How to take a screenshot on Mac [2021 Guide]

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For many new Apple users, particularly those who are migrating from Windows and are used to that Prt Scrn (Print Screen) button, the answer to the question of how to screenshot on Mac isn’t immediately obvious.

Although it only takes pressing a couple of keys to take a screenshot on Mac, the fact remains that Mac screen capture is something that hasn’t historically felt all that intuitive. For example, in addition to different key commands for screenshotting windows vs. smaller selections, recording video of your screen, for a long time, was only possible through QuickTime Player.

Although macOS Mojave has changed much of this, how to take a screenshot on Mac remains a heavy-hitting search query, as not everyone uses the latest version of macOS. Below you’ll find more information on taking a screenshot on Mac (and capturing video), as well as some useful tools to make your Apple screenshot life easier.

Mac Screenshot Basics

There’s no dedicated button for the print screen on Apple products, but there is a dedicated menu. And some even argue it’s much better! With the release of macOS Mojave, Apple really revolutionized their Mac screenshot utility by adding a single command that opens a screen capture menu. Once you master this command, taking screenshots will feel easy and intuitive. 

Still, Apple’s native screenshot tool only gives you five options on how to capture Mac’s screen. And as you read on, you’ll discover there are many more available with third-party apps. So let’s see what works best for you. 

How to screenshot on Mac 

On macOS Mojave and latere, you can either open the screenshot menu and then choose your way of capturing the screen or use dedicated keyboard shortcuts for every action such as capturing a window or a selected area. macOS versions released before Mojave don’t have the screen capturing menu, but have the commands to capture part of the screen or whole screen.

Capture screen with the screenshot menu 

If you’re a Mojave, Catalina, Big Sur, or Monterey user, you can use ⌘ + Shift + 5 to bring up a screen capture menu that will allow you to: 

  1. Capture Entire Screen
  2. Capture Selected Window(s)
  3. Capture Selected Portion
  4. Record Entire Screen
  5. Record Selected Portion.  
mac screen capture menu

At the right-hand side of this menu, there’s the Options button that lets you (among other things) select where your MacBook screenshot and video output is saved. In other words, anyone looking for an easy answer to the question “how do I take a screenshot on my Mac?” could do a lot worse than upgrading to Mojave in order to streamline the process.

Print screen of a selected area 

We can bet that in 80% cases you take a screenshot of a specific area on your screen. Grab an image, capture a joke from your work chat, or show something on your screen — there are tons of use cases that justify why you print screen a selected area so often. And the obvious thing: if you choose to capture a selected area, you might as well use this method to capture the whole screen — just select it all. This is why, no matter what screenshotting methods you prefer, remember this command: ⌘ + Shift + 4. It will let you quickly print screen a selected area. 

How to take screenshots using the Touch Bar 

If you still think you can’t live without that Windows-style print screen button...does your Mac have the Touch Bar? If yes, you can create a dedicated button for taking screenshots! Here’s how it works: 

  1. Access System Preferences > Keyboard 
  2. Click “Customize Control Strip” 
  3. Choose the location of your screenshot button on the Touch Bar, drag and drop it there, and save the changes.  

Now you can screen grab Mac using nothing but your Touch Bar. Click the screenshot button — this will bring up a screen capture menu. Click “Save To” if you want to change where your screenshots are saved to. Choose what you want to capture: the entire screen, selected area, or window. Then just move your cursor to take a screenshot. 

Third-party macOS screenshot apps

You might notice that, even with the inclusion of ⌘ + Shift + 5 Mac screen capturing menu, the options for taking a MacBook screenshot remain pretty basic. What if you want to take a scrolling capture? The native tool can’t do that. If you’re looking for a snipping tool for Mac that can do a little more, you need to turn to a third-party developer. 

CleanShot X is unbeatable here. The app is tailored for 50+ different changes, which makes it the ultimate screen capturing tool for Mac. You can use CleanShot X to capture screen — whether it’s a window, full screen, area, or even scrolling content, as well as record video and GIFs. While capturing anything on your desktop, you can choose to hide all desktop clutter and disable desktop notifications. Once you have your clean screenshot, open it from the overlay window that pops up, and start editing. You can add annotations, blur specific parts, or draw — CleanShot X will help you customize virtually anything.  

how to take a screenshot with cleanshot


A few not-so-obvious yet cool features to mention are self-timer, screenshot pinning, and internal cloud. Want to capture something with a delay? CleanShot X has a self-timer that will help you pick the right moment. If you want your screenshot to be visible on the screen, pin it to the desktop. Finally, save your screen captures to the internal CleanShot Cloud and get shareable links in a flash. 

cleanshot x cloud mac

If you’re looking for something with a little more emphasis on screen recording, we recommend Capto. In addition to recording video, or just taking a snapshot on Mac, you can also annotate and edit captures in an intuitive iMovie-esque interface.  

capto screenshot editing mac

Capto does wonders if you want to record a video tutorial and share it anywhere. And given its strong visual component, it’s also perfect for those with auditory shyness who would rather add captions than a voiceover. Capto’s built-in organizer is pretty helpful for keeping track of your screenshots too.

