Why press Shift + Command + 3 to take a screenshot on a Mac?

Every time you take a screenshot on a Mac, press Shift + Command + 3, Shift + Command + 4, or Shift + Command + 5. But what happened to Shift + Command + 1 and Shift + Command + 2? This is a trivial question, but the answer goes back to the early history of the Mac. Let’s find out.

The answer goes back to 1984

Recently on Twitter, technical historian Marcin Wichari ask an open question: Why does a Mac screenshot shortcut, Shift + Command + 3, start with 3? Why not start with 1 or 2?

As it turns out, back in 1984 with the publication of original MacShift + Command + 1 remove internal (first) floppy disk, and Shift + Command + 2 ejected what was then the second (external) floppy, if one was attached. Here is a selection from the original Macintosh manual that describes it.

Shift + Command + 1, explained in Apple's original 1984 manual.
Apple / Marcin Wichari

Initially, the Macintosh keyboard did not include various function keys (such as the F1-F12 on the IBM PC), so Apple included a way to simulate them by pressing Command + Shift + 1 to Command + Shift + 9. Using a system called “FKEYS“It was possible for people to install custom actions related to these feature shortcuts using the system software folder.

So where did Shift + Command + 3 come from? At one point – probably around System 2.0 1985 – Apple adds several special FKEY shortcuts to the Mac OS that allow users to take screenshots such as MacPaint files. Wichary discovered Shift + Command + 3, described in the 1987 Macintosh II Manual. Here’s how this manual works:

The original keyboard shortcut for Mac, explained in the 1987 Macintosh II Manual.
Apple / Marcin Wichari

You’ll notice that Apple calls the Command key the “Apple” key here, because older Mac keyboards include both a command symbol and an Apple symbol on that particular key as a transition from earlier Apple computers. Interestingly, at the same time Shift + Command + 4 displays the contents of the active window to a connected printer, something like a Mac version of Print Screen.

CONNECTED: Macintosh System 1: How was Apple’s Mac OS 1.0?

What are Shift + Command + 1 doing today?

At some point, Apple changed the Mac OS so that Shift + Command + 1 no longer removes disks (if we have to guess, probably at the time when Macs got rid of floppy devices in the late 1990s).

Since then, a number of different Mac programs have intervened began using the shortcut Shift + Command + 1, such as displaying the Photos and Audio sidebar in Final Cut Pro or selecting all layers in Corel Painter. But there is no official function in macOS anymore.

Instead, if you want remove the mounted disc, select it in the Finder and press Command + E or select File> Eject from the menu bar. And if you need to take a screenshot, press Shift + Command + 3 on your keyboard and you’re done. Nice click!

CONNECTED: How to take a screenshot on a Mac

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