Screen Captures in Mountain Lion and file formats – what the …?


I am in the middle of writing some documentation for our new web service that I’m going to talk a bit more about in the near future. For this I need to take screen captures and upload them onto a wordpress site.

Working on my mac, all seemed fine for a while. OS X ships with a nice screen capture Application that’s easy to use, fast and does exactly what you need. Screen captures are being saved as .tiff files and these showed quite nicely on all the browsers I used for testing on my work day.

The surprise came in the evening when I showed my great achievements to my wife on our Android tablet. The pictures were broken. In Chrome as well as Opera.

So I’m currently converting all my screen captures I did yesterday to png using the Preview App. Not a big deal, just boring and time consuming.

The next thing to do was to change the format in which Screen Capture saves its pictures. There are loads of tips out on the web that describe how to change that default setting. As always, if a setting is important, Apple makes it only accessible through a command line tool.

So in theory all you have to do to change the file format that Screen Capture uses is fire up a Terminal and enter this command:

defaults write com.apple.screencapture type png|pdf|jpg|tiff|pdf

In practice, it doesn’t work on OS X 10.8.5.

I tried with and without killall SystemUIServer, and restarted the machine several times. Screen Capture insists on saving as .tiff.

Great. Thanks Apple!

So in the middle of converting a few dozen .tiff files to .png I found out that Preview can also take screen captures and save in any format you’d possibly want. At least in all that I seem to need.

So Preview is my new Screen Capturing tool. Once I’ve converted yesterday’s pictures, uploaded them and updated all pages that reference one of the old tiff files, that is…

Now let’s talk about Apple’s great usability achievements. Here’s what you find if you search for “format” in Screen Capture’s Help menu: We only support .tiff. If you need something else, take a screenshot and convert it using Preview.

Great. Thanks Apple!

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