Master the Mac Snipping Tool: Tips & Shortcuts

Are you tired of the hassle that comes with capturing screenshots on your Mac? Say goodbye to the days of complicated processes and hello to the ultimate solution - the Snipping Tool! Whether you're a tech-savvy pro or a newbie to the Mac world, this guide is here to revolutionize the way you capture and share screenshots. Get ready to unlock a world of shortcuts and tips that will make your screenshot game stronger than ever before.

Written by
Andre Smith
Updated On
June 20, 2024


In the digital world, we often find ourselves needing to capture, share, and save what's on our screen. Whether it's a stunning photo, an informative chart, or a piece of critical information, having the right tool to take a screenshot is essential. Enter the Snipping Tool on a Mac – a versatile and intuitive solution designed to simplify screen capture and streamline your workflow.

This powerful utility, built into the macOS, has transformed the way users capture and annotate screenshots. Beyond mere screen capture, the Snipping Tool allows you to extract specific parts of your screen, annotate the captured images, and share them directly from the tool itself. Its ability to take customized screen captures in various forms – from full-screen to selected window or free-form – makes it an indispensable tool in today's fast-paced digital environment.

What is the Snipping Tool?

The Snipping Tool is a screen-capturing utility that allows users to take snapshots of their screens. Unlike traditional screenshot methods that capture the entire screen, the Snipping Tool gives you the flexibility to select the exact area you want to capture, offering four different types

Full Screen Snip, Window Snip, Rectangular Snip, and Free-form Snip.

When compared to other similar tools, the Snipping Tool stands out for its simplicity and the granularity it offers in screen capturing. It strikes a perfect balance between functionality and ease of use, making it a go-to choice for both novice and experienced Mac users.

Introduced in Windows Vista, the Snipping Tool has evolved significantly over the years. With the launch of macOS Mojave, Apple introduced a similar tool for Mac users known as the Screenshot app (also referred to as the Snipping Tool). Since then, it has continued to receive enhancements, further solidifying its position as a leading utility for screen capturing on Mac.

Downloading and Installing the Snipping Tool on a Mac

One of the great things about the Snipping Tool for Mac referred to as the Screenshot app, is that it comes pre-installed on all Macs running macOS Mojave and later. So, no need to download or install anything. To access the tool, you can simply follow these steps:

  1. Press Command + Shift + 5 on your keyboard.
  2. A small panel will appear at the bottom of your screen, which is the Screenshot app interface.

For older macOS versions, you can use the Grab tool, which offers similar functionalities. To find it, go to Applications > Utilities > Grab.

Tips for Successful Usage:

  • To ensure seamless access to the tool, remember the shortcut Command + Shift + 5. It will become your best friend when you need to take quick screenshots.
  • Familiarize yourself with the Screenshot app interface and explore its different features and settings. A little practice can go a long way.

How to Use the Snipping Tool on a Mac

Step-by-Step Instructions:

  1. Press Command + Shift + 5 to bring up the Screenshot app.
  2. Choose one of the three buttons on the right of the panel. From left to right, they allow you to capture the entire screen, a window, or a portion of the screen.
  3. Click Capture or press Return. For full-screen or window captures, the screenshot will be taken immediately. For capturing a portion, you can select the desired area first.

Different Modes of the Snipping Tool:

  1. Full Screen Snip: Captures the entire screen. Useful when you want to show everything visible on your monitor.
  2. Window Snip: This lets you select a specific window to capture. Ideal when focusing on a particular app or dialogue box.
  3. Rectangular Snip: You draw a box around the area of the screen you want to capture. Handy for zeroing in on specific content.
  4. Free-form Snip: Not available in the macOS Screenshot app. However, third-party apps offer this feature, allowing you to draw a free-form shape to define the capture area.

Practical Examples:

  • Full Screen Snip: When you want to share a bug that involves multiple applications or windows.
  • Window Snip: When you want to share an interesting article or tutorial from a web browser.
  • Rectangular Snip: When you want to highlight a particular section of a webpage, document, or image.

