How to Change the Location and File Format for Mac Screenshots

Store screenshots as JPG, TIFF, GIF, PNG, or PDF files

On a Mac, you can take screenshots with a simple keyboard command. You can also use the built-in Grab application, if you'd prefer more advanced capabilities. Neither of these methods allows you to specify your preferred image file format, such as JPG, TIFF, GIF, PNG, or PDF.

macOS captures screenshots using PNG as the default image format. This format provides lossless compression, preserving image quality while still creating comparatively small files. But you may want to save your screenshots in another file format.

These instructions apply to all Mac computers.

How to Change a Screenshot Format to Different File Types

You can use Terminal, an application included in macOS, to change the default graphics format. Here's how:

  1. Launch Terminal.

    To open Terminal, enter "terminal" into Spotlight, or use a Finder window and navigate to Applications > Utilities > Terminal.

    The Terminal app on a Mac
  2. Enter one of the following commands into the Terminal window, depending on the file type you would prefer (jpg, tiff, gif, or pdf).

    defaults write
    defaults write
    defaults write
    defaults write
    Typing a command into Terminal on Mac
  3. Press the Return or Enter key on your keyboard. Screenshots you take will now save as the file format you entered in Terminal.

    This change will not take effect until you restart the computer.

How to Set the Destination for Saved Screenshots

Now that you know how to set the format for your screenshots, you can also use Terminal to change the destination for screenshots you take instead of sending them all to the desktop.

Here's how:

  1. Create a new folder in whatever location you'd prefer screenshots to be saved.

  2. Type the following command into Terminal, but do not press Enter yet:

    defaults write
  3. Drag the folder you created into Terminal, and it will automatically add the path information to the end of the command.

  4. Press Enter on your keyboard. Now, screenshots will save to this folder instead of your desktop.