Tip of the Day, August 21st 2008

Ever get a weird error message on your Mac and then try to tell someone (me) about it? The conversation goes like this:

You: “I got a weird error message on my Mac.”
Me: “Oh really. What did it say?”
You: “Something about an error.”
Me: “Right. Can you tell me a little more?”
You: “No, it just said there was an error. What do you suppose it was?”
Me: “Aaargh.”

Today we are going to learn how to take pictures of the screen— of the whole screen, of parts of the screen, of particular windows. Here goes.

  1. Take a picture of the ENTIRE screen by holding down Command and Shift and 3. If the sound is up on your Mac you’ll hear a camera shutter sound, useful to those of you who have heard a camera with a shutter. The picture will be saved on your desktop with a name like “Picture 1.” From there, do anything you want with it– open it, print it, email it.
  2. Take a picture of PART of the screen by holding down Command and Shift and 4. You’ll get a cross-hair cursor. Click and drag to highlight part of the screen, then let go. You’ll hear the shutter sound again, and there’ll be an icon with “Picture 1” (or 2, or 10) on the desktop, ready for you to work with.

Bonus: do Command-Shift-4, then press the spacebar. Your cursor will look like a camera! Move it until it is over the window you want to take a picture of, then click the mouse. Presto: a PERFECT picture of that window, edge-to-edge. No trimming required.

Double Bonus: do any of the above but also include the CONTROL key. When you do that, the picture is put onto the Clipboard, ready to be pasted into an email (or anywhere else). It does not save a copy on the desktop.

So… next time you get a weird error message on your screen, do this: Command-Shift-CONTROL-4, then spacebar, then get your cursor over the error message, then click. Write me an email, and paste the picture in.

It sounds complicated but after you’ve done it once or twice it becomes almost automatic. Sort of like breathing.


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