Keyboard Shortcuts for the Snipping Tool

Keyboard shortcuts can significantly enhance your experience using the Snipping Tool on a Mac. Here are some of the most useful ones:

  1. Command + Shift + 3: Capture the entire screen.
  2. Command + Shift + 4: Capture a selected area of the screen.
  3. Command + Shift + 4, then Spacebar: Capture a specific window or menu.
  4. Command + Shift + 5: Open the Screenshot app for more options.
  5. Command + Control + Shift + 3/4: Capture the entire screen or a selected area and save it to the clipboard.

Using Shortcuts and their Usefulness:

  • Command + Shift + 3: Perfect for quickly capturing the whole screen without needing to select anything.
  • Command + Shift + 4: Allows you to precisely select the area to capture. After pressing the shortcut, click and drag your mouse to define the capture area.
  • Command + Shift + 4, then Spacebar: After pressing the keys, your cursor becomes a camera icon. Hover it over the window you want to capture, and it will be highlighted. Click to take the screenshot.
  • Command + Shift + 5: Opens the Screenshot app, giving you access to various screenshot options and settings.
  • Command + Control + Shift + 3/4: If you want to paste your screenshot into a document or application without saving it as a file, use this shortcut.

Shortcut Scenarios:

  • Use Command + Shift + 3 when you need a quick full-screen snapshot, such as capturing a bug that affects your entire screen.
  • Command + Shift + 4 is great for capturing a specific dialogue box or a portion of a website.
  • The Command + Shift + 4, then Spacebar shortcut is ideal when you need a clean image of a specific window, free from background clutter.

Tips and Tricks for Using the Snipping Tool on a Mac

Advanced Tips:

  • Delayed screenshots: The Screenshot app allows you to delay the capture by up to 10 seconds, giving you time to set up your screen exactly how you want it before the screenshot is taken.
  • Use the Touch Bar: If you have a Mac with a Touch Bar, you can customize it to include a screenshot button for easy access.
  • Share screenshots quickly: After taking a screenshot, a thumbnail will appear in the corner of your screen. You can drag it directly into a document or application to share it quickly.

Common Issues and Resolutions:

  • Screenshot not working: Ensure your Mac's software is up to date, as older versions may have bugs that affect screenshots. You can also try restarting your Mac.
  • Screenshot quality is low: Screenshots are saved as PNG files by default, which should not lose quality. If you're experiencing low-quality screenshots, ensure your screen resolution is set to the maximum.

Customizing the Tool:

  • Change save location: By default, screenshots are saved to the desktop. You can change this in the Screenshot app options (Command + Shift + 5, then click Options).
  • Change screenshot file format: Screenshots are saved as PNG files by default, but this can be changed through Terminal commands.

Changing the Default Save Location

Changing the default save location for your snips in the Snipping Tool can help you keep your files organized and easily accessible. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to change the default save location:

  1. Open the Snipping Tool on your Mac by pressing Command + Shift + 5.
  2. Click on the Options button in the Screenshot app panel.
  3. In the Options menu, click on the "Save to" dropdown menu.
  4. Choose the desired folder or location where you want your snips to be saved.
  5. Close the Options menu.

By changing the default save location, you can ensure that your snips are stored in a more convenient folder or directory. This can save you time when searching for specific snips and help you maintain a more organized file system.

Navigating the Snipping Tool Interface

The Snipping Tool interface provides a user-friendly environment for capturing and managing your snips. Here's a detailed description of the interface and its key elements:

  1. Capture Buttons: Located on the right side of the Screenshot app panel, these buttons allow you to capture different types of snips, such as the entire screen, a window, or a selected portion.
  2. Options Button: Found in the Screenshot app panel, this button opens the Options menu, where you can customize various settings related to snipping, saving, and more.
  3. Toolbar: Located at the bottom of the Screenshot app panel, the toolbar provides quick access to features such as Timer, Options, Show Floating Thumbnail, and Record.
  4. Timer: This feature allows you to set a delay before a snip is captured. It gives you time to set up the desired screen or adjust any settings before the snip is taken.
  5. Show Floating Thumbnail: When enabled, a thumbnail of the captured snip will temporarily appear in the bottom-right corner of the screen, allowing you to quickly preview and edit the snip.
  6. Record: The Record button, represented by a solid circle, enables you to capture a video of your screen.

