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3 Ways to Capture a Screenshot on an Apple Computer

I am not a computer nerd, but I have found these techniques to be effective.

Many tutorials are geared to PC users. If you have a Mac, you seem to be on your own.

Sometimes you want a picture of all or part of your computer screen. Maybe you would like to just save a copy, use it for a demonstration, or even use it in a tutorial. With a screenshot, you can make anything on your computer screen an image. Once you have the image, you can use it just like any other photograph.

PC keyboards may have a "screenshot" button on their keyboard making a capture of your computer screen image a one-button process. It isn't so obvious or easy for Mac users.

I have identified three ways Mac users can capture an image of their computer screen.

Method #1: Using Keyboard Shortcut Commands

This may be the easiest way to take a screenshot.

The following is a screenshot from that details the options for taking a screenshot on a Mac using keyboard commands. Once you capture the image, it can be saved to your desktop or placed in your Clipboard for use in other documents. To place the image in your Clipboard, you must to hold down the "Control" key while pressing the other keys.

As per these instructions, the screenshot below was taken using the "Command" + "Shift" + "4" shortcut with only this area highlighted.

How to Use the Screenshot

  • Double-clicking on the image icon on your desktop will open the image in Preview. You can make some basic changes to it such as rotate, zoom in or out, flip, or adjust the size. After saving the modified image, you can use it just like any other photo.
  • You can also import the image into other programs capable of making significant changes to it such as Gimp, a GNU Image Manipulation Program. Again, after saving the modified image, you can use it just like any other photo.
  • You can import the image to a website/blog by following the upload instructions for that particular site.

Method #2: Grab, a Utility Program in Your Applications File

Grab is a utility program that comes preloaded on Mac computers. To make this program readily available on your Dock:

  1. First, find the program in the Utilities folder on your Mac hard drive.
  2. Mac HD => Applications => Utilities => "Grab" Icon
  3. Drag the "Grab" icon to your dock.
  4. Anytime you double click on the "Grab" icon on your dock, the "Grab" program will open and you will find its menu bar across the top of your screen.

Using "Grab"

With the "Grab" program open, from the menu bar, under the "Capture" pull down menu (Thumbnail #1 below), you can take a screenshot. Your options include:

  • "Selection" to capture only a part of the screen that you select (Thumbnail #2). (Keyboard shortcut: "Shift" + "Command" + "4") You drag over the portion of the screen you wish to capture. Releasing the click bar captures the area you selected.
  • "Window" to capture a window (Thumbnail #3). (Keyboard shortcut: "Shift" + "Command" + "W") When the window you want is ready, you click on "Choose Window" from the little pop-up screen. Then click again on the window you want to capture.
  • "Screen" to capture the entire screen (Thumbnail #4). (Keyboard shortcut: "Command" + "Z") Click outside the pop-up screen and the screen you want will be captured.
  • "Timed Screen" to capture the entire screen after a timed delay (Thumbnail #5). (Keyboard shortcut: "Shift" + "Command" + "Z") The screen will be captured 10 seconds after you click on "Start Timer" from the pop-up window.

While "Grab" can be quick and easy, it has several limitations:

  • The only Preference you can add is a choice of a pointer that will be placed on the screenshot when you capture it. (The "Preferences" can be opened from the pull down menu under "Grab" on the menu bar or by using the keyboard shortcut: "Command" + ",")
  • The "Grab" screenshot is saved as a ".tiff" file which cannot be opened in a HubPages Photo capsule. You have to save the ".tiff" image on your desktop, open it with "Preview" by clicking on the image icon. Once the image is open in "Preview", you can "save as.." a .jpg" file. The ".jpg" file can be uploaded into your HP Photo capsule.
  • While you can do some limited photo manipulations in "Preview", it does not appear that you can do any in "Grab".

Note: "Grab" is also available from the Preview program from the "File" pull down menu.

Screenshot by Bankscottage

Screenshot by Bankscottage

Method #3: Gimp, Free Online Software

Gimp is free online image manipulation software. I feel it is the best way to take a screenshot because it allows you to do the most with it after you capture it. It is full image manipulation software.

Download the Gimp software to your Mac and place in your "Applications" File on your hard drive. You can then place a copy of the "Gimp" icon on your dock just like you did the "Grab" icon.

