Master Screenshots on OSX

Screenshots are something of a daily occurrence these days, but did you know you can do so much more with screenshots on your Mac?

Need to know

In order to avoid using the Capture app built into OS X, there are universal keyboard shortcuts that you need to know. Here’s a few you should try to remember and their specific properties. Try each one as we go to get a better understanding.

  • ⌘⇧3 : Capture the whole screen with no delay.
  • ⌘⇧4 : Select a rectangular portion of the screen to capture.
  • ⌘⇧4+Spacebar : Move mouse over a window to highlight and click to capture the window.

By default, each screenshot will be saved as a PNG file on your desktop, but if you prefer to use the screenshot directly in a document for example, you would simply hold Ctrl while taking the screenshot in order to have it saved to the clipboard.

This would come in handy when taking a quick screenshot to send to a contact without the intention of conserving it.

Default Settings

As default, screenshots are saved to the desktop as PNG files and called Screen Shot followed by the date and time at which it was created. If you would like something a little more custom then don’t worry, i’ve got you covered.

In order to change the default settings we will use the Terminal, which can be found in Applications Utilities.

To change the format of the screenshot image, use the following command, changing abc for bmp, jpg, pdf, pict, png or tiff as required:
defaults write com.apple.screencapture type abc

To change the location of the screenshot image, use the following command, changing abc and 123 to the folder path you wish:
defaults write com.apple.screencapture location ~/abc/123/ 

To change the name of the screenshot image, use the following command replacing abc by your desired name:
defaults write com.apple.screencapture name "XXX" 

Screen Shot will now be replaced by your desired name as default, followed by the date and the time the screenshot was taken.

In order for the changes to become active, use the following command or restart your mac :
killall SystemUIServer

All these are demonstrated in the image below.


If you don’t feel comfortable messing around in Terminal, there is a program called Onyx which provides a GUI to make the changes.

Go to Parameters, you will see a drop down box for Screen capture format as well as a Path and Name field to fill.





Peter Fields

My name is Peter, I currently live in the UK but love to travel with my wife Claire. This blog is my journey through life with Technology.

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