Print Screen on a Mac

John WordsworthTechnology8 Comments

As many of you are aware, I’ve recently converted to a mac through the purchase of a Mac Book laptop. I also tried to convert my desktop life, but after some horrible experiences with the screens on the new iMac’s, I’ve decided that will have to come much later down the road in our business when we can afford a Mac Pro for my desk (where I get personal control over my desktop).

This week, I’ve mostly been playing with the Print Screen options / Screen Capture options. Previously, I’ve only used a couple of the plethora of screen capture options that OSX offers, but I thought it time to get a definitive list of the (hard to remember) key combinations available, mostly for my own reference.

So, putting Windows to shame, you can actually save a screen capture as a JPEG file with a mouse click. This would be a great addition to windows and would definitely stop me from receiving emails that are 5Mb with 2 BMP screen caps in that I’ve been receiving a lot of recently. An overview of the commands are;

Saving a Screen Capture Direct to a JPEG File

⌘ ⇧ 3: Capture the entire screen to a jpeg file on the desktop.

⌘ ⇧ 4 (Followed by Drag): Capture the selected area of the screen to a jpeg file on the desktop.

⌘ ⇧ 4 (Then Spacebar, Then click on a window): Capture selected window (and sometimes a border) to a jpeg file on the desktop.

Saving a Screen Capture to the Clipboard

⌘ ⇧ Ctrl + 3: Capture the entire screen to the clipboard.

⌘ ⇧ Ctrl + 4 (Followed by Drag): Capture the selected area of the screen to the clipboard.

⌘ ⇧ Ctrl + 4 (Then Spacebar, Then click on a window): Capture selected window (and sometimes a border) to the clipboard.

Using these Commands

It’s important to push all of the auxiliary keys for your command before pushing the number key. So if you want to capture the screen to the clipboard, ensure that you are holding down Cmd (⌘), Shift(⇧) and Ctrl first, and then hit the 3 key. If you are copying to the clipboard, OSX should still make the camera-snap sound effect, but will not leave a file on your desktop. You can then paste the item from your clipboard into a Pages or Keynote document.

John WordsworthPrint Screen on a Mac

8 Comments on “Print Screen on a Mac”

  1. Kate


    I need the screen capture to clipboard and that is how I found your article, but it is not working. It doesn’t recognize the ctrl and I’ve tried putting it first as well. It just does the capture to desktop. Please elaborate on how to do that


    1. John Wordsworth

      Hi Kate. The key is to holding down the Cmd, Alt and Shift keys altogether first, and then to press the 3 key on your keyboard last. OSX should then make the screen capture sound effect, but it will not produce a file on your desktop. From there you will need to load up your image editing software (or Keynote / iWork document) and paste the data into your document. I’ve updated the article to hopefully make this a little bit clearer and I’ve tested the above key combinations with OSX Lion using an Apple Keyboard.

      If you are not using an Apple Keyboard (perhaps you are using a separate USB Keyboard with a MacMini) then there is a possibility that your keyboard won’t register that many keys being pushed at the same time. I’ve found in the past with some USB keyboards, certain 3 or more button key combinations simply do not register. It’s something to do with how the keyboards are built. For instance, on an old USB keyboard I had – if I held down Ctrl and Shift, then the W key simply wouldn’t register (so I couldn’t walk forward while crouched in an old game I used to play). If this is what’s happening, then you either need to try a different keyboard or you might have to settle for capturing the data to a file on your desktop and then dragging and dropping that file into your editor / document.

      Hope this helps – let me know if this is still causing headaches!


      Michelle!!! I love it!!!! I absolutely love it!!! I will have to get that stamp set and TRY to duplicate it. (That is a frustrating process, but it does teach me to appreciate your talents even more!)

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      I’m not in the Phoenix area but I’ve been told by quite a few people I should start my own podcast. Then again, maybe it’s just their kind way of telling me that they’re tired of listening to my rants and monologues….

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