How to take screenshots on your Mac with the Screenshot app

MacOS Mojave and newer versions include a screen capture app called Screenshot. Not only does this app unify the screenshot and screen recording features on the Mac, but the new overlay interface gives you quick access to every traditional Mac screen capture option without having to memorize complicated keyboard shortcuts. In this guide, we show you how it works, and how to use it to take screenshots, as quickly as possible, on your Mac. Let's get the fun started:

NOTE: This guide covers macOS Mojave or newer. The functions shared in our guide do not work on older versions of Mac OS.

How to access the Screenshot app in macOS Mojave

There are many ways to access the Screenshot app in Mac OS. The easiest is by using the default keyboard shortcut: Command (⌘)-Shift-5.

The keyboard shortcut for taking screenshots on a Mac

Another way is to open your Applications folder. Press the F4 key to do that. Then, go to Other.

The Other folder on a Mac

Now you see a list of system apps. Click the Screenshot shortcut, highlighted below.

The Screenshot app on a Mac

You can also search for the Screenshot app via Spotlight and open it from there, like any other application, by clicking on the appropriate search result.

Finding the Screenshot app on a Mac

Either of these methods should open the Screenshot app. When the app is opened, you see a toolbar with screenshot-taking options at the bottom of your display. Hovering over each button in the toolbar provides a short description of what it does.

The toolbar of the Screenshot app

If the placement of the toolbar is inconvenient, you can grab it (the left-hand side edge allows for the best grip) and drag it somewhere else on your screen. To exit the Screenshot app and cancel taking a screenshot, you can press the esc key or click the x button on the app's toolbar.

How to capture the entire screen of a Mac

Clicking the Capture Entire Screen button transforms your pointer into a small camera. For the next step, you can press Return on your keyboard, click Capture on the toolbar or click or tap anywhere on the screen to capture the screen.

Capture Entire Screen on a Mac

If you use multiple displays, click inside a screen to capture that screen. This way, you can make a full-screen capture of just one of your displays. If you press Capture while using multiple displays, multiple screenshots are going to be made, one for each of your displays.

How to capture an app window on a Mac

Clicking the Capture Selected Window button transforms your pointer into a small camera.

Capture Selected Window on a Mac

Next, different windows and menus (including the dock) become highlighted when you hover over them. You can then click to capture the window that you want in your screenshot.

Choosing the window to capture in a screenshot

The resulting screenshot includes the window's shadow. To take a screenshot without the shadow, press and hold the Option key on your keyboard, while clicking to capture the window that you want.

The Option key on a Mac's keyboard

This allows you to get rid of the space around the image and can be useful if you upload images to certain websites. To get a better perspective, see the comparison below, where you see the same screenshot with, and without the shadow on its edges.

Screenshots with a shadow or without the shadow

How to take a screenshot of a portion of the screen

Clicking the Capture Selected Portion button allows you to draw a frame on the screen, and take a screenshot of what is found inside the frame. If no frame is visible, your pointer turns into a crosshair, allowing you to select an area on your screen. This action automatically frames the selected area. Inside the frame, the pointer transforms into a small hand, allowing you to click and drag the target area. Moving the pointer to the frame edges transforms it into arrows allowing you to drag the edges and adjust the area of the screenshot.

When you are satisfied with your selection, press Return on your keyboard, or click or tap Capture on the toolbar to take a screenshot of the framed area.

Capturing a portion of the screen on a Mac

TIP: Pressing Spacebar on your keyboard while the Screenshot app toolbar is activated allows you to toggle between the Capture Selected Window and Capture Selected Portion.

How to customize the way screenshots are taken

The screenshots made on your Mac are saved automatically as PNG files with the format "Screenshot date at time.png". For example, you see files named "Screenshot 2019-02-06 at 13.07.25.png" which means a screenshot made on the sixth of February, 2019, at 13:07:25.
If you want to change how your screenshots are made on your Mac, clicking the Options button of the Screenshot app opens a menu that allows you to change several settings. Let's explain them one by one:

Customize how screenshots are taken on a Mac
  • Save to - you can choose where your screenshots are saved. By default, all screenshots are saved to your Desktop, but you can choose Documents or a custom folder of your choosing. Other useful saving locations include storing the screenshot in the clipboard, or apps like Mail, and Messages, so that you can send it quickly to someone else. You can also store a screenshot in the clipboard at any time, without selecting this option as default, by pressing and holding the Control key on your keyboard while clicking to capture the screenshot. If Preview is selected, the screenshot opens in the Preview app allowing you further options.
  • Timer - this section allows you to set a delay for your screenshots. You can choose None to take the screenshot immediately, or you can select a delay of 5 or 10 seconds after clicking the Capture button. If you select to delay the screenshot taking, a timer with the duration of the delay is displayed next to the Capture button. After clicking to capture, a countdown appears, and your screenshot is taken when the countdown completes. Hovering over the countdown gives you the option to Cancel the screenshot.

The last section is named Options, and it includes three settings:

  • Show Floating Thumbnail - when this option is selected, a thumbnail of the screenshot you just captured appears for a few seconds in the lower right section of your screen. This can be a useful little preview if you are trying to capture a specific event but can become a problem if you need to take successive screenshots. The floating thumbnail can be swiped away to the right if you want it to disappear faster, or it can be dragged to move the respective screenshot to another location. Also, you can click the thumbnail to open the screenshot and edit it.

  • Remember Last Selection - when enabled, this option remembers the exact location of your previous screenshot selection, when using the Capture Selected Portion option. It is useful when you need to take screenshots of the same dynamic area like a YouTube video or a webcam feed. When this option is disabled, there is no frame visible when you click the Capture Selected Portion button.

  • Show Mouse Pointer - when this option is selected, the mouse pointer becomes visible in the screenshots that you capture.

TIP: If you are interested in recording the screen of your Mac, you should read: How to record the screen of your Mac with the Screenshot app.

Do you know the movie featured in our screenshots?

If you stayed with us and read this entire tutorial, thank you! We like to think that you enjoyed it.

Also, is there any chance that you can settle a friendly internal bet we have going? My chief-editor Ciprian likes the wallpaper I used but does not think that many people will recognize it, while I believe the movie is quite popular. So please take a minute and let us know in a comment if you know the movie and that should get him to buy me a chai latte. :)