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.
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:
Command + Shift + 3 to grab the entire screen
Command + Shift +4 to capture a selected area
Command + Shift + 4 followed by the Space bar to take a screenshot of a selected window.
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 is Capto, a multipurpose screen capture utility for macOS.
This is how so-called scrolling screen capture works with it:
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.
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 60+ Mac apps.
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:
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.
Capto, the 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.
So, here’s how to record your screen with audio:
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 a free month of 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.
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.
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:
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 month, 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.