Taking Screenshots in Mac OS X and Changing the Default Filetype from PNG to Whatever

Dec 8, 2006 - 23 Comments

Many Mac users take screenshots of their desktop for various reasons, be it showing off their setups, post to their blog or flickr, development, whatever. Most of us just use command-shift-3 and command-shift-4, but did you know there’s more options than just those two keyboard shortcuts? I’m not talking about third party apps, but options built right into Mac OS X. From specifying windows and filetypes, to saving to the desktop or the clipboard, it’s all here. Take a look:


Here are other screenshot options built right into Mac OS X, and their accompanying key commands:

Full screen (Save to Desktop) – CMD+Shift+3
Full screen (Save to Clipboard) – CMD+CTRL+Shift+3
Select region (Save to Desktop) – CMD+Shift+4
Select region (Save to Clipboard) – CMD+CTRL+Shift+4
Select item (Save to Desktop) – CMD+Shift+4 then Spacebar
Select item (Save to Clipboard) – CMD+CTRL+Shift+4 then Spacebar

One thing I dislike about the default settings of Mac OS X screenshots is the filetype PNG. PNG can be great and certainly has its place, but I generally find JPEG format to be more compatible across all platforms. So how do you change the screenshot setting from PNG to JPG? Easy:

In earlier versions of Mac OS X, open up a Terminal and type:

defaults write NSGlobalDomain AppleScreenShotFormat JPEG

in Mac OS X 10.6 o newer, type:

defaults write com.apple.screencapture type jpg

Now you need to type ‘killall SystemUIServer’ for changes to take effect.

You won’t receive any confirmation but it does work, and testing it out is simple, just take a screenshot and look for the JPG file on your desktop. You can actually change the format to things other than JPEG and PNG; PICT and TIFF are also formats to use if you’re so inclined. Simply replace JPEG with any of the other filetypes and it will work the same.

Screenshots ahoy!

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Posted by: OSXDaily in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

23 Comments

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  1. anonymous says:

    I believe that this can also be accomplished within a very handy little program (read: feature story … ) called OnyX from a GUI, for those who don’t rock the command line action.

  2. JohnM says:

    Great tips … I knew most of the keyboard shortcuts but excellent reminders. And the terminal command is the bee’s knees!

  3. anonymous says:

    I followed your instructions on my brand new C2D-MBPro and couldn’t get the screen capture to save in another format, I even logged out/in. I have an “out of the box” Mac OS X 10.4.8. Googled for this issue and didn’t find much help on it. Is there anything else you need to qualify? I.e. do you have to run ‘sudo’ for root access, or change any other settings?

  4. […] While I’d love to help, this is one annoyance that I’ve never been able to figure out myself. I know how to change the filetype with the Cmd-Shift-3/4 tools, but Grab is more robust and I’d love to be able to take PNGs with it. If you’ve got a good solution, help Chaz and me out in the comments. Otherwise I’m sticking with previously mentioned InstantShot, which has no shortcuts but does allow for a lot more filetype options. — Adam Pash […]

  5. SoftSaurus says:

    […] While I’d love to help, this is one annoyance that I’ve never been able to figure out myself. I know how to change the filetype with the Cmd-Shift-3/4 tools, but Grab is more robust and I’d love to be able to take PNGs with it. If you’ve got a good solution, help Chaz and me out in the comments. Otherwise I’m sticking with previously mentioned InstantShot, which has no shortcuts but does allow for a lot more filetype options. — Adam Pash […]

  6. […] While I’d love to help, this is one annoyance that I’ve never been able to figure out myself. I know how to change the filetype with the Cmd-Shift-3/4 tools, but Grab is more robust and I’d love to be able to take PNGs with it. If you’ve got a good solution, help Chaz and me out in the comments. Otherwise I’m sticking with previously mentioned InstantShot, which has no shortcuts but does allow for a lot more filetype options. — Adam Pash […]

  7. […] While I’d love to help, this is one annoyance that I’ve never been able to figure out myself. I know how to change the filetype with the Cmd-Shift-3/4 tools, but Grab is more robust and I’d love to be able to take PNGs with it. If you’ve got a good solution, help Chaz and me out in the comments. Otherwise I’m sticking with previously mentioned InstantShot, which has no shortcuts but does allow for a lot more filetype options. — Adam Pash […]

  8. Woms says:

    […] I came across this last night and thought it was definitely worth sharing with you all. […]

  9. mike says:

    when I take a screenshot using any of the aforementioned keys, I just see a bunch of colored lines–it is not clear what it is. Has anyone experienced this with leopard?

  10. Nadine says:

    I’m getting coloured lines as well when i screenshot. If i use the spacebar commands the screenshot is clear (but full screen pics only), but the usual Apple/Shift/3 or my fav Apple/Shift/4 to select just won’t take a clear pic. I’m on macbook pro with leopard.

  11. Martin says:

    I tried your precise instructions, using Terminal.app and iTerm (one after the other of course), and typed your wording:
    “defaults write NSGlobalDomain AppleScreenShotFormat JPEG”
    The screenshot still saved as a .png file
    I then tried typing “JPG” in place of “JPEG” but the result was the same. It still saves the screenshot as a .png file.

    P.S. I’m using OSX 10.4 Tiger. Does this make a difference?

    Thanks for trying to help anyway. Cheers.

  12. ademsemir says:

    You have to restart the computer for the effect to take place

  13. Kathy says:

    This worked beautifully, thanks!

  14. jessica says:

    I entered: defaults write com.apple.screencapture type jpg killall SystemUIServer

    And it said: defaults[35237:903] Unexpected argument killall; leaving defaults unchanged.

    Did I do something wrong? I’m on an iMac 10.6.8

    • M says:

      Yes, they are two separate commands. First:

      defaults write com.apple.screencapture type jpg

      then:

      killall SystemUIServer

  15. Adam says:

    the command for changing it worked fine but i found JPG unfortunately saved the file in a lesser quality, which was frustrating.

  16. mike warren says:

    Worked perfectly thanks! No need to restart for me either for change to take effect.
    Thanks very much

  17. lfhring says:

    Great, thanks a lot!!!!!!!

  18. Wendy Shaw says:

    Worked like a charm and cured an annoying problem.

  19. Excellent tip! When making quotations I’m always screen shooting office products for our quotation system, only problem is I have to change each image to jpeg before our system will upload the image…this has save me so much time! You are legend!

  20. Q says:

    Excellent tip! Thank you : – )

  21. Peter Jansen says:

    Great Tip – very helpfull

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