Mac screen capture

I am continuing my evangelistic journey through the world of Mac and OS X and I have previously written about some of the particularly useful – dare I say cool – features of the operating system. I realized that there was one feature, that I have failed to mention before, which I use, if not daily, several times a week …

I am surprised by how often it is useful to capture all, or, most commonly, part of my computer screen to share or document something. In Windows it always seemed a rather roundabout process using ALT-PRNTSCRN to put the image on the clipboard. Then it was necessary to paste it somewhere in order to save it. Over the years a variety of utility programs became available and I used quite a few. I suspect that Windows 10 has an improvement in this area, as this version seems to be the answer to a maiden’s prayer [if you believe what its fans have to say].

OS X has screen capture built in and it works very straightforwardly. There are two hot-keys available:

  • SHIFT-CMD-3 is the simple one. This captures the whole screen and stores the image in a PNG file on the Desktop.
  • SHIFT-CMD-4 gives more options. Initially, the mouse pointer becomes a cross-hair which can be used to make a rectangular selection on the screen, by click and hold on one corner and drag to the other. When you release the mouse button [or trackpad click], the selected area is saved as an image in a PNG file on the Desktop, as before. Alternatively, instead of dragging the cross-hair, you can tap SPACE and the pointer becomes a camera icon. Any window you point to becomes highlighted and, if you click on it, an image of just that window is saved.

The use of PNG files to store the screen captures is ideal, as this is a well-recognized file format, which can be opened in Preview for any necessary modifications [like cropping] and may be saved in a different format [like JPEG or PDF] if that is needed. The use of the Desktop makes good sense, as there is no head-scratching to figure out where the file has been saved [unless you have an untidy Desktop, in which case it is your own fault :-)].

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