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How Do I Get Screen Shots To Save To a File Automatically Instead Of To the Desktop?

When I make multiple screenshots for a project such as a Keynote presentation they collect all over the desktop. I would like to save them to a file for four reasons. 1) they would be in date/time order. 2) when in ‘preview’ the picture size would be larger than it is on the desktop 3) I hate the messy way they arrange on the desktop. 4) I could file them by project within the screen shot file.

Comments: 7 Responses to “How Do I Get Screen Shots To Save To a File Automatically Instead Of To the Desktop?”

    11 years ago

    So first, let's talk terminology so others reading this don't get confused. A "file" is a single document. A "folder" is a location on your hard drive with 0, 1 or more files.
    When you save a screenshot, it saves the image to a file that contains that image. Like "ScreenShot.jpg" -- that's a file. You can create a folder, call it anything you want, and put multiple files into it. You have default folders like Documents, Pictures, Movies, Music, etc in your user folder.
    So when you take a screen shot it create an image file and puts it on your Desktop. Your Desktop is also a folder. Look in your user folder and alongside Documents, Music, Pictures, etc, you will see Desktop. Look in there and there are probably some files.
    The Desktop has the unusual property that its files are also displayed on your screen over the background. But other than that it is pretty much like any other folder.
    Now when you use the system's default screen capture ability, it will save the file to the Desktop folder automatically. You can change that by using the Terminal app. For instance, you could run Terminal and use these two lines to have the images save to a folder name "screenshots" in your Documents folder:

    defaults write location ~/Documents/screenshots/
    killall SystemUIServer

    But I don't know if that is what you really want. It sounds like you want to be able to choose where to save the file when you take the screenshot, give it a new name, etc. You can do that by using the Grab tool instead of the default screenshot shortcut. Just run Grab and you'll find all sorts of options. See
    Of course you can go even further than that. There are many 3rd-party screen capture utilities that add all sorts of functionality. I use Skitch and Snapz Pro and others. So maybe look into them if you need more
    So to answer your questions:
    1) Once you have them all in a folder, you can choose List view and sort them how you like. But you can do the same even if they are on the Desktop. Just open the Desktop folder in a Finder window.
    2) By viewing a folder in a Finder window you can choose Icon view to see icons, and then use View, Show Status Bar to get a control at the bottom right to control the icon size. Or, view them in Column view and get a preview in the right column.
    3 & 4) You could always move them from the Desktop to another folder. Easy to do. Most people just take screenshots, then move them from the Desktop to a folder they create inside their Documents or Pictures folders. Then arrange as needed.

    Luis Anthony Ast
    11 years ago

    Another option is to use an application like Snapz Pro X ( to create and store the screenshots would be handy too.

    Andy Suhaka
    11 years ago

    Seems like simple, short answer should have been to look in the Desktop folder in Finder and they'll be in order in there.

    11 years ago

    Or, rather than using the terminal (which you may find confusing) there is a setting in TinkerTool, as explained in Gary's last video, that allows you to specify the location and image format of a screenshot. Or there is a shortcut, as there is for creating a screenshot to the desktop, to create a screenshot to the clipboard like windows' printscreen feature. This maybe useful if you wish to put the images in a document without having the images permanatly stored on your system.

    11 years ago

    Thanks everyone I shall investigate all your options and see which fits my need best. Also thanks for the clarification of the types of files : )

    11 years ago

    2 things:
    1-What is TinkerTool?
    2-Instant Shot is another good screen capture program (free).

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