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How to take screenshots and screen recordings on your Mac

In this quick video tip, we highlight two simple ways to take screenshots and one easy way to take screen recordings, all with tools already built into your Mac.

Whether it's for work or school, your personal reference, or a creative project, we often need to capture an image of our computer's display, or a video of the action occurring on it. For Mac owners, this process can seem a bit intimidating due to the unintuitive keyboard commands involved and the unexpected software required for the task. 

We're going to show you how to quickly and easily produce screenshots and screen recordings with software tools that Apple ships with every PC it produces, so you can easily keep a visual record of any goings-on that occur on your Mac.

How to take screenshots on Mac

There are two methods to take a screenshot on your Mac, we'll cover them both in this guide and you can scroll down to find how to screen record below.

Method 1: Using keyboard shortcuts

This method is a little quicker than the second one and easier to remember. It'll let you take your screenshot, save it immediately in your desktop, and edit it in Preview.

Step 1: From any window on your Mac, simply press CMD+Shift+3

A few seconds after doing Shift+Cmd+3, your screenshot appears at the bottom-right

A few seconds after doing Shift+Cmd+3, your screenshot appears at the bottom-right

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

This will take a screenshot of what is on your display at the moment and a small preview will appear at the bottom-right of your screen.

Step 2: Click on the preview

Click on Preview
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Click on the small preview that appeared at the bottom-right of your screen to open your screenshot in Preview.

Step 3: Apply any edits you wish

The highlighted buttons on the top left are the editing options on Preview

The highlighted buttons are the editing options on Preview

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Once you have your screenshot open in Preview, you can make any necessary edits, including crop, sign, text, shapes, and more.

Step 4: Click share or Done

These buttons will appear on the top right corner of the Preview window

These buttons will appear on the top right corner of the Preview window

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Click share (the small square with an arrow on it) to send your screenshot via message, the trash icon to delete it, or click Done to save it.

All screenshots taken with this method are saved as a JPEG file to the Mac's desktop by default.

Method 2: Using QuickTime

Though using QuickTime to take screenshots may take a few seconds longer than the previous method, this method gives you the flexibility of choosing what part of your screen to capture, renaming your file, and where you'd like to save it.

Step 1: Open QuickTime Player

Open QuickTime
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Step 2: Click File, then New Screen Recording

Select New Screen Recording
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Go to the top left corner of your screen and click File, then select New Screen Recording. You can also do this with the keyboard shortcut Shift+Cmd+N.

Step 3: Select one of the options for screen-capture

A bar appears with the screen capture options

A bar appears with the screen capture options

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

A bar appears with several options, the first three from left to right are for screenshots, the next two are for screen recordings. Select the one that best suits your needs out of the first three options on the left: Capture Entire Screen, Capture Selected Window, or Capture Selected Portion.

Step 4: Click the Capture button 

Capture button
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Once you've selected a screenshot option out of the first three on the left, the Record button will switch to a Capture button that will be on the right side of the bar. Click the Capture button to take your screenshot.

Step 5: Apply any edits in the preview window

Edit screenshot on the Preview window
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

This Preview window will look slightly different than it did in the previous method, but you can still edit your screenshot. As soon as you capture your screenshot, a Preview window will appear where you can apply any necessary edits.

Step 6: Fill out the info on Save dialogue window

Save dialog
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

When you close out the Preview window, a Save dialogue window comes up so you can add the desired file name, location, format, etc, that you want for your screenshot. Then, click Save. With this method, you can later find your screenshot saved in the folder you specified in the previous step.

How to screen record on Mac

Step 1: Open QuickTime Player

Open QuickTime
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

You can record your screen on your Mac for free, without any third-party apps. QuickTime lets you do screen recordings quickly and easily.

Step 2: Click File, then New Screen Recording

Go to File, then click on New Screen Recording
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

It's not deja vu, we're repeating the same process, but this time we'll choose a recording option instead of a capture option.

Step 3: Select Screen Recording option

Select recording option
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Click one of the two options for screen recording in the bar that appears, either Record Entire Screen or Record Selected Portion. Remember, the first three options on the left are for screenshots, the second two are for screen recordings.

Step 4: Start recording

Click the Record button on the right
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

On the right-hand side of the bar, there is a Record button, click it to start your screen recording.

Step 5: Complete the on-screen tasks you wish to be recorded

As soon as you click Record, QuickTime starts recording your screen, so it's time to complete the actions you want to capture in your video.

Step 6: Stop recording

Stop button

The Stop button is a small circle on the top right of your screen

Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

Click the small, square-in-a-circle "stop recording" icon that appeared in the taskbar at the top of your display to end your recording. 

Step 7: Preview the recording in the QuickTime Player

Preview recording
Image: Maria Diaz / ZDNet

When you stop recording, QuickTime will immediately open the video file on a new window so you can preview it. Once you close your Preview window with your new screen recording, you'll be able to find it as a .mov file on the Mac's desktop by default.

FAQ

Can you do a screen recording with audio on Mac?

You can record your screen and audio at the same time with QuickTime. To record audio as well as your screen, click on the drop-down arrow next to Options to reveal a menu. Choose which microphone you'll use to record. This menu is also where you can change the default of where your screen recordings are saved, add a timer, and other options like whether or not to show mouse clicks.

Are screen recordings for Mac free?

While screenshots have always been free, there's a lot of software for sale advertising to be the best to do screen recording, so many may wonder if it's actually free to do a screen recording. It is completely free to record your screen with QuickTime, which is already in your Mac.

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