How to screenshot anything on the Mac including the Touch Bar

Learn all the keyboard shortcuts to take screenshots on the Mac, even the Touch Bar too. Plus hidden screenshot settigs

To capture the screen as an image on your Mac ad save it to disk, there are several hotkeys you need to remember. There are also some secret settings to make the task of taking screenshots easier.

Sometimes you need to save what is on the screen, such as an image, a web page showing a purchase you just made, something for a tutorial, project, presentation and so on. This website is full of screenshots for example, and they were all taken using the techniques shown here.

Save the whole screen

To capture the whole screen and save it to the disk drive as an image, press Shift+Command+3 all at the same time. The image file appears on the desktop a second or two later. To view it, click it once to select it and then hit the spacebar. Use pinch and spread on the trackpad to zoom in and out of the screenshot.

It doesn't matter which order you press Shift and Command, so Command+Shift+3 is the same as Shift+Command+3.

Save the window

Sometimes you don’t need to save the whole screen and you want just the contents of one window on the desktop. In this case, press Shift+Command+4, move the mouse over the window you want to capture and press the spacebar to select it. The mouse pointer then turns into a camera. Click the mouse/trackpad and the window is saved as a screenshot. It then appears on the desktop as before.

Save a menu

Suppose you want to grab a screenshot of a menu. Click the menu to show it and the press Command+Shift+4. The mouse pointer changes to a crosshair and you can click and drag over the menu to select it. Release the mouse button to save the selected area.

The contents of a menu can be captured without its title. Click to show the menu. Press Command+Shift+4 and then press the spacebar. The mouse pointer turns into a camera. Move it over the menu and click the mouse/trackpad to capture it and save it to disk.

Save the Touch bar

You might want to save an image of the Touch Bar contents and there is a special key for that. Press Command+Shift+6.

Save to the clipoard

If you want to grab a screenshot to use elsewhere, such as in a document or photo editor, there is no need to save it to disk. It can be saved to the clipboard and then you can switch to another app and paste it in. Add the Control key.

So Command+Shift+3 saves the screen to disk and Command+Control+Shift+3 saves it to the clipoard. Likewise, Command+Shift+4 saves a window to disk, but Command+Control+Shift+4 saves it to the clipboard.

Configure hidden settings

To configure the screenshot function’s hidden settings you could use complicated 'defaults write' commands at the Terminal, but there is an easier way. Go to and download OnyX. Run it and after the introductory screens, select the Parameters icon in the toolbar and the General tab below.

OnyX for OS X

In the middle of the window (near the bottom in the cropped shot above), are some screenshot settings. Click the Screen capture format button and select the file format from the menu.

Screenshots are normally saved as PNG files, but if you always convert them to some other format afterwards, such as JPEG, you can select the JPEG format for screenshots and save having to convert the image files. It is less time and effort.

OnyX screenshot settings for OS X

If you are capturing the desktop as a screenshot, saving the screenshots to the desktop fills it with icons. To keep the screen clear of icons, click the Select button to the right of the Path box and select a folder to save the screenshots to. I created a Screenshots folder in Documents and you can see it in the Path box above.

The filename is ‘Screen Shot’ followed by the date and time it was taken. Use the tick box, Include the date and time in the name of captures to include or remove the date and time in the filename. If you remove it, then screenshots are named Screen Shot 1.png, Screen Shot 2.png and so on. Do you prefer this naming convention?

Down at the bottom of the previous screenshot is Name. This is normally Screen Shot followed by the date/time or a number. A different name could be used, such as Pic instead of Screen Shot. Enter it into the Name box.

If you capture a window using Shift+Command+4, it is normally saved as a flat window to disk like this:

Finder in OS X

There is an option, Display shadow in window captures and when this is ticked, the screen capture looks like this:

Finder on the Mac

There is a fuzzy grey shadow all around the window that was captured and it is sort of 3D. This can look good if you use the screenshot in online or printed publications. The tick box turns the effect on and off.

It is strange that macOS does not present these options elsewhere, such as in System Preferences, because they are quite useful. You can always use OnyX and the utility is free.



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