Change the Screen Shot Capture File Format in Mac OS X
All versions of Mac OS X default to saving captured screen shot files to PNG format, but if you’d rather have them save as another file type, it’s actually quite easy to modify the file format and change the default to something new. Whether the desired format is JPG, TIFF, PDF, GIF, or back to PNG defaults, let’s walk through the process of changing the format.
How to Change the Screen Shot File Format in Mac OS X
To switch the image file format used by screen shots you’ll need to use a defaults command. To get started, launch Terminal, located in the /Applications/Utilities/ folder (it’s accessible through Spotlight and Launchpad as well), and then use the following command strings to change to the appropriate file format. Syntax needs to be entered exactly and onto a single command line prompt to execute properly.
Set the Screen Shot Type to JPG
After you have launched Terminal, type the following command to change to JPG:
defaults write com.apple.screencapture type jpg
Hit the return key to execute the command. Next, you must issue another command to restart SystemUIServer so that changes take effect:
Again hit return.
Now take a screen shot as usual in OS X (Command+Shift+3) and locate the file on the desktop to verify the change has taken place, the file extension should now be .jpg as will the image format itself.
JPG is perhaps the most common alternative, since it’s compressed by default while still retaining fairly decent image quality, and it’s also an extremely common type of web graphic. For many of us, switching the screenshot format to JPEG is the primary objective.
For the remaining file types we will combine the command strings together making them easier to copy & paste into the terminal as a single line of command syntax.
Set as PDF
PDF is another optional format, though it’s less common:
defaults write com.apple.screencapture type pdf;killall SystemUIServer
Set as GIF
GIF is generally lower quality with less colors, but it can be chosen if necessary:
defaults write com.apple.screencapture type gif;killall SystemUIServer
Changes will take effect automatically.
Set as TIFF
TIFF is a large high quality and entirely uncompressed image format. TIFF is generally best used for print purposes, and is generally not recommended to use for most individuals because the resulting screen shot file sizes can be quite large (10MB or more, per screen shot). Nonetheless, here’s how to set it as the primary format if desired:
defaults write com.apple.screencapture type tiff;killall SystemUIServer
Set the Screen Shot File Type Back to the OS X Default of PNG
Want to return back to the default PNG format? No problem, use the following command string in terminal:
defaults write com.apple.screencapture type png
Again, after the command string has been executed, you will need to kill the SystemUIServer for changes to take effect:
Now if you take a screen capture, it’ll appear as whatever file type you specified.