Seven Tips and Shortcuts for the Mac Calculator app

Updated November 1st, 2022.

The Mac’s had a calculator from the very first day, but a lot of people have never used it at all. The ones who have used it probably don’t know everything it can do so they probably aren’t so impressed with it. Turns out the Calculator is way slicker than initially meets the eye, and I think you’ll use it a lot once you’ve learned about its powers. So here we go with Seven Tips and Shortcuts for the Mac Calculator app.

Table of Contents

  1. Put the Calculator into the Dock
  2. The Calculator has three modes: Basic, Scientific, and Programmer
  3. Use the keyboard for data entry
  4. The Calculator has a “paper tape”
  5. The Calculator can do conversions
  6. Show commas to separate the thousands, millions, and so on
  7. The Calculator can speak the buttons you’ve pressed
Continue reading “Seven Tips and Shortcuts for the Mac Calculator app”

Mac Option Key tip #11: Delete a Messages conversation with one click

Updated April 13th, 2020.

Eleventh in the series!

You use the Messages app on your Mac, don’t you? (You should– you can tied it into your phone’s text messaging using your iCloud address, so the same messages show up on both devices, and it’s a lot easier to type on the Mac than on your phone.) Anyhow, sometimes you want to delete a conversation, and when you do it goes like this:

1. Hover over the conversation until you see the “x”

Message app: Hover over the message and look for the "x"
Hover over the message and look for the “x”

2. Click the “x” and wait for the box to slide down, asking if you’re sure

Mac Messages app: Are you sure you want to delete this conversation?
Are you sure you want to delete this conversation?

3. You click the “Delete” button and you’re done.

Turns out you can do it with one click— if you’re holding down the option key! Just hold it down and click the “x.” No waiting for the box to slide down, no need to click a confirming button. Just a simple Option-click. Voilá!

UPDATE: in macOS 10.13.x, you use the SHIFT key, not the Option key, to delete a message without a warning dialog box.

BONUS: turns out you can do it with no clicks. Rather, you do it from the keyboard. If you look in the File menu you’ll see “Delete Conversation…” (and as you know, anytime you see “…” you’re going to see a dialog box with a chance to confirm or cancel). Notice the shortcut for “Delete Conversation…”: Command-Delete.

Mac app Messages File menu
Messages File menu

Now notice what happens if you hold down the Option key. The menu items changes– and so does the shortcut. Now it’s Option-Command-Delete.

Mac app Messages: File menu with the Option key
Messages File menu with the Option key

So, if the conversation is selected, all you have to do is press Option-Command-Delete. No dialog box, no buttons to click, no muss, no fuss. Which also means “no chance to undo it so you had better be sure about deleting the thing.”

UPDATE: this keyboard shortcut is not present in macOS 10.13.x. Hopefully it will come back in a later release. I do not have a substitute for you. However, in macOS 10.14 (Mojave), if you have a conversation selected and then press Command-Delete, you’ll get a dialog box asking if you’re sure… and you can click the Delete button in that box by pressing Command-D!

NOTE: if you check the box in Messages’ preferences to “Save history when conversations are closed” you won’t get asked about saving conversations (because they’re automatically saved).

Messages preferences with Save Conversation
Messages preferences