Enhancing Your Snips: Annotation Tools

The Snipping Tool offers a range of annotation tools to enhance your snips. Here's how to use the pen and highlighter tools, along with tips for adding text to your snips:

  1. Pen Tool: After capturing a snip, click on the "Pen" icon in the toolbar to activate the pen tool. Choose a color and line thickness, then use your cursor or trackpad to draw or write on the snip.
  2. Highlighter Tool: Similar to the pen tool, the highlighter tool allows you to emphasize specific areas of your snip. Click on the "Highlighter" icon in the toolbar, select a color, and drag your cursor over the desired sections to highlight them.
  3. Adding Text: To add text to your snip, click on the "Text" icon in the toolbar. Click on the snip where you want to insert text and start typing. You can customize the font, size, and color of the text using the options available.

Adding annotations to your snips can be particularly useful when providing explanations, highlighting important details, or marking up screenshots for tutorials or presentations.

Snipping Tool vs. Screenshot: Pros and Cons

When it comes to capturing screenshots on a Mac, you have two primary options: the Snipping Tool (Screenshot app) and traditional screenshot methods. Let's compare their features and discuss situations where one might be preferred over the other.

Snipping Tool (Screenshot app):

  • Pros:
  • Offers different snip modes (full screen, window, rectangular, and free-form) for precise captures.
  • Provides annotation tools for enhancing snips with drawings, text, and highlights.
  • Allows for quick sharing and saving options directly from the tool.
  • Comes pre-installed on macOS Mojave and later versions, eliminating the need

for additional downloads.

  • Cons:
  • Limited to macOS Mojave and later versions, which may not be available for older Macs.
  • Lack of the free-form snip mode available in third-party tools.

Traditional Screenshot Methods:

  • Pros:
  • Universally available on all Macs, regardless of the operating system version.
  • Can be captured using keyboard shortcuts (Command + Shift + 3 for full screen, Command + Shift + 4 for selected area).
  • Cons:
  • Limited to capturing full screen or selected areas, lacking the flexibility of other snip modes.
  • Lack of built-in annotation tools, requiring additional software or editing steps.

Situations where one might be preferred over the other:

  • Use the Snipping Tool (Screenshot app) when you require precise snips of specific areas, need to annotate the screenshots, or prefer a streamlined sharing process.
  • Opt for traditional screenshot methods when you have an older Mac or prefer a straightforward, no-frills approach to capturing full-screen or selected-area screenshots.

Integrating Snipping Tool with Other Apps

The Snipping Tool (Screenshot app) on a Mac offers seamless integration with other applications, allowing you to directly share your snips. Here's how you can leverage this integration:

Sharing Snips with Other Applications:

  • After capturing a snip using the Snipping Tool, a thumbnail appears in the bottom-right corner of your screen.
  • Click on the thumbnail to open the snip in the markup interface.
  • From there, click on the "Share" button to access a range of sharing options.
  • You can share the snip via Mail, Messages, Notes, or any other compatible application by selecting the desired sharing method.

Using the Snipping Tool for Presentations or Documents:

  • Capture snips of relevant content or screenshots to incorporate into presentations or documents.
  • Annotate the snips with drawings, highlights, and text to emphasize key points or provide context.
  • Save the annotated snips to your preferred location and insert them into your presentation or document as needed.

Integrating the Snipping Tool with other apps simplifies the process of sharing snips and enhances your ability to incorporate them seamlessly into your workflow.

Maintaining Your Snips: Organization and Storage

Proper organization and storage of your snips can save you time and frustration when retrieving or managing them. Here are some best practices for maintaining your snips effectively:

Organizing Your Snips:

  • Create dedicated folders or directories to store your snips based on different projects, topics, or purposes.
  • Use descriptive file names or tags to quickly identify the content of each snip.
  • Consider using subfolders or categories within your main snip folder to further organize and classify your captures.

Retrieving and Recovering Snips:

  • If you need to find a specific snip, use the search function within your operating system to locate it based on the file name or keywords associated with the snip.
  • Regularly back up your snip folders to prevent data loss in case of accidental deletion or system issues.
  • In case of accidental deletion, check the Trash/Recycle Bin on your Mac for the deleted snips. If they are still there, restore them to their original location.
  • Consider utilizing cloud storage solutions or external hard drives for additional backup and accessibility.

