How to Take and Edit Screenshots on a Mac

August 2, 2018 Katie Gutwein

As a marketer, what you do can be pretty difficult to explain to coworkers outside of marketing. It can be even more difficult to explain how "inbound" marketing helps the whole business grow.

After countless puzzled looks on the other side of my desk, I’ve found that the best way for me to share the nitty gritty of what I do is through visuals. And what are the best types of visuals? Screenshots.

If you’re preparing for your next big presentation, reporting on a new process to your boss, or simply writing an article explaining how to do something, this blog post is for you.

Click here to download our free templates to create beautiful PowerPoint  presentations.

What Is a Screenshot?

A screenshot is a still image of your computer screen's current display. Taking a screenshot of your computer will produce a picture of the contents of your monitor as they appear in front of you. This image does not include any windows or programs you have minimized.

Screenshots allow you to quickly create image files of content that's otherwise too difficult to convert to a JPG, PNG, or similar image file. The possibilities are limitless, but here are some of my favorite use cases for taking a screenshot:

Monthly Analytics Reports

Performance reports often require graphs, charts, tables, and other visual data you might originally create in Excel. Taking a screenshot of a chart you made in another program helps you transfer this data directly into your analytics report without worrying that the photo won't display correctly.

PowerPoint Presentations

PowerPoints are at their most effective when they're visual. Want to pull the picture of a website's homepage into a slide about web design? Capture it in a screenshot and drag the resulting image into your PowerPoint deck.

Emails

Most professionals have at least a handful of unread emails in their inbox, so the messages they do read should be easy to digest at a glance. Longwinded emails need visual aids to help readers do this, and image files are your most versatile option for uploading images into the email body.

Annotated Instructions

How-to's can be hard to follow without visual supplements, and the steps you're explaining aren't always readily available in picture form. Take a screenshot of what you're referring to, adding arrows and boxes to emphasize the parts of the image that are most important to the instruction you're describing. (Example: "the publish button can be found here ..." with a screenshot showing the button's location)

How to Take a Screenshot on a Mac

Mac computers make taking a screenshot fairly easy. Keep in mind when taking a screenshot, you have four options:

  • Take a screenshot of your entire screen and save it to your desktop.
  • Take a screenshot of your entire screen and save it to your clipboard.
  • Take a screenshot of a part of your screen and save it to your desktop.
  • Take a screenshot of a part of your screen and save it to your clipboard.

When taking a screenshot of your entire screen, be sure to arrange the contents of your computer screen with exactly what you want to take a screenshot of. If you have a second monitor connected to your Mac, the resulting screenshot will produce two separate image files for each monitor.

When taking a screenshot of just part of your screen, you don't have to worry about the contents' arrangement, as long as what you want to capture is fully visible on your monitor.

In any of the four processes above, your mouse cursor will not be visible. Let's dive into each option above, one at a time.

Take a screenshot of your entire screen and save it to your desktop.

  1. On your Mac keyboard, hold down the following keys at the same time: Command + Shift + 3. If the volume is up on your computer, you will hear the sound of a camera snap to indicate the screenshot was taken.
  2. Navigate to your desktop to find the screenshot(s) you took. You'll see a file that is named something like, “Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 2.55.39 PM.”
  3. If you're inserting this screenshot into a blog post, rename the file to reflect the topic of your blog post, or a keyword you're targeting in the article. This makes it easier for Google to crawl and index your article (my screenshot is below).
  4. If you're using your screenshot for an offline purpose, upload it from your desktop to its final destination the way you would any image file.

Screenshot of Google homepage taken on a Mac computer

Take a screenshot of your entire screen and save it to your clipboard.

  1. On your Mac keyboard, hold down the following keys at the same time: Command + Control + Shift + 3. If the volume is up on your computer, you will hear the sound of a camera snap to indicate the screenshot was taken.
  2. Navigate to where you’d like to insert your screenshot. You might paste it into an email, a PowerPoint presentation, a computer folder, etc.
  3. Once you're in the application where you’d like to paste your image, hold down the following keys at the same time: Command + V.
  4. Voila! Here's my pasted screenshot in Apple Keynote:

Screenshot of Google homepage pasted in Apple Keynote

Take a screenshot of part of your screen and save it to your desktop.

