

This keyboard shortcut captures a screenshot of your entire screen.

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Method 2: Cmd-Shift-4

Use this keyboard combination 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:

Press and release the space bar: The crosshair turns into a small camera icon that you can drag over any open window. Click on the desired window to take a screenshot of it. A screenshot taken using this method has a white border around the window with a bit of a bump.

Press and hold the space bar (after dragging to highlight an area, but before releasing the mouse button or trackpad): This locks in the shape and size of the selection area, but lets you reposition it on the screen. This is very handy if your initial selection area is a few pixels off; just hold down the spacebar to reposition it before releasing the mouse button to take a screenshot.

Hold down the Shift key (after you drag to highlight an area, but before you release the mouse button or trackpad): This locks on each side of the selection area made with the crosshair, saving the bottom edge, so you move your mouse up or down move to position the bottom edge.

Without releasing the mouse button, release the Shift key and press it again to reposition the right side of your selection area. You can toggle between shifting the bottom edge and the right edge by holding down the mouse button or touchpad and pressing the Shift key.

Method 3: Cmd-Shift-5

A shortcut command introduced in MacOS Mojave in 2018, Cmd-Shift-5 brings up a small panel at the bottom of your screen with your screen recording 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 press the Escape key to exit.

Mac screenshot options

Your CMD+Shift+5 options.

Dan Ackerman/CNET

On the right is an Options button. It lets you choose where to save your screenshot – Desktop, Documents, Clipboard, Mail, Messages, Preview or other location, and sets a 5 or 10 second delay so you can line up items that might otherwise disappear when you your screenshot tool.

By default, the Show Floating Thumbnail option is enabled, which places a small preview thumbnail of your just-captured screenshot in the lower right corner of your screen, similar to the screenshot procedure with iOS. Unlike on your iPhone, you can turn off this preview thumbnail on your Mac. Finally, you can choose to show your mouse pointer in a screenshot or video.

If the screenshot panel is in your way, you can grab the left side of it and drag it to a new location on your screen.

Bonus for Touch Bar MacBooks: Cmd-Shift-6

If you have an older MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar, you can also take a screenshot of what’s currently showing on the Touch Bar. Just press Cmd-Shift-6 to take a very wide and slim screenshot of your Touch Bar.

long thin screenshot of a MacBook's Touch Bar

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Easy annotation

Embracing the floating thumbnail gives you quick access to annotation tools to annotate your screenshot. You can swipe away the floating thumbnail or just let it slide away on its own and it will be saved in the location where you last saved a screenshot. Click on the floating thumbnail and it will open in an annotation view preview window (but not preview) with all the annotation tools you 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 use it more for the ability to annotate screenshots without opening Preview, and quickly delete screenshots that I know right away i messed up The 5 and 10 second delay options are also useful and appreciated additions.

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