Changing the default Mac screen shot image type

I recently had the need to change the default Mac OSX takes it’s screen shots in. There’s some occasions where you need more quality than PNG and some occasions where you need a file anyone can open and simply don’t want PNG as your default.

Well, in OSX 10.4 and onwards you can change the default screen shot format.

Start by opening Terminal, located in /Applications/Utilities/Terminal

Type in:

defaults write type image_format
killall SystemUIServer

Replace image_format with your selected format that you wish to change the default setting to. The second line reloads the default so that you don’t need to log out and back in again for the change to take effect. The next time you take a screen shot after executing both of these commands, it will be saved in the new format you have chosen.

Below is a list of several popular image types and their commands in full should you wish to paste them.


defaults write type bmp
killall SystemUIServer


defaults write type gif
killall SystemUIServer


defaults write type jpg
killall SystemUIServer


defaults write type pdf
killall SystemUIServer


defaults write type png
killall SystemUIServer


defaults write type tiff
killall SystemUIServer

7 Responses

  1. Beppe Bravi aka Beppone

    Thank you very much… veeery interesting info.
    Have a nice day.

  2. ryan

    Thanks. I just tried this, but it doesn’t seem to be changing. Still stuck in tiff. OS X 10.5.6

  3. brianjlandau (Brian Landau)

    @cdrum here’s a tip for you or you could try

  4. Damien

    Thanks very much, just what I needed!

  5. RicG

    Many thanks! I was having a problem with the screen capture failing with the message “Unable to create type string”. I discovered that the plist was set to pict (no longer supported in SL) and, based on several suggestions, used the defaults write fix to change it to png. Had no effect until I restarted the SystemUIServer. I’m a Mac support guy and hate being stumped!

  6. Ray

    Thanks! this did the trick

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