The basic functionality of taking a screen capture of a window or desktop in Mac OS X takes an image and dumps it to a file on the Mac desktop. Each uses the pressing of Command and Shift keys concurrently as the basis for execution, followed by a number:

  • Command+Shift+3: takes a screenshot of the full screen (or screens if multiple monitors), and save it as a file to the desktop
  • Command+Shift+4: brings up a selection box so you can specify an area to take a screenshot of, then save it as a file to the desktop
  • Command+Shift+4, then spacebar, then click a window: takes a screenshot of a window only and saves it as a file to the desktop
How to Print Screen to the Clipboard on a MacThis functions a lot more like Print Screen in the Windows world. If you want to do the equivalent of Print Screen to the clipboard so that you can paste it into another app, these are the commands you’d want to use:

  • Command+Control+Shift+3: take a screenshot of the entire screen (screens if multiple monitors), and saves it to the clipboard for pasting elsewhere
  • Command+Control+Shift+4, then select an area: takes a screenshot of selection and saves it to the clipboard for pasting elsewhere
  • Command+Control+Shift+4, then space, then click a window: takes a screenshot of a window and saves it to the clipboard for pasting
Remember that the Command key on some older Mac keyboards has an Apple logo on it like this , but newer Mac keyboards will say ‘command’ on them. The command key is located next to the spacebar.

I was inspired to write this post because a colleague just posed this question to me: “Why is there no Print Screen button for Mac?”. I always cringe a little when I hear people talking about printing the screen in Mac OS because it’s a phrase straight from the world of Windows PC’s. With so many people switching to new Mac’s its no wonder the terminology is still prevalent. Once you show someone how to perform the screen capture with a keystroke they understand why there isn’t a need to over complicate the keyboard with unnecessary buttons.