How to Change the Location and File Format for Mac Screenshots

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

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The Mac can take screenshots with just a keyboard shortcut or two. If you want a few more advanced capabilities, you can use the built-in Grab application (located at /Applications/Utilities) to take screenshots.

But neither of these screenshot options provides an easy way for you to specify your preferred graphics file format – JPG, TIFF, GIF, PNG, or PDF – for screenshots. The Mac captures screenshots using PNG as the default image format. This versatile format is popular and provides for lossless compression, preserving the quality of the image while still creating small files. But PNG isn't useful for all applications. You might want to save your screens in another format instead of taking the extra step of converting them using Photos or Preview.

These instructions apply to all types of Mac.

Change Screenshot Format to Different File Types

You can use Terminal, an application included with your Mac, to change the default graphics format. Here's how.

  1. Launch Terminal, located at /Applications/Utilities.

    The Terminal app on a Mac
  2. Type or copy/paste one of the following into the Terminal window and press the Return or Enter key. Chose the command based on which type of file you want to use for screenshots. The file type appears at the end of the line.

    Your browser may display this page with the Terminal command broken into multiple lines.

    defaults write com.apple.screencapture type jpg
    defaults write com.apple.screencapture type tiff
    defaults write com.apple.screencapture type gif
    defaults write com.apple.screencapture type pdf
    Typing a command into Terminal on Mac
  3. Screenshots you take will save as JPEGs now. The change won’t take effect until you restart your Mac.

How to Set the Location of Saved Screenshots

Now that you know how to set the format, 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 the location you want to save the screenshots you take.

  2. Type the following command into Terminal, but don't press Enter yet:

    defaults write com.apple.screencapture location
  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. Now, screenshots will save to this folder instead of your desktop.