Change the Screen Shot 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 screenshots 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 output is JPG, TIFF, PDF, GIF, or back to PNG defaults, let’s walk through the process of changing the format of screenshots made on the Mac.
This applies to all versions of macOS and Mac OS X.
How to Change the Screen Shot Capture File Format in Mac OS
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
(Terminal is accessible through Spotlight and Launchpad as well), and then use the following command strings below to change to the desired file format. Syntax needs to be entered exactly and onto a single command line prompt to execute properly.
Set the Screen Shot File Type to JPG
The most common file type to switch screen shots to is JPEG. After you have launched Terminal, type the following command to change the capture file format to JPG (JPEG):
For macOS Big Sur and newer, use the following command to change the screen shot file type to JPG:
defaults write com.apple.screencapture type jpg
Hit return to execute the command. The next screenshots will be in JPG format, rather than PNG.
For macOS Catalina and earlier, use the following command in Terminal:
defaults write com.apple.screencapture type jpg;killall SystemUIServer
Hit the return key to execute the command.
Now take a screen shot as usual in Mac 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 popular 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. You can set the screenshot file type to JPG, PDF, TIFF, GIF, or PNG, commands for the other screenshot file formats are listed below as well. Be sure to place them onto a single line when executed at the command line.
Set Screen Shot File Type as PDF
PDF is another optional format for screen captures, though it’s less common:
defaults write com.apple.screencapture type pdf;killall SystemUIServer
Setting Screen Shot File Type to 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 on the next screen captures.
Setting Screen Shot File Format 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 Mac 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
For Macs running macOS Big Sur or newer, the change is immediate after executing the command and the next screen shot will be in PNG format.
For Macs running earlier system software versions, 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.
If you’re not sure what to do, the video below demonstrates setting the file type of screenshots on Mac to JPEG format by issuing the appropriate command string into the Terminal of a Mac:
It’s worth pointing out that the process is the same regardless of which macOS or Mac OS X version you are running, as the defaults command strings for changing file type of screenshots has been the same for every release. So if you’re on MacOS Monterey, Big Sur, Catalina, Mojave, El Capitan, High Sierra, Sierra, Snow Leopard, Mavericks, Yosemite, Tiger, or whatever else, you can change the image file type of screen captures.