Screen Captures With Mac OS X

One of the things that puzzled me for a short while when I migrated to Mac OS X and my iMac was how to get a screen shot of some window or segment of a window like I used to do on that Microsoft operating system. In that other OS, there was a screen dedicated to this purpose (i.e., “print screen”), and all you had to do was either hit the <Print Screen> key, or hit <ALT><Print Screen> for the window itself (or, if you are used to PrintKey2000, it was even easier). So how to do this on the Mac? Well actually, there are a number of ways.

The Simple, Quick and Dirty Method

Mac OS X provides a built in facility, via a keyboard shortcut similar to the Windows Print Key method, however, much more powerful. To grab the equivalent image that <Print Screen>, you simply hit <Command><Shift><3> , in that order without letting go of any of the keys as you press them, and Mac OS X copies the screen shot to your desktop in the form of a Portable Network Graphics (PNG) image (BTW, the <3> is not the <3> found on the numeric pad). If you want to copy it straight to the OS clipboard, then add a <Control> in the mix– that is, <Command><Control><Shift><3>. One thing to note, which I haven’t had to opportunity to try with the Windows OS, concerns if you have dual monitors. With the Mac OS X, if you have two monitors, it will create two screen shots– one of each monitor! How cool is that?

The other simple method, and much more powerful than the Microsoft Windows facility, is <Command><Shift><4>. This will provide you with a cursor, and you can drag an area out with your mouse to determine what you want to capture.

But wait! There’s more!

The Grab Utility

The smart people at Apple actually gave you a utility that’s inherently more powerful than Microsoft’s <Print key> method, and I would say, at least as good as the PrintKey2000 utility. This is the Grab utility.

Found in the Utilities folder in Snow Leopard, Grab let’s you capture a single window (like Microsoft’s <Alt><Print Key> method), the entire screen (like Microsoft’s <Print Key> or the built in Mac OS X <Command><Shift><3> method), a selection (like the <Command><Shift><4>), or a Timed Screenshot (no Windows comparison). See Figure 1 for an image of Grab’s capture menu.

This is an image of the Grab utility's capture menu.
Figure 1

If you’re looking on how to capture some image on your desktop, Mac OS X gives you quite a number of tools– all a part of the core OS– no third party utilities that you need to purchase, download or install. All-in-all– I’d say that’s a pretty good deal!

Have fun!

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