Monthly Archives: April 2010

4 OS X Screenshot Tools

Taking screen captures in OS X is pretty simple and powerful. Today I’ll explain how to use the built-in screen capture functionality, the included application Grab, and a couple of third-party options that offer extra functionality.

Built-in OS X Functionality

  • Command + Shift + 3

    This keystroke results in a full screenshot and saves the resulting file as a PNG, to your desktop. The file is named with the date and time it was captured.

  • Command + Shift + 4

    Pressing these keys initially brings up a cross hair on screen that displays the coordinates of the cursor. Click and drag to select the area you want to capture. When you release the mouse button, the capture will be saved to the desktop as previously mentioned.

    If you press the spacebar while the crosshairs are visible, it changes into a camera icon that you can position over a specific window that you may wish to capture. (That window must be visible when you initiate the keystroke.)

    During both modes you may hold the Control key at the time of capture. Doing so will save the resulting shot to the clipboard rather than a file on the desktop.


The Grab application resides in the /Applications/Utilities folder. It’s pretty simplistic, and essentially duplicates the functionality of the built-in OS X feature, albeit, with a couple of small differences. After you’ve taken the screenshot, it is displayed for you to review at which time you must explicitly save it, if it is indeed what you wanted. This also allows you to choose where you’re going to save the file. There’s a Preferences window where you can choose from eight cursor images to be captured in the resulting image. Otherwise, things are pretty much the same. The keystrokes are different, as you’ll see next.

  • Command + Shift + A

    This keystroke results in a crosshair on screen that displays the coordinates of the cursor. Click and drag to select the area you want to capture.

  • Command + Shift + W

    This keystroke allows you to move windows around to select the one you’d like to capture.

  • Command + Z

    This keystroke results in a full screenshot.

  • Command + Shift  + Z

    This keystroke results in a full screenshot after a 10 second timer elapses.


Skitch is developed by the rockstars at Plasq. It’s super powerful and really easy to use. You get to edit size, crop, draw nondestructively, there’s multi-format export, web upload, copy to clipboard, review history and much more. The best part is, it’s 100% free to use!

  • Command + Shift + 5

    Pressing this keystroke brings up the (now familiar) crosshairs to select the region of the screen you wish to capture. The image is then opened into Skitch for further editing and use — this is the same for each key combo.

  • Command + Shift + 6

    This keystroke results in a full screen capture.

  • Command + Shift + 7

    This keystroke brings up a frame that you can resize to capture a portion of the screen. Initially this may seem to be the same as the crosshair — the difference is, the frame retains its dimensions each time, allowing you to capture uniform shots multiple times.


LittleSnapper is developed by RealMac Software. It approaches screenshots from an iPhoto perspective, allowing you to catalog, group, and tag your shots for later use. There’s a built-in browser for grabbing all or a portion of a webpage. The export feature allows you to save a webpage to a PDF file, or any screen capture to multiple image formats. There’s also an editor for tweaking the shots once you’ve captured them. With all this functionality comes a price — it’s $39. There’s also a free trial to see if it’s a good fit for you.

  • Command + Option + 3

    This keystroke produces a full screen capture. Once captured, it is loaded into the LittleSnapper gallery for further editing and use — this behavior is consistent with all key combos.

  • Command + Shift + Option + 3

    Similar to Grab, this gives you a short timer before the full screen image is captured.

  • Command + Option + 4

    This keystroke gives you the crosshairs to choose the region of the screen to capture.

  • Command + Option + 5

    This keystroke captures a specific window on screen. At least a portion of the window must be visible before initiating the keystroke.

So depending on your screenshot needs, there’s an app for that (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). The built-in tools are great and produce nice results. I personally opt for Skitch almost daily as it provides the level of control I need, but can see where something like LittleSnapper would be ideal for the designer types. There are plenty of other options out there too, if you want to get your Google on. But hopefully we’ve armed you with a little more knowledge today, to get that perfect screenshot the next time you need one.

