The letter A styled as Alchemists logo. lchemists
Published May 15, 2020 Updated September 8, 2023

Every software engineer’s workflow should contain a tool to quickly capture screen images and/or videos for sharing with others. I’ve used my fair share over the years — going as far back as the Windows 95/98 era:

  • TechSmith’s Snagit (screen) and Camtasia (video)

  • CloudApp

  • Evernote’s Skitch

  • Monosnap

  • ScreenTray

  • Kap

  • Gifox

  • Gif Brewery

  • …​etc..

CleanShot is relatively new compared to the above. In fact, I first stumbled upon CleanShot in its 2.x.x version. I was so impressed by CleanShot’s simplicity and unobtrusiveness that I didn’t hesitate to buy it. The rest of this article will share what make’s CleanShot special.


Here’s what I love most about CleanShot:

  • Unobtrusive Interface - CleanShot operates almost invisibly except for the Quick Access thumbnails and the Annotation tool, when using it.

  • Keyboard Shortcuts - These shortcuts were decent in the previous version but now you can customize not only the global shortcuts for screen capture but also for all of the annotation tools. Avoiding the mouse is definitely a boon to productivity.

  • Image Annotation - The set includes cropping, pixelation, highlighting, numbered callouts, arrows, text, and more. All of these tools can be easily toggled via a keyboard shortcut.

  • Video Capture - New with 3.0.0 and definitely welcome, now you can not only capture MP4s but animated GIFs, as well. Even better, you can adjust the frame rate and quality for GIFs in order to keep your file size low.

  • Quick Access - Once an image/video is captured, depending on your settings, the media will show up as thumbnails in the lower left hand corner of your screen. I like this user interface a lot because of the small footprint and inherit queue this creates.


For those using Homebrew, run:

brew cask install cleanshot

The above, along with complete machine automation, is provided via the macOS Configuration project. Otherwise, you can download the app directly from your Gumroad account.


CleanShot’s customization is one the highlights of the app for me. Tweaking the app to your personal workflow, especially the keyboard shortcuts mentioned above, is well worth the time invested. The following is a walkthrough of my settings in case they are of interest.



The copy to clipboard feature is always enabled because, when coupled with Alfred's multi-clipboard functionality, the clipboard makes short order of reusing previously captured screenshots.

I’ve opted to not check the Open Annotate tool after image capture option because I’ve configured the CONTROL + OPTION + COMMAND + 2 keyboard shortcut for this specific purpose (see below). The opposite is true for video because capturing video generally requires a bit of editing or, at a minimum, a cursory review.



My desktop is rarely cluttered but use of a custom background is handy when capturing images/video for a consistent look and feel.

When it comes to capturing windows — like many of the screenshots in this article — I prefer the transparent background, though I do wish there was an option for defining shadow length.



You’ll want to spend time figuring out what workflow is best for you but shortcuts are my favorite feature since they reduce the need for a mouse. Here’s what I found works best for my setup:


  • CONTROL + OPTION + COMMAND + 0: Capture text.

  • CONTROL + OPTION + COMMAND + 1: Capture area.

  • CONTROL + OPTION + COMMAND + 2: Capture area and annotate.

  • CONTROL + OPTION + COMMAND + 3: Capture window.

  • CONTROL + OPTION + COMMAND + 4: Capture fullscreen.

  • CONTROL + OPTION + COMMAND + 5: Capture with timer.

  • CONTROL + OPTION + COMMAND + 6: Capture with scroll.

  • CONTROL + OPTION + COMMAND + 7: Record screen (start/stop).

  • CONTROL + OPTION + COMMAND + 8: Launch all-in-one capture.

  • CONTROL + OPTION + COMMAND + 9: Launch capture history.

  • CONTROL + OPTION + COMMAND + a: Open file in annotate.

  • CONTROL + OPTION + COMMAND + \: Open last screenshot in annotate.


Press and hold any of the following keys, after using the above global shortcuts, to enhance your captures:

  • CONTROL: Copies selection directly to your clipboard. Only works with screenshots.

  • OPTION: Ensures dimensions are uniform when sizing or resizing an area for capture.

  • COMMAND: Displays crosshairs with magnifier (if enabled in advanced preferences).


