Tip: Easier Screenshots on the Mac

This is a little different than our typical post, but we came across a "Power User" tip that, when combined with a few other steps, creates a REALLY useful little productivity boon for anyone who has to do a lot of screenshots on the Mac (developers, bloggers, journalists, marketing folks, etc.).

The Mac's default handling of screen shots (i.e. built right in) was a huge, pleasant surprise moving over from Windows some number of years ago (where screen shots all required 3rd party add-in products). But even then, there are still a few nuances that could be a slight hassle.

The way things work by default is that you can take a screenshot by pressing CMD+SHIFT+3 for the whole screen, or CMD+SHIFT+4 to get cross-hairs and select a piece of the screen to take a screenshot. Upon finishing (releasing the mouse button on a CMD+SHIFT+4, or immediately if doing a full-screen capture) a .PNG file is created on your desktop.

In general, that's fine. But there are a few inconveniences:

1. More often than not I'll have 15 windows open at the same time. So then minimizing everything to go find that screenshot that was dropped onto the desktop UNDER all my active windows can be a hassle.

2. I have a lot of icons and screenshots and junk cluttering my desktop. Finding the NEW one is like a 2-minute "Where's Waldo?" exercise after making a new screenshot.

3. The screenshot file names are long and the date-specific part is at the END, so every file name looks the same, such as "Screen shot 2012...png" which is useless. So if they're all somewhat similar and just technically different, then you have to start clicking one by one opening each to find out which is the right one, OR mouse-over and hover and wait a couple seconds for the full filename to pop up, then go to the next and wait a couple seconds, etc.


So here are a few simple little configuration tips that, when taken together, create a much more seamless approach:

1. Go to your HOME folder (in Finder, the one with the little house icon) and make a new folder called "Screenshots"

2. Open Terminal and run these two commands:

    defaults write com.apple.screencapture location -string "~/Screenshots/"
    killall SystemUIServer

3. Open Finder and navigate to your HOME folder and then drag "Screenshots" down to your dock, to the right side where your Applications and Documents folders are.

4. On the new dock icon you created in step 3, right-click and then select "Sort by Date Modified" and "View as a Stack"


You're done!

Step one created the folder where screenshots will be stored from now on.

Step two updated your system default settings to have screenshots stored in this new "Screenshots" folder instead of randomly on your desktop. The second command killed the UI process and restarted it so that it'll pick up the new settings immediately (as opposed to later, on next reboot).

Step three makes the folder easily accessible on your dock so that you don't have to minimize all of your windows to find new screenshots

Step four sets up sorting so that the newest one is always at the bottom and visible (99% of the time the most recent you just made is the one you want). Furthermore, viewed as a stack means that you will get to see FULL filenames for each, with the date and time, not just the shortened "screen shot 2012...png".

Good luck, and enjoy! Now you'll have to figure out what to do with all the new time on your hands, freed up from this productivity tip! ;-)

Power User Bonus Tip:  If you prefer your screenshots as JPG or another format, for whatever reason, this Terminal command can be used to change the default format from PNG to either BMP, GIF, JPG, PDF or TIFF:

    defaults write com.apple.screencapture type -string "jpg"

Of course, don't forget the killall SystemUIServer command afterwards, to restart the subsystem.