How to Find All Screen Shots on Mac with a Search Trick

Aug 24, 2017 - 12 Comments

Find all screenshots on Mac

Have you ever wanted to quickly find every screen shot you have on a Mac? With a little-known search trick, you can easily list every single screen shot file on Mac OS. Going further, you can also search by names in screen shots, types, and dates as well, all by using the Mac Finder search or Spotlight search functions with a particular search parameter.

This is a great trick if you have screenshots tucked all over the place on the Mac and buried throughout various folders and directories. Sure, by default screenshots will appear on the user Desktop, but that can be changed and over time they are likely to be moved around as other files are anyway, which is when this search tip becomes particularly handy.

You can activate the screen shot search from either Spotlight or the Finder search, however the Finder search is likely more useful since you will see more data beyond the small search query return limit in Spotlight. We’ll show you who to use either method for finding all screenshots on a Mac.

How to Find All Screen Shots on a Mac with Finder Search

Starting with the Finder based Search approach to discover all screen shots:

  1. Go to the Finder in Mac OS if you have not done so already
  2. Finder icon on the Mac

  3. Click into the Finder Search bar, or hit Command + F to bring up the Finder Search function
  4. Click into the Finder Search bar

  5. Input the following screenshot search parameter syntax exactly as it appears below:
  6. kMDItemIsScreenCapture:1

  7. Hit Return to instantly search and return all screen shot files on the Mac

Find only screenshots on Mac

Note the screen shot search syntax must appear exactly as “kMDItemIsScreenCapture:1”, including exact casing.

How to Find Screen Shots with Spotlight in Mac OS

You can also use “kMDItemIsScreenCapture:1” as a search parameter in Spotlight on the Mac.

  1. Hit Command + Spacebar to bring up Spotlight anywhere in Mac OS
  2. Enter the following search parameter syntax exactly:
  3. kMDItemIsScreenCapture:1

  4. To see more results, click on “Show All In Finder”
  5. Find screenshots via Spotlight on Mac

Spotlight also allows you to search screenshots but add a name, the syntax for such a search in Spotlight would look something like:

name: ExampleName kMDItemIsScreenCapture:1

Replacing “ExampleName” with the term within file names you wish to search screenshot file types for.

Spotlight search screenshots by name

You can also use the “kind: jpeg” or “kind: png” if you want to further narrow down the file format, which can be helpful if you converted files yourself or if you changed the screenshot image file format on the Mac at some point.

There are many other interesting Spotlight search operators to use on the Mac as well, but this one is particularly useful to those of us who have and maintain many screen shots for whatever reason.

By the way, if you find yourself using this search parameter often to narrow down screenshots on your Mac, you might want to save the search as a smart folder so that contents of screen shot files can be easily retrieved at any time, a bit like how the iOS Photos Screenshots photo album works. The smart folder trick can make it so changing where screenshots are saved on the Mac is less important, though if you don’t want them cluttering a desktop you may still wish to do so.

The syntax “kMDItemIsScreenCapture:1” is a bit complex and not exactly easy to remember, but perhaps a future version of MacOS and spotlight will add a “kind: screenshot” parameter as a search function, which currently does not exist. In the meantime, try to remember “kMDItemIsScreenCapture:1” instead, or save the search and reference it when needed.

This great screenshot search trick was pointed out on Twitter by @jnadeau, so cheers to them for the find!


Related articles:

Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Michael says:

    Interesting… Does anyone happen to know how the Mac knows which files are screen captures and which files or not? Thank you…

    • Paul says:

      Presumably the screenshot function attaches metadata extended attributes (in this case: kMDItemIsScreenCapture) to the screenshot file to define it as such.

      For example if you use xattr at the command line on a screenshot file:

      xattr Screen\ Shot\ 2018-04-30\ at\ 11.11.49\ AM.jpg

      One way to confirm/test that theory would be to duplicate a screenshot then strip the extended attributes from it and see if it would be still identified as a screenshot. My guess is it wouldn’t be, once you remove that meta data it wouldn’t know it’s any different from another image file.

  2. Elizabeth War 'n says:

    Simon D Young,

    Create a screenshot yourself.

    Simultaneously, Press and hold these three buttons: command shift 3

    Use Spotlight and enter:

    All Screenshots you take’ll pop up like a charm.

    Drag and drop them all the trash – and delete them.

  3. BCN Group says:

    Thanks for this! So helpful for organising my desktop at work and at home!

  4. Ivan says:

    You can also do this at the command line with ‘mdfind “kMDItemIsScreenCapture:1” ‘.

    Apple provides the mdlist and mdfind commands which are very useful if you’re interested in working with file metadata.

  5. Mark says:

    Thank you, very useful. Like Simon D Young when using Spotlight get message “kMDItemIsScreenCapture:1 — No Results”

  6. Simon D Young says:

    I opened Spotlight, entered kMDItemIsScreenCapture:1, and guess what happened? Nothing.

    • Bobber says:

      Then perhaps you don’t have any screen capture files. I only have a couple, because I usually send my screen captures to the clipboard instead. You’ll probably get better results if you create one and try again.

  7. Ian T says:

    A brilliant find! Tremendously helpful, thank you.

    Saving the search as a Smart Folder adds the final touch.

    I found items that I had been seeking previously and others I had forgotten I even had.

  8. ken says:

    The problem with “kMDItemIsScreenCapture:1” is that it also brings up PNG files, at least on my computer.

    • Paul says:

      It will bring up all screen shots regardless of the screen shot file type. If you want to narrow the search to only show JPEG screenshots then you would need to add “kind:jpeg” into the syntax as well, so it would be “kMDItemIsScreenCapture:1 kind:jpeg” then

  9. ken says:

    The problem with kMDItemIsScreenCapture:1 is that it also brings up PNG files, at least on my computer.

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