Grabbing images the easy way

If you've read my blog entries up to now you'll notice I like to add an image into the post if it's about a particular application or device. I think it adds a little to what is otherwise a lot of text on a page. 

There are two simple steps: capturing the image and uploading the image. This is one of the little features that I'm sure Mac folks take for granted but that as a Windows guy I find so helpful.

Capturing the Image
On Windows capturing an image can be a bit of a challenge. If you are looking at a screen shot you want you can hit Print Screen, which will capture the entire desktop and open windows. As an alternative you can hit Alt-Print Screen to grab the current window. It makes a copy of the area and places it in the Windows clipboard. You then need to paste it into the appropriate location.

Everyone on Windows has a copy of Paint, a simple painting program. I would fire that up, paste the contents of the clipboard into it, then use Save As to make the image a JPEG and place it somewhere I can get to quickly.

If I just want to grab a copy of an image that already exists on a corporate web site - say a logo that I can put into my blog - I right click on the image and use the Save As functionality.

On Mac it's much easier. If the item I want to use is a graphic on a web page - say the logo of a product I'm writing about - I simply drag it out of Safari and onto my desktop. Done.

I can also use Mac's Grab utility to suck out portions of the screen. I can grab a window, selection, the entire screen or a timed screen - which let's me get out of the Grab menu and set up my environment the way I want it captured.

I use the Command-Shift-4 shortcut on my Mac to just grab a selection of what I am looking at. It drops a PNG formatted image right on my desktop.

Uploading the Image
In the Windows world I upload my image into Blogger (the site I use to manage this blog) by clicking on the Upload Image button. I am then prompted with a dialog that lets me choose the image I want to upload. Usually the image is stored in a different path than the default that I get when I click the Select File button - I have to navigate to it.

Most web sites employ a similar model; you can choose a file by clicking the Select or Choose button or you can type in the path to the file and click an Upload button. This uses standard HTML controls to handle it.

On my Mac it's pretty simple. Since I keep my captured images on my desktop I simply drag the desktop image onto the Select File button and it knows which file I mean.

While not a huge time saver it's little things like this - the implied dragging and dropping - that make the Mac interface so cool. I actually get a little pissed off when I try to drag something and it's not drag enabled and I think it should be.


A cool mac trick: Do command - shift - 4 then hit the space bar. You can then choose a specific window. The resulting png is really nice with the drop shadow against a neutral gray background.
David Alison said…
Benjamin - very cool trick - thanks man!
N45800 said…
Try Skitch, it's an amazing mac screenshot program. There is a 3 min intro video which shows off some of the features.
JB said…
BTW, you can know you can highlight text and drag off also into a text clipping?
Anonymous said…
One tip - a friend recently pointed out how to make your screencaptures automatically save in jpg instead of ping:

just open up terminal, then paste in:

defaults write type jpg

For my basic purposes, I loved having it save right into .jpg =)

Love the blog!
Anonymous said…
I second Skitch. It's so easy to make quick edits and do nearly everything I want when making a screenshot.
Marjori said…
Thanks for the tip! I've even posted it on my blog at
Chris Howard said…
Dave, check out Onyx. It lets you change heaps of settings in OS X that don't have options in the System Preferences. (There are other apps that do this too, such as Cocktail, but Onyx is my fave.)

The setting of interest for this piece is the one to change where screen captures are saved to. Makes for a much tidier desktop. You can also change the file format they save in.

Also, if you hold the Control key when you select and click your screen area (after command-shift-4), it will paste the screen capture to the clipboard rather than a file.

In OS X, always experiment with the modifier keys, especially Command and Option. For example, in Finder select the File menu and press Option and see how the menu items change.

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