Yac is the app you should consider if you need a quick way to share information with your colleagues, without distracting them with calls. We’ve had way too many virtual meetings in our calendars lately, haven’t we? Instead, try this asynchronous voice and video messaging tool, loved by millions of remote workers around the world. 

Just record a quick voice message — you can add a screen recording with annotations and show webcam if you like — and let your teammates check it out when it’s convenient for them. It’s possible to integrate Yac with Slack, so you get notified when someone sends you a yac.

yac mac

Finally, lots of advanced media players have a screenshot tool. This is very handy if you want to capture specific moments in a movie or video — you usually can’t do it when you watch a movie online because most streaming services block screenshot tools. Instead, consider using Elmedia Player to play any media content and capture screenshots on the fly. 

elmedia screenshot mac

All these third-party apps are available with Setapp, so you can try all of them for free. 

How to print screen on Mac with Preview

Preview is Apple’s native image and PDF viewer — probably an essential part of your workflow. Its screenshot tool allows you to grab a part of the screen, window, or entire screen. The benefit of taking screenshots in Preview is that it automatically opens the screenshot you’ve taken in a new Preview window, so you can edit it — resize, add annotations, etc.  

screenshot on mac with preview


How do you take a screenshot on your Mac using Preview? It’s simple. In the app menu, select File > Take Screenshot > choose which part of the screen you want to capture > take a screenshot. From there, you’re free to edit and save your screenshot to any location on Mac. 

Pre-Mojave Mac screenshot commands

If for whatever reason you don’t want to use macOS screenshot menu or third-party apps, then you’ll need to familiarize yourself with two key Mac screenshot shortcut options:

  • ⌘ + Shift + 3

  • ⌘ + Shift + 4

macOS screenshot shortcuts

The first is probably the easiest to get to grips with, and the quickest one to take advantage of when taking a screenshot on Mac, as it captures the entire screen at once. If you’re using multiple screens, it takes a screenshot in macOS for every screen you’re using simultaneously.

The second of the commands represents a slightly more nuanced way to screen capture Mac. Rather than capturing your entire screen, it prompts you to select the area you want to capture. If you follow it up with a press of Space, it allows you to choose the window you want to screencap instead. 

Overall, while these commands do let you print screen Mac, they feel sort of like an afterthought rather than a fully-fledged feature of macOS. With so many people looking into how to screenshot on Mac, it’s not surprising that Apple decided to make it easier with Mojave. 

macOS screenshot organization

If you take a lot of screenshots, you’re probably used to your Downloads folder or Desktop being clogged with images like “Screen Shot 2019-XX-XX at 21.36.15.” Not particularly helpful for keeping all of your images in check, especially when macOS is prone to heavily abbreviating filenames. 

While it’s possible to use Finder in conjunction with Preview to view all of your caps, that still isn’t a satisfying visual experience. One of the best solutions is PhotoBulk, a bulk image editor designed to rename, resize, and compress photos in bulk. Simply drag and drop the screenshots you want to rename, type in the name for the group, and click Start. All your renamed images will be tucked neatly into their own folder.

photobulk screenshots

Pro tip: You can set the exact format of your image names and pick the exact number the count starts from.

How to share Apple screenshots

But even once you’ve solved the question of how to snapshot on Mac, sharing those screenshots with, say, colleagues or friends isn’t necessarily the easiest thing to do. Rather than emailing files back and forth, or having to upload everything to a public Google Drive, you might consider a solution like Dropshare. As the name suggests, it makes sharing screenshots (and other files) as simple as dropping them into the relevant area. 

Dropshare connects with a range of major third-party cloud apps, but you can also lean on proprietary Dropshare Cloud if you prefer, which is helpful if you want to keep your Mac screen capture sharing separate from your other sharing activity.

share Apple screenshots

Conclusion

As you can see from above, learning how to screenshot on Mac isn’t particularly difficult — in fact, now easier than ever thanks to the addition of a dedicated MacBook screenshot and video capture menu in macOS.  

It’s clear from this new feature that Apple understands the print screen Mac trouble for Windows switchers, so you can likely expect to see further improvements to the process in the future. In the meantime, there are some excellent options in the snipping tool for Mac market that facilitate the process and offer a range of diverse features you won’t find among those built-in options for taking a screenshot on Mac.  

Best of all, you can try all the apps mentioned here: CleanShot X, Capto, Elmedia Player, Yac, PhotoBulk, and Dropshare absolutely free with a 7-day trial of Setapp, a membership with over 200 essential apps for any task at hand. Now you’re all set for your screenshotting game.

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