Change Screen Capture File Format on Mac OS X

Today, a quick tip for my fellow Mac users. Mac OS X allows various methods for capturing your screen to an image file ...

  • Command+Shift+3: takes a screenshot of the full screen (or screens if multiple monitors), and save it as a file to the desktop
  • Command+Shift+4: brings up a selection box so you can specify an area to take a screenshot of, then save it as a file to the desktop
  • Command+Shift+4, then spacebar, then click a window: takes a screenshot of a window only and saves it as a file to the desktop
  • Command+Control+Shift+3: take a screenshot of the entire screen (screens if multiple monitors), and saves it to the clipboard for pasting elsewhere
  • Command+Control+Shift+4, then select an area: takes a screenshot of selection and saves it to the clipboard for pasting elsewhere
  • Command+Control+Shift+4, then space, then click a window: takes a screenshot of a window and saves it to the clipboard for pasting

What all of these methods have in common, however, is that they capture to a PNG file by default. And that's fine in many contexts, but Lightroom doesn't allow PNG files in its Library. No big deal perhaps, but I like Lightroom's crop tools, I don't necessarily want to launch Photoshop just to crop and image for a blog post, and I'm often already in Lightroom anyway. And if I'm cropping a series of images from the same application window, I can often save time using Lightroom's ability to copy crops and other settings across multiple images. Fortunately, it's relatively simple to reconfigure Mac OS X to capture in other image formats. Here's how it's done.

You can change the default file type for screen captures by using a terminal command. Every installation of Mac OS X includes the Terminal application in Applications > Utilities. Most major image formats are supported including PNG, PDF, GIF, TIFF, and JPG, we’ll go with JPG since that is a common type of web graphic:

defaults write com.apple.screencapture type jpg

Then you must kill the SystemUIServer for changes to take effect:

killall SystemUIServer

Screen captures will now be saved as JPG files, which you may open, file and edit in Lightroom. To change back to PNG, just run through the process again setting 'png' as your type in the first Terminal command.

Source: OSXDaily


4 Responses to “Change Screen Capture File Format on Mac OS X”

  1. Toby says:

    Nice. I like saving the captures as .jpg, however, for cropping, it’s probably faster/easier to simply do that with preview, regardless of the file being a jpg or png. Instant Alpha? Preview for that, too.

    · August 23, 2012 @ 3:41 pm

  2. Matthew says:

    Do you know how to get screencapture to ask you where you want to save instead of automatically saving to a certain folder?

    · September 6, 2012 @ 1:30 am

  3. Jay Frogel says:

    How about the simple Apple Utility called “Grab”? It does screen, window, and area captures. Saves as Tiff which can then be changed to anything via Preview. Very handy. I use it all of the time. Cut and Paste is easy, etc.

    · September 24, 2012 @ 8:34 am

Comments are now closed.


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