To get a screenshot with Gimp (Thumbnails referred to are below):

  • Open your web browser to the page you want to take a screenshot of.
  • Double click on the Gimp icon on your dock, opening the program on top of your web browser page (thumbnail Image #1). You'll notice the toolbar on the left and the Gimp work screen with the menu above it in the middle of the screen.
  • Thumbnail Image #2 is a close up of the Gimp work screen and menu.
  • From the click on the "File" option to expose a pull-down menu, move the cursor down and highlight "Create" to reveal a second pull-down menu. Slide the cursor over to the second pull down menu and highlight "Screenshot" (Thumbnail #3 and #4).
  • Clicking on "Screenshot" will reveal the "Screenshot Menu" (Thumbnail #5).
  • From the "Screenshot Menu", you will have 3 options: Screenshot of a single window, Screenshot of the entire screen, Screenshot of a regional section.
  • Choosing the first option, "Screenshot of a single window and clicking on the "Snap" button in the lower right corner will reveal an icon of a camera. Moving the camera over the various open screens will highlight the screen with a blue tint. (Thumbnail #6 with HubPage screen highlighted in blue, camera not shown). Clicking the blue highlighted screen will open the screenshot of that screen in the Gimp Work screen (Thumbnail #7).
  • Choosing the second option, "Screenshot of the entire screen" and clicking on the "Snap" button will take a screenshot of the entire computer screen (Thumbnail #8).
  • Choosing the third option (with or without delay) "Select a region to grab" and clicking on the "Snap" Button will allow you to select a region of a screen to get a screenshot of (continue to hold the click bar down while you outline the region you want). When you release the click bar, a screenshot will be taken of the region you outlined. (Thumbnails #4 and #5 are examples of regional screenshots).

Note: The difference between Thumbnail #7 and Thumbnail #8. Both were taken with the same browser window and Gimp program open. Thumbnail #7 is a screenshot of a single screen, the browser window (overlapping screens don't show up). Thumbnail #8 is a screenshot of the entire screen, all overlapping screens appear over the browser window.

Try Playing Around With Each Method

I am not a computer nerd, geek, Mac Expert or Apple Genius. Through research, I have found three techniques to take a screenshot on a Mac. By passing these along, I hope you will be able to use your Mac more productively.

I realize all of this can be confusing and overwhelming. It will all make a lot more sense if you play with the suggestions a little.

I think the GIMP Program can be very useful for working with all of your photos even if you never take a screenshot. I get nothing if you do or do not get the program. It is easy for me to recommend because the price is right. FREE!

If you have any tips, suggestions, different, or better ways to take a screenshot with a Mac, please let me know and I will add them to this article.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2012 Mark Shulkosky


Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on November 27, 2012:

Glenn, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Being a Mac user for several years (decades), I'm sure you'll love yours. Let me know if you figure out an easier way to do a screen shot. A simple screen shot with an iPhone is a 2 button process (pushed at the same time).

Glenn Stok from Long Island, NY on November 26, 2012:

I'm in the process of educating myself with everything about the iMac. I'm planning on buying one after aging used Windows PCs all along.

I found you hub very useful. But I'm surprised how complex screen capturing is on the Mac. This is unusual for Apple since they usually focus on making things simple.

Like Steve Jobs used to say... If he can make it work with one button, he would. Oh well. I'm still liking the Mac.

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on June 15, 2012:

Dr Funom Makama thanks for stopping by. Hope the hub was helpful.

Dr Funom Makama from Europe on June 15, 2012:

Beautiful... Well written

Mark Shulkosky (author) from Pennsylvania on May 28, 2012:

Domco, glad my hub could help you out. I think you'll find that you'll love your Mac. They seem . You can check that one out..more logical and intuitive than a PC. I am forced to use a PC at work and it drives me crazy. If this hub helped, I also have another on how to take a screenshot with an iPhone or iPad

Mohan Kumar from UK on May 28, 2012:

Having just received my first Mac desktop this is a timely hub! although I ma a fan of the ipad and phone I have resisted the move to Mac desktop due to perceived limitations. The more I use it the more I feel I should've done the move long ago because of how slick everything seems. Your image capture info is so well put together, succinct and seriously useful for hub editing. Thanks for sharing!voted up and useful.