Copywriter, technical writer, translator (FR>EN, ES>EN, IT>EN), journalist

Screen shots/capture made quick and easy

We all have issues with our computers from time to time. Sometimes those issues show themselves via odd behaviour on your computer’s screen. Odd behaviour like this is a great reason to take a “snapshot” of the screen. Screenshots let you show other people everything that happens on your computer screen, from the exact wording of an error message to odd behaviour of any sort.

Fortunately, screenshots, or screen captures, are both easy to create and doesn’t call for you downloading or buying any additional software. They also don’t call for using mobile phone cameras, which rarely capture images on screens very well.

While third-party software does everything mentioned in this blog post, and more, I’m limiting the post to the capable tools that ship with all computers Windows or Mac (but mostly Mac).

Full screen capture on a Mac

The keyboard shortcut Cmd-Shift-3 takes a picture of your whole screen and deposits the image file on your desktop. (Default settings only mentioned here.)

To stop this operation at any time, press the Escape key.

Bonus: if you run multiple monitors, this shortcut may capture what’s on all your screens at the same time. It certainly does so if you use an iMac as an external monitor using Target Display Mode.

Partial screen capture on a Mac

Cmd-Shift-4 turns the mouse pointer into crosshairs. Click and drag the crosshairs over the area of the screen you want to capture.

Bonus: If you move the mouse pointer over a window and press the Space bar, the pointer turns into a camera and the window becomes shaded. Click and you capture the window. This trick also works on menus.

To stop this operation at any time, press the Escape key.

Apple helpfully explains all this on its support website.

Annotating screen captures

If you want to point out specific parts of your captures using text labels, shapes and arrows, use Preview, another app that ships with the Mac, to open the images and label them as you need to.

If you email the image using Mac Mail, the Mac Mail window lets you annotate the image right in the draft window. Move your mouse pointer over the image until a down-arrow button appears, click the button and choose Markup.

A word on Windows

You can do much of this in Windows 10 too. (I have, though not as much as I do on Mac.) Check out the Windows Snipping Tool before you consider buying third-party screen capture utilities. offers a succinct how-to on capturing screens on a Windows computer.

Timed screen captures

The Mac also includes a utility called Grab, which lets you do the operations listed above plus at least one more: it’s really handy for capturing a “timed” screen, where you need to “grab” something you can’t keep on the screen using the keyboard shortcuts above. icon, found in the Applications/Utilities folder icon

Recording screen activity

Need to capture activity and not a still image? Open Quicktime, choose New Screen Recording, and follow the instructions. You can limit the capture to a specific area of the screen to help other people zoom in on what you want to explain. You can also trim parts of the screen recording that you don’t need.

Troubleshooting your computer

Sometimes your computer doesn’t work as well as expected for any of the reasons listed below. Click the reason to visit a blog post that describes the problem and outlines a solution.

This post stemmed from the latest in my series of tips you can use to speed up your computer. Here are other tips you can use:


Throughout this post, I stuck to screen capture options that people already have on their computers. Do you know of or use other such utilities? How else would you suggest explaining events on your computer to other people, outside of a live demonstration?

Let me know in the comments below.