  1. On your Mac keyboard, hold down the following keys at the same time: Command + Shift + 4.
  2. You will see a crosshairs cursor appear on your screen. Click and drag this cursor to highlight the specific area of your screen that you’d like to take a screenshot of. If you need to adjust your selection, press the escape ("esc") key to start over.
  3. Once you've highlighted exactly what you want to capture, release your mouse. If your computer's volume is up, you'll hear the sound of a camera snap to indicate the screenshot was taken.
  4. Navigate to your desktop and look for a file that is named something like, “Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 3.25.39 PM.”
  5. If you're inserting this screenshot into a blog post, rename the file to reflect the topic of your blog post, or a keyword you're targeting in the article. This makes it easier for Google to crawl and index your article (my partial-screen screenshot is below).
  6. If you're using your screenshot for an offline purpose, upload it from your desktop to its final destination.

Screenshot of part of HubSpot's homepage, taken on a Mac

Take a screenshot of part of your screen and save it to your clipboard

  1. On your mac keyboard, hold down the following keys at the same time: Command + Control + Shift + 4.
  2. You will see a cursor appear. Click and drag your cursor, to highlight the entire area that you’d like to take a snapshot of. Protip: If you need to adjust your selection, click esc to start over.
  3. Navigate to where you’d like to insert your image. (Example: email, presentation, etc.)
  4. Once in the application where you’d like to paste your image, hold down the following, at the same time: command-V
  5. And there you have it! Here's my screenshot pasted in Apple Keynote:

Screenshot of part of HubSpot's homepage, pasted into Apple Keynote

Take a Screenshot Using Grab

In addition to the above keyboard shortcuts, you can also take a screenshot using a little-known application that's native to your Mac computer: Grab. Here's how to use it:

  1. Open your Finder folder located on your computer's dock, and enter "Grab" in the top-right search bar. Then, select "Applications" on the lefthand sidebar to narrow your search.
  2. Open the Grab icon that appears. When the application has launched, select "Capture" along the top navigation bar.
  3. In the dropdown menu, select which type of screenshot you want to take: Selection, Window, Screen, or Timed Screen.

Dropdown menu of screenshot options using the Grab application

"Selection" screenshots allow you to take a screenshot of part of your screen, just as you would in the third and fourth set of steps earlier in this article. "Screen" screenshots capture your entire screen.

"Window" screenshots allow you to capture a specific window you have open, and "Timed Screen" screenshots start a 10-second timer before automatically capturing your entire screen.

Take a Screenshot Using a Mac's Touch Pad

Keep in mind that newer versions of Macbook Pro that include the Touch Bar have screenshot options that allow you to take "Entire Screen," "Selected Portion," and even specific "Window" screenshots -- just like you would using the Grab application (the instructions of which are described above).

With the Screenshot icon enabled on your Touch Bar, you can simply tap this icon -- which looks like a camera -- and select the type of screenshot you want to take.

How to Edit a Screenshot on a Mac

  1. Take a screenshot saved directly to your desktop.
  2. Double-click on the resulting image file on your desktop.
  3. Or, right-click your image file and select "Open With."
  4. Select "Keynote" from the list of applications, or "Other" to locate Keynote in your Finder.
  5. In Apple Preview, you can expand the edit toolbar to add shapes, change the screenshot's color composition, incorporate text, and more.
  6. In Keynote, you can add a shadow, add a reflection, and remove the screenshot's background.

Once you've taken a screenshot on your Mac, you it's time to get fancy. That’s where editing comes in to play.

I do most of my screenshot editing in Keynote, a presentation tool that usually comes standard with a Mac. Apple Preview also works quite well to crop and annotate screenshots with text and shapes. Here's how you'd edit your screenshot using either software:

  1. Take a screenshot saved directly to your desktop, by pressing either Command + Shift + 3 to capture your entire screen or Command + Shift + 4 to capture a part of your screen.
  2. Double-click on the resulting image file on your desktop. This will open your screenshot in Apple Preview.
  3. Or, right-click your image file and select "Open With." Select "Keynote" from the list of applications, or "Other" to locate Keynote in your Finder.
  4. In Apple Preview, you can expand the edit toolbar to add shapes, change the screenshot's color composition, incorporate text, and more (see the image below).
  5. In Keynote, you can add a shadow, add a reflection, and remove the screenshot's background.

Screenshot opened in Apple Preview with expanded edit toolbar

The possibilities are virtually endless, and there are plenty of other image editing tools out there, too. Ready to add visuals to your presentation, email, or article? Your next screenshot awaits.

Katie Gutwein is Director of Marketing and Social Media at KBK Communications, where she leads a team of Marketers, as they help their clients manage inbound and outbound marketing strategies. You can connect with Katie on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus, or read more of her posts on KBK Communications’ blog.

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