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Print Screen for Macs

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 by | Filed Under: Mac OS

As with most PC users, the switch over to Mac can be quite frustrating. A lot of the little details we took for granted on our PC systems are nowhere to be seen on a Mac – such as a button dedicated to the print screen command.


The print screen command creates an image file, which contains what you view on your screen at a chosen moment in time. It is a very useful tool for peer-to-peer sharing, and can come in handy in a range of situations.


If, like me, you took full advantage of the print screen button and didn’t think to explore other methods, you will be amazed to see the range of options available for Mac users. Rather than pushing a single button, you have to input a keyboard combination, which varies based on which method you wish to use.


Change Saving Location

By default, the save location for a print screen file is the Desktop. Whilst this may be suitable for most, others might want to use a specific folder. To set this up, you need to create the folder; open finder, then click File > New Folder. Type in the name of your folder and hit the return key.

Tip: Be aware, the folder you create will be saved to the location displayed in the finder window. In my case, this is Documents.


Next, we need to open Terminal. Either click Macintosh HD > Applications > Utilities > Terminal, or simply search “Terminal” using the spotlight search function.


Once you’ve got the Terminal window open, copy and paste the following phrase (don’t forget to remove the quotation marks):


“defaults write location ”


Next, return to the folder you created and drag it into the Terminal window. Your window should look a little something like this, at which point you simply press the return key to activate.


Finally, copy and paste the following phrase and press the return key to reset the Terminal; this is very important or else the changes won’t take effect:


“killall SystemUIServer”

Phew! Now that’s over with, we’re ready to learn the key combinations. Remember, this step is only necessary if you DO NOT want your print screen files saved to the Desktop.


Full Screen

The first option is to capture your entire screen. Make sure everything you want to view is visible, and minimise anything you don’t. Press Command+Shift+3 and you’ll be left with an image like this saved to your chosen location. The file will be named “Screen Shot (date) at (time).”


Tip: no matter which print screen command you use, a camera shutter sound will let you know that the image has been captured.


Selected Area

Another option is to print screen a selected area of the screen. Press Command+Shift+4 to activate the selection tool, which will transform your cursor into a crosshair. Click and drag the crosshair to create a selection box around the area you wish to capture. Once you let go of the mouse, your image will be captured and saved to your chosen location.


Open Window

The final option is to capture an open window. Press Command+Shift+4 followed by the Spacebar to transform your cursor into a miniature camera. Hover the camera over the window you wish to capture and the window will be highlighted blue. Click the highlighted window to capture it, and it will be saved to your chosen location.


Save to Clipboard

As you may recall, using the print screen button on a PC will save your captured image to the clipboard, allowing you to paste it in a document or an image-editing program. This is also possible on a Mac by adding the Control key to the original combinations:


Full screen: Command+Control+Shift+3

Selected Area: Command+Control+Shift+4 (then select your area)

Window: Command+Control+Shift+4 followed by Space Bar (then click a window)


Once saved to the clipboard, simply open up your chosen program (I’m going to use Word) and press Command+V to paste.


That’s all for today!

 – Nade

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