Capture & Save Screen Shots with Preview in Mac OS X Lion

Sep 7, 2011 - 7 Comments

Capture Screenshots with Preview in OS X Lion

Preview in OS X Lion now includes the ability to capture screen shots directly within the app, with the resulting images opening directly into Preview rather than saving to the Mac desktop. There are three different capture modes available that are almost identical to the standard keyboard shortcuts, here’s how to use them:

  • Launch Preview
  • From the “File” menu select “Take Screen Shot” and choose one of three options:
    • From Selection – brings up the selection tool, just like command+shift+4
    • From Window – enables the window selection tool, like command+shift+4+spacebar
    • From Entire Screen – capture the entire screen (or both screens if you’re using two), same as command+shift+3
  • The screen shots launch automatically into Preview where they can be cropped, manipulated, and saved. All of this is instant with the exception of capturing the entire screen, which causes a timer to be displayed

The timed screen shot feature was previously limited to the Terminal or Grab, but it’s pretty handy to have directly in Preview, with the countdown timer showing up in the center of the screen like so:

screen shots captured by preview

Update: Apparently this feature exists in the 10.6 Snow Leopard version of Preview as well, thanks for the heads up Makeup!

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Posted by: William Pearson in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Alex says:

    I kind of wish the keyboard shortcuts just did this into Preview by themselves, how often do you really just want a file instead of immediate action?

    • Christopher says:

      You can use the keyboard shortcuts going into the clipboard (Command-Control-Shift-3, Command-Control-Shift-4), open Preview and hit Command-N. Two steps more, but then again, quite often, I instead directly paste into an E-Mail. No files involved.

  2. Harry F. says:

    What would be the difference between this, and using the system screen shot method and changing the ‘open with’ parameter?

    • Will says:

      This opens the screenshot automatically into Preview because it is taken in there, where the system screen shot just stores the file on the desktop.

  3. Makeup says:

    This is not true. This feature already exists in Preview of Snow Leopard!

  4. clasqm says:

    If you have multiple monitors connected it will take a screenshot of each one.

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