How to choose a better screenshot in macOS

Some extra keys can help you shape your screen selection better.

Creating screenshots of parts on your Mac screen can be a useful tool when you’re trying to remember settings or action sequences or explain them to others. I know that I am an odd person as a technology writer, as I constantly capture screen pieces to write these columns. But my letters to readers over the years show that a lot of you also use built-in screenshot tools (and in some eras, third parties).

Also for many years, Onefctv has been referring to basic and advanced features, but Apple continues to impress with how the screen capture feature works, so this is a fairly complete refresh that includes some secrets that I just learned a few days ago from Twitter.

In macOS 10.14 Mojave, Apple removed the age-old Grab app, a screenshot gadget with some features that go beyond what you can manage with keystrokes. Instead, it embeds most of those features into a new shortcut. From the keyboard, you can now press:

  • Command-Shift-3: Captures all active monitors into separate files.
  • Command-Shift-4: Capture the selection you drag to determine.
  • Command-Shift-5: Capture a selection, window, menu, or screen, record a video, or modify your screen capture settings.
  • Command-Shift-6: Capture the Touch Bar on a Mac to be equipped.

Add the Control key while pressing Command-Shift-3 or -4, and the screenshot is copied to the clipboard instead of saved to your drive. You can paste it into any image editing browser, like Preview or Pixelmator. (Instead, use Command-Shift-5 and click Options to change the storage location of all the next screenshots; destinations include the Clipboard.

Command-Shift-4 (also available through Command-Shift-5 when clicking Capture selected sections) is one of the most versatile tools, although its options are virtually hidden.

You can capture a menu by clicking on it, pressing Command-Shift-4, and then moving the cross icon above it. Capture a window first by pressing the key combination, then moving the crosses up there. In both cases, finally, press the space key to mark the item you want. Click the item or press Return or Enter to shoot.

You can also press Command-Shift-4, drag a rectangle, and then press one of the following editing tools to change the selection while holding down the mouse or touchpad button:

  • Add a space key, and you can move the current selection around the screen or monitors without changing its size.
  • Add Shift, and you can drag the wider or narrower selection that is limited horizontally or vertically depending on how you start dragging after holding down the Shift key.
  • Add Options and expansion or contract options simultaneously in all four directions.
  • Add both Shift and Option and bind both horizontally or vertically.

When you re-shape the selection that includes Shift, dropping the key captures the selection in a direction perpendicular to any position of the cursor — that is, it moves it horizontally to meet the cursor if you limit it vertically and vice versa.

To avoid that, don’t release the Shift key. Instead, release the mouse or touchpad button, or click the right button of the mouse or equivalent button. This immediately captures the selection without resizing it.

Written by Im Fox


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