How to Take a Screenshot and Record Your Screen on Mac

Have you ever guided your grandma, who called asking for help, through zipping a file and attaching it to an email? Like, with words? It's literally painful.

There's good reason why "show, not tell" is the rule of thumb for everything from UX design to tech support. So if you need to explain to someone how to do things on Mac, there's no better way than a snapshot, a screencast, or an animated GIF, and in this post we'll show you how to make all of those:


How to grab a screenshot on Mac

Everyone knows there's a keyboard shortcut for that, but clearly not everyone remembers what it is, judging by some 100,000 people googling "how to take a screenshot" every month. Here's a quick reminder for you with the combinations that capture screen on macOS and automatically save the PNG to your desktop:

+ Shift + 3 to grab the entire screen

+ Shift + 4 to capture a selected area

+ Shift + 4 + press Space to take a screenshot of a selected window.

Take a screenshot with keyboard's hot keys

The image will appear on your desktop as a .PNG file.

Take a screenshot with keyboard shortcut

This will suffice if you need to grab just the visible part of your screen, but taking a screenshot of the entire web page will require something more advanced. There are plenty of apps that do that, so you should have no trouble finding a good one. Our personal favorite snipping tool is Capto, a multipurpose screen capture utility for macOS.

Use snipping tool to capture screenshots

Depends on what you want to capture, you can select Capture Fullscreen (^⌘3), Capture Area (^⌘4), Capture Windows(⇧⌘5), Capture Menu (⇧⌘M),  or Capture Floating Panels  (^⌘7). Capto helps you take a scrolling screen capture (Snap active browser URL) as well as recording screencast with audio.

Take a screenshot with Capto

That's it. Now you can choose what you want to do with the screenshot, since Capto gives you freedom to edit it the way you like: add captions and arrows, highlight or underline important parts, and what not. When you're done, you can export the screenshot in the format and resolution you need or share it via Mail, Messages, Dropbox, Google Drive, et cetera. Try to take a capture with Capto: an easy-to-use app that takes capturing and screenshot editing to the next level.

Capto can save you a lot of time when putting together a manual or preparing screenies of an app for the App Store, so be sure to check it out. It's free to try on Setapp, a subscription service with some 100+ Mac apps.


How to record screen activity in a video

Now, when you create tutorials, tech reviews, or bug reports you want to be able to demonstrate everything that happens onscreen in motion, so a snapshot won't do. Fortunately, there's a hundred and one screen recorder apps for that purpose, including Apple's own QuickTime.

To make a screen capture video with QuickTime, do the following:

  1. Launch the app.
  2. Click File in the menu and select New Screen Recording.
  3. In the window that pops up, hit the white arrow to pick which microphone you want to use and whether or not you want to show mouse clicks.
  4. Hit the red recording button.
  5. Follow the instructions to record the whole screen or a selected area.
  6. To wind up the recording, click the stop button in your menu bar.

Now, by using File and Edit menus in the menu bar, you can finalize the video with some basic editing, rename it, and choose where to save or share it.  

Like most default apps, QuickTime is somewhat limited in its functionality. You'll need another piece of software to edit the video you've recorded, so you might as well save yourself the trouble and use one app for both screen capture and post-production.

If you want to know how to record video on Mac easily, try the Capto app we mentioned earlier, is a decent option for that, and what we like about it as compared with QuickTime is that it lets you record screen activity, webcam video, computer audio, and voiceover all at the same time. This is uber important when you need to make a detailed tutorial video or record a webinar. There's much more editing power, too: you can add captions, graphics, and other elements that come in handy in explanatory videos. And, you can mute, fade in, or fade out both of the audio tracks to get professional sound without clicks and keyboard strikes.

This app allows you choose between recording a portion of your screen or the entire Mac screen.

So, here's how to record video from your screen with audio:

  1. Open Capto.
  2. Hit Record at the top of the window and select Screen or Area.
  3. Check the corresponding boxes in the menu that appears to include computer audio, microphone, and camera video.
  4. Hit the red round button to start recording.
  5. Click on the blinking red icon in the menu bar to stop recording.

Record a screen with Capto

Now the video is saved in Capto and is ready for editing. You can play with controls on the left to tweak the sound, trim, add annotations, highlight specific areas, adjust the size and placement of the camera video, and so on. 

With Setapp, you can try Capto for free and decide whether or not it works for your video making needs. Setapp includes Capto along with a few dozen other Mac apps (a video converter, a YouTube downloader, a media player just to name a few) for a monthly cost that's way lower than buying the apps one by one.


How to capture screen in animated GIFs

While GIFs sound more like something from your Twitter feed, they are a surprisingly good  way to make animated screenshots for quick how-tos and issue reports. Oftentimes they work better for those purposes than video, because they are lightweight and will be automatically played in your email or Slack message. Plus, you can use them in tutorial articles like this one without adding too much weight to the page.

Apple hasn't embraced GIFs yet, although with emoji in the Touch Bar already being a thing, you might as well expect a GIF maker in the next macOS update. For now, however, you're going to need a third-party tool for animated screen capture.

Make an animated screenshot

Gifox is one cute little app that does the job well. It settles in your menu bar, so when you need animated screenshots, just open it and record a GIF in a few clicks. Gifox gives you plenty of control over how fast your GIF plays, how many times it repeats, and how high the quality is. Heck, you can even add a fancy shadow to it.

All that makes creating a GIF screencast pretty easy. Here's how you do it:

  1. Open Gifox from your menu bar.
  2. Select Area or Window in the upper left corner.
  3. Follow the instructions to start recording.
  4. Click the Stop button in the menu bar when you're done.

The app will save your GIF to the folder you choose in Preferences, or to your Dropbox/Google Drive account if you connect it. Like Capto, Gifox is free to try on Setapp, so by subscribing you get both apps and can use them for a week, no credit card necessary.

There are more apps on Setapp that make life easier for people creating video tutorials and manuals, so you'll get all the tools you need in one signup. Get your Mac equipped and go share some screen activity — be it a strange bug the QA guy at work has to see, or a quick how-to for your tech-unsavvy loved one.

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