Snipping Tool and Accessibility Features

The Snipping Tool (Screenshot app) on a Mac is designed to be inclusive, offering compatibility with accessibility features such as VoiceOver. Here's how you can use the Snipping Tool with VoiceOver and the importance of inclusive technology:

Using the Snipping Tool with VoiceOver:

  • Enable VoiceOver on your Mac by going to System Preferences > Accessibility > VoiceOver.
  • Once VoiceOver is active, navigate to the Snipping Tool using keyboard navigation or VoiceOver gestures.
  • VoiceOver will read out the available options, buttons, and menus within the Snipping Tool, allowing you to interact with it using auditory feedback.

Importance of Inclusive Technology:

  • Inclusive technology ensures that individuals with disabilities have equal access to digital tools and services.
  • By supporting accessibility features like VoiceOver, the Snipping Tool enables visually impaired individuals to utilize its features and benefits.
  • Inclusive technology promotes diversity, accessibility, and equal opportunities for all users, regardless of their abilities.

Troubleshooting Common Problems

Despite the reliability of the Snipping Tool, users may encounter occasional issues. Here are some common problems and their solutions, along with guidance on seeking further assistance:

Common Issues and Solutions:

  • Tool not working: If the Snipping Tool is unresponsive or not launching, try restarting your Mac and attempting to use the tool again. If the issue persists, check for software updates or reinstall the macOS.
  • Unable to save snips: Ensure that you have the necessary permissions to save files in the designated folder. Check your system settings to confirm if there are any restrictions or permission issues. Alternatively, try changing the save location to a different folder.
  • Low-quality screenshots: If your snips appear pixelated or of low quality, verify that your screen resolution is set to the maximum available. Adjusting the screen resolution can help improve the clarity of captured images.

Seeking Further Help:

  • Apple Support: Visit the Apple Support website or contact Apple Support directly for assistance with specific Snipping Tool issues or macOS-related problems.
  • Online Forums and Communities: Participate in Mac user forums and communities to seek guidance from experienced users who may have encountered and resolved similar issues.

Keeping Your Snipping Tool Up-to-Date

Regularly updating the Snipping Tool (Screenshot app) is essential to ensure optimal performance and access to new features. Here's why it's important and how to check for updates:

Importance of Updating the Tool Regularly:

  • Updates often include bug fixes, security enhancements, and improvements to the functionality of the Snipping Tool.
  • By keeping the Snipping Tool up-to-date, you ensure compatibility with the latest macOS updates and overall system stability.

Checking for Updates and Installing Them:

  • Apple Menu: Click on the Apple menu in the top-left corner of the screen, then select System Preferences > Software Update. Follow the on-screen instructions to install any available updates.
  • App Store: Launch the App Store, click on the Updates tab, and look for updates related to the Screenshot app or the Snipping Tool. Click Update to install the latest version.

Regularly checking for updates and installing them ensures that you have the most recent version of the Snipping Tool, equipped with the latest features and fixes provided by Apple.


Throughout this comprehensive guide, we have explored the Snipping Tool (Screenshot app) on a Mac, uncovering its various features, tips, and tricks. Let's recap the main points covered and emphasize the importance of mastering this invaluable tool:

We began by introducing the Snipping Tool and understanding its role in simplifying screen capture on a Mac. We compared its features with traditional screenshot methods and highlighted situations where one might be preferred over the other. We delved into the Snipping Tool's integration with other applications, providing insights on how to directly share snips and utilize them for presentations or documents.

Organizing and maintaining your snips were discussed, including best practices for organization, retrieval, and backup. We also explored the accessibility features of the Snipping Tool, emphasizing its compatibility with VoiceOver and the significance of inclusive technology.

In troubleshooting common problems, we provided solutions for issues such as the tool not working, difficulties in saving snips, and low-quality screenshots. We also highlighted the importance of keeping the Snipping Tool up-to-date to benefit from bug fixes and new features.

In conclusion, mastering the Snipping Tool on a Mac empowers users to efficiently capture, annotate, and share visual content. Its flexibility, annotation tools, and direct integration with other applications make it an essential tool for various scenarios, whether you're a student, professional, or casual user.

How to Use the Snipping Tool on Mac

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