  • -: Decease size (zoom out)

  • =: Increase size (zoom in)

  • A: Arrow

  • B: Background (add)

  • C: Crop

  • D: Draw

  • E: Ellipse

  • F: Rectangle (filled)

  • H: Highlight

  • L: Line

  • M: Highlighter

  • P: Pixelate

  • R: Rectangle (empty)

  • S: Stamp (counter)

  • T: Text

  • COMMAND + I: Insert image from file picker.

  • COMMAND + S: Save

  • COMMAND + SHIFT + I: Insert new screenshot.

  • COMMAND + SHIFT + Z: Redo

  • COMMAND + U: Upload

  • COMMAND + W: Cancel

  • COMMAND + Z: Undo

  • OPTION: Toggle Save as…​ button as Save button.

  • OPTION + <click> + <drag>: Duplicate selected annotation

Quick Access

Currently, these shortcuts are not customizable and only work when your mouse is over the Quick Access Overlay (i.e. lower left-hand corner) which pops up after a screenshot has been captured.

  • COMMAND + C: Copy to clipboard.

  • COMMAND + S: Save to file.

  • COMMAND + W: Close and lose any unsaved information.

  • <mouse swipe left>: Same as COMMAND + W but can be faster when wanting to hover and close multiple captures at once.

  • COMMAND + U: Upload to Cloud.

  • COMMAND + E: Open annotation tool.

  • SPACE: Open quick look.

Capture History

When viewing your capture history, the following shortcuts (non-customizable) are available:

  • : Move forward through your history.

  • : Move backward through your history.

  • SPACE: Open quick look.

  • ENTER: Add selection to Quick Access for further use.

💡 Dragging and dropping any selection out of your history and into another application will immediately copy and paste the content for you.

Quick Access

Quick Access

Auto-close is disabled because it tends to be too much file maintenance. Plus, as mentioned earlier, makes for a killer combo when used in conjunction with the Alfred Clipboard.

Drag and drop and cloud upload support are worth enabling for further automation and less maintenance on your part.



Display of recording time is super useful and shows up when hovering over videos in the Quick Access area.

While I have an Alfred macro for enabling Do Not Disturb, letting CleanShot handle this automatically saves me an extra step.

Click highlighting and keyboard shortcuts are generally enabled, by default, but toggle on and off depending on the type of recording captured. Click highlighting improves mouse tracking usage. I sometimes couple this feature with Keymou highlighting as well. In rare cases where click highlighting is not needed, it can be temporarily disabled for individual recordings via the UI.

Keyboard keystrokes, like click highlighting, helps capture command key usage. This makes watching videos more intuitive. This feature can be disabled for individual recordings via the UI as well.

Disabling the dimming of the screen allows you to clearly read notes or view other windows. The area being recorded will have a red border when disabled like this but, if enabled, the entire desktop will be dimmed except for the recording area.



Freeze screen and crosshair mode are enabled by default so you can ensure the screen remains frozen during the time you are trying to capture a screenshot. Crosshair support, via the COMMAND key, lets you use the magnifier for pixel perfect capture when you need it.



Adding labels to each color is a nice touch and worth considering. Most critically, though, enable the Dock icon so you can quickly ALT + TAB back to the Annotate Tool when distracted by other windows.



Links to a free account where images self destruct after 30 days. I seldom use this feature, myself, but is useful in a pinch.



For file names, I prefer the following:

Format: "%y-%m-%d_%H-%M-%S-%a"
Example: "2021-08-14_10-05-22-PathFinder"

The default is a date/time only.

System Preferences

In addition to CleanShot’s application preferences, you’ll want to open macOS System Preferences → Extensions → Added Extensions and enable all of the CleanShot extensions as shown below:

System Preferences - Extensions

URL Scheme API

A URL Scheme API is provided and pairs well with Alfred as a nice client for further automation.


CleanShot used to be $29 for a single license but is currently $19/year for two licenses.


Monthly releases of bug fixes and feature updates are fairly common, and CleanShot hosts a syndicated feed of such updates. Sadly, the format is poorly implemented. Each entry appears new, which defeats the purpose of only wanting to know when the latest version available.


If you are in the market for a screenshot and/or screencast tool, CleanShot might solve that need. I certainly love it, haven’t found anything better, and hope it can improve your workflow too. Enjoy!