Screenshots, pictures of a computer screen, are often used to illustrate software reviews and workflow tutorials. They’re particularly useful to the Ask Different community. It’s sometimes difficult to explain multiple settings in a preference pane or application dialog box. Many questions and answers can be improved by including images. Best of all, it’s free and easy. Mac OS X includes all of the tools you need to take great screenshots and the process is painless once you develop an efficient workflow.
The specifics of this tutorial are geared towards Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. The basic steps for taking a screenshot are the same for previous versions of Mac OS X going back as far as I can recall, but some details and the capabilities of Preview will vary according the version of the OS you’re using.
Taking a picture of the entire desktop is simple. Press ⌘(command) + shift + 3 simultaneously on the keyboard and you’ll hear a shutter click (assuming your Macintosh audio isn’t muted). In a moment, an image file will appear on the desktop. If you want to copy the captured image directly into the clipboard without creating a file—to paste directly into another application—use ⌃(control) + ⌘(command) + shift + 3.
This is a screenshot of my desktop. That’s a screenshot file in the upper right corner.
As someone who dabbles in both photography and graphic design, I spend a lot of time in graphics-oriented apps. There are several leading apps in this category, but which is the right one for you? Is Photoshop better than GIMP? Is Pixelmator better than Photoshop?
The free one. GIMP is free, open source, and cross platform. It has a reasonably good feature set, but doesn’t perform particularly admirably and has a user experience that is decidedly un-Mac-like. GIMP is free.
The big one. Photoshop has been around for a long time, and is the industry standard. Photoshop is the archetypical ‘professional’ app: tons of features (some questionable), a usable-but-not-great UI, and a ridiculous price. Photoshop CS5 is $700, Photoshop CS5 Extended is $1000. Amazon has small discounts. Students and teachers get big discounts.
The shiny new one. Pixelmator is relatively new, incredibly inexpensive, and has quickly gotten a good reputation. Pixelmator is beautiful and a pleasure to use, performs very pleasingly, and has a respectable feature set. Pixelmator is $30 on the Mac App Store.