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How to Take a Screenshot on a Mac and Annotate It


Easily Take Screenshots on Your Mac

Taking screenshots is a handy skill to master. You can use them to save your favorite online content, capture error messages for bug reports, or share something fun with your friends.

Thankfully, on today's Macs, it's never been easier to grab a great screenshot. You can use the built-in screenshot utility or a third-party app. In this article, we will show you how to do both. Here's what you need to know.

The Screenshot Tool in macOS

The latest version of macOS added a revamped screenshot tool that is both quick and convenient. In the past, there were multiple keyboard shortcuts that you needed to remember in order to take a screenshot on a Mac, but in macOS Mojave (or later), you only need to remember one.

If you press Command + Shift + 5 on your keyboard, you will launch a brand new screenshot tool. This handy utility has a toolbar that lets you select from a number of options. From left to right, they are:

  • Capture entire screen
  • Capture selected window
  • Capture selected area
  • Record a screencast video

There is also an Options button. Here you can customize where your screenshots go when they are saved, set a timer to delay capture, and choose whether or not you want the mouse pointer to show in your finished screenshot.


When you capture a screenshot, a small thumbnail of your image will fly to the bottom right-hand corner. You can swipe it away to save it, or click on it to open the annotation tools and markup your screenshot.

See it all in action in the video below.

How to Take Screenshots in macOS

More Screenshot Shortcuts for Macs

Whether you are using Mac OS Mojave or not, there are additional keyboard shortcuts you can use to take a screenshot on your computer. Not everyone is a fan of keyboard shortcuts, but once you learn the ones you need, you will quickly commit them to memory.

Each combination gives you slightly different options, so here is a quick summary of what each one does when you are taking a screenshot on your Mac.

  • Command+Shift+3: Takes a full-screen screenshot and saves it to the desktop.
  • Command+Shift+4: Select the area to capture by clicking and dragging to select the area you need. The resulting screenshot is saved to the desktop.
  • Command+Shift+4+Space Bar: Click an active window to capture a screenshot of an application window and save it to the desktop.
  • Command+Control+Shift+3: Takes a screenshot of your entire screen, and saves it to the clipboard. You can then paste the screenshot into other apps.
  • Command+Control+Shift+4: As above, but this time you can click and drag to select the area you want to capture. The screenshot is saved to the clipboard.
  • Command+Control+Shift+4+Space Bar: Wrap your fingers around this super combo and you can click any active window to save it to the clipboard for later.

Personally, I think the new capture tool is nicer to work with and has more options, but if you are using an older Mac that can't be updated to Mojave, or already have these shortcuts burned into muscle memory, feel free to keep using them. In short, use what works best for you.

Annotating Mac Screenshots With Preview

Macs that are not running Mojave (or later) can still use the same annotation tools, but they live somewhere else. Double-click on any screenshot to open it in the Preview app.

Preview is a versatile app that can be used for all manner of useful things, one of which is annotating screenshots.

Once your screenshot is opened with Preview, click View > Show Edit Toolbar to reveal the annotation tools at your disposal. You can also click the toolbar icon that looks like a pencil inside a square to do the same thing.

There are several tools you can use to annotate your screenshot. They include:

  • Shape tools
  • The arrow tool
  • Text boxes
  • Speech bubbles
  • A crop tool
  • Image resizing tools

See the image below for an indication of which one is which, or simply hover your cursor over the toolbar icon to see a small popup explanation of what each tool does. Once you have marked up your screenshot, go to File > Save or Save as... to make your annotations permanent.

Preview annotation tools

Preview annotation tools

Upgrade Screenshots With Snagit for Mac

If you are serious about your screenshots and want even more annotation options, then Snagit for Mac is about the best you can get. Snagit is a paid app, but you get a lot for your money, and there are discounts for educational institutions, non-profits, and government organizations. You also get great customer support and regular updates.

Snagit has dozens of annotation options, as well as the possibility to create your own custom annotations and save them for future use.

Snagit integrates with Google Drive and other cloud services so that you can import images and export finished screen captures. You can even record some basic video screencasts and share them straight to YouTube, Facebook, and more.

Find out more about Snagit in the video below.

How to Take a Screenshot With Snagit

Overview of Taking Screenshots on Your Mac

So, as you can see, there are plenty of options for capturing screenshots on your Mac, and when you include browser extensions, you will quickly realize that there are a plethora of ways to take a screenshot on a Mac.

The method that you choose will likely come down to personal preference, or how much money you are willing to spend, but all of these options are just a couple of clicks away. Which one is your favorite?

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Jonathan Wylie


Sean on April 23, 2020:

You can use Presentify Mac app to annotate on any screen.