In Windows or Mac OS X, how can I capture the contents of a window or the screen?

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In Windows, you can use the Snipping Tool, which highlights sections of the screen and allows you to save it as an image. Search for snipping tool, and click to open it.

For help navigating, see Getting around in Windows.

You can also capture the image of either the entire screen or only the currently active window using the PrtScrn or Print Screen key. Once you have the image captured, you can import that information into an image editor to save or manipulate it.

  • To capture the contents of the currently active window, press Alt-PrtScrn (or Alt-Print Screen).
  • To capture the contents of the entire screen, press PrtScrn (or Print Screen) by itself.

In both of these cases, the image is captured to the Windows Clipboard.

To manipulate the image you just captured, you can use the Paint program that comes with Windows. To load Paint, click the Start button, and select Programs or All Programs. Select Accessories, and then choose Paint. To move the captured image into Paint, go to the Edit menu and select Paste. At this point, you can print the image, alter it, or save it.

Similarly, you can paste this image into any other program that handles images (e.g., Microsoft Word or Excel).

Mac OS X

In Mac OS X, to take a screenshot (including any menus you may have selected), press Command-Shift-3. You will hear a camera shutter click, and an image of your current screen will be saved to your desktop in PNG format. In Mac OS X 10.6 and later, it will be named with the date and time that you take the screen shot. In Mac OS X 10.5 and earlier, it will be named Picture N, where N is a number (e.g., Picture 1, Picture 2, etc.).

To take a screenshot of only a portion of the screen:

  1. Press Command-Shift-4. Your mouse pointer will change into crosshairs.
    If you want to cancel at any point in this process, press Esc.
  2. Move your mouse to the upper-left corner of the area you want to capture. Hold down the mouse button, drag the mouse to the lower-right corner of the area you want to capture, and then release the mouse button.

You can also take screenshots of individual windows, menus, and icons:

  1. If you want to take a screenshot of a menu, select it. If you want to take a screenshot of a window, click it to bring it into focus.
  2. Press Command-Shift-4, and then press the Spacebar. Your mouse pointer will change into a camera.
    If you want to cancel at any point in this process, press Esc.
  3. Click the window, menu, or icon you want to capture.
Whether capturing an image of the screen, a portion of the screen, a menu, an icon, or a window, if you also hold the Ctrl key down along with other keys, it will save the image to the Clipboard rather than a file.


You can use Grab, which is normally installed in /Applications/Utilities, to take screenshots of all or parts of your screen. It has a timed function that lets you include a pull-down menu or change which application will be active in the screenshot. You may also change the appearance of the mouse pointer or remove it from the screenshot altogether. Grab saves your images as TIFF files, which you can display in Preview or modify in a graphics editor, such as Adobe Photoshop.

Snapz Pro

For more advanced screen capture features, including video capture, see Snapz Pro X, available as shareware from Ambrosia Software.

This is document afws in the Knowledge Base.
Last modified on 2016-01-28 00:00:00.

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