Capture windows and menus

Christopher Breen
19 September, 2011
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I’ve found Grab to be one of the most useful utilities for explaining things or collaborating with others. It allows you to pick even a tiny piece of a screen and say, ‘Look at this.’ But I was trying to explain something in Aperture and wanted to grab a drop-down menu, and later a pop-up menu of all the adjustments that had been done to an image. I could not figure out how to capture such windows, because as soon as I invoked Grab, they disappeared.

This seems true of most drop-down or pop-up windows in any app. I was stumped. Is there an easy way to do this?

Michael Perini

Use a keyboard shortcut rather than Grab. These are the default shortcuts: 1-Shift-3 captures the entire screen; 1-Shift-4 freezes the screen, allowing you to select a portion to capture; 1-Shift-4 and then pressing the spacebar allows you to capture a specific menu or window – just move the camera cursor to the object you want to capture.

If you add the Control key to these shortcuts, the image is captured to the Clipboard rather than placed on the desktop as a PNG file. In your case, focus on the keyboard shortcuts that include the number 4. Use those shortcuts, and you’ll find that any windows and menus will freeze in place, allowing you to select them.

There are some things that will not be captured by using these keyboard shortcuts, and yes, Front Row, I’m looking at you. A colleague asked how he might capture a Front Row screen for a story we’re working on. My suggestion was this:

From another Mac, use Screen Sharing to log in to the Mac running Front Row. Do this, and you can capture that other Mac’s screen by using the standard keyboard shortcuts on the host Mac.

On the host Mac be sure to click outside the Screen Sharing window before you take the screenshot. Otherwise, the remote Mac will assume that shortcut was meant for it and will dump you out of Front Row.

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