Textie for iPhone Sends Free Text Messages [IPhone Apps]

Textie is a free iPhone application that sends free text messages to email addresses, most cellphones, and other Textie users. Textie doesn’t dip into your monthly messaging plan, so it’s basically unlimited texting. More »

Iconized Bookmark Popup Adds Quick Access to Chrome Bookmarks [Downloads]

Chrome only: Google Chrome extension Iconized Bookmark Popup displays your bookmarks in a simple popup that saves space by showing just the bookmark icons—very useful for those of us who keep the bookmarks bar hidden. More »

Best Tech Interview Question I’ve Seen | Javalobby

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BurnAware Free 3 Beta Improves Burning Performance, Supports Tons of Formats [Downloads]

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The Best and Worst Hotels for Wi-Fi, 2010 Edition [Hotels]

On some trips, free and reliable Wi-Fi at the hotel is crucial. The HotelChatter blog’s annual review of Wi-Fi at hotel chains dishes on who’s charging, which services you can depend on, and which chains want $15 for checking your Gmail. More »

iPhone Barcode Library

Chris of the Yeti Factory has ported my Cocoa Barcode library to the iPhone. This has been something I’ve been meaning to do for a while, but I’m actually kind of glad someone else did it. I wasn’t relishing diving into eight-year old code.

©2008-2010 Jeff LaMarche.

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Quick Tips: 3 Uses for Hazel

Hazel is a preference pane from Noodlesoft that lets you perform actions on your folders based on certain criteria. Here’s a list of several things you can do with it and how to set them up.

Clean your Downloads folder

At the end of the day, my Downloads folder is always stuffed with disk images, half-completed download files, and everything in between. You can clean out any cruft easily using Hazel. Hazel even includes some example actions for your Downloads folder, like moving all photos to your Pictures folder and labeling them blue. But here we’re just going to set it to clear out old disk images.

  1. Open up Hazel in System Preferences and click on your Downloads folder in the left pane (it should be there already, if not, add it with the + button).
  2. Click the + button to add a new rule.
  3. Give the rule a description. I just put “DMG”.
  4. On the first line, set it so it reads Extension is dmg, and set the action line to Move file to folder: Trash like so:
  5. What you have now will delete any disk image in your Downloads folder. That’s not what we want, so we’re going to set it so it only deletes disk images that are older than a day. Click the + to create a new condition. Set this one to Date Added is not Today, and your window should look like this:

Of course, you can change the date to anything you want. And you can add any file type to clear out, so if you download a lot of PDFs, just create a new condition referencing PDFs.

Zip/Unzip Folder

The usefulness of this is debatable, however the concept is still neat: just drag any file into this folder, and it’s compressed and pushed to the desktop.

  1. Create a new folder called “Zip” (or whatever you want).
  2. Add that folder to Hazel by clicking the + on the left side.
  3. Create a new rule by clicking the + on the right side, and name it anything.
  4. Set the conditions to Any File.
  5. Add an action and set it to Archive file.
  6. Add another action and set it to Move file to folder: Desktop. Your window should look like this when you’re done:

You can also make another folder that unzips anything dropped into it. Just change Archive file to Unarchive file.

Torrent Folder

This one’s a lot more useful: A folder that automatically opens any torrent files dropped into it.

  1. Create a new folder and call it “Torrents” (or whatever you want).
  2. Add that folder to Hazel.
  3. Create a new rule and name it anything.
  4. Set the conditions to Extension is torrent.
  5. Set the action to Open file with application: Default Application. Your window will look like this when you’re done:

If you have another Mac with Dropbox and Hazel, you can set this so that you can put a torrent file into a folder on your Dropbox and have it sync over to your other Mac, which will then download that torrent. This is also useful if you have ted, which downloads torrents of all your favorite TV shows. Simply reference ted’s folder, which should be in your Home directory.


My ideas can only go so far. The real potential in Hazel lies in adapting it to your own workflow. Play around with it, see what you can do, and then let us know in the comments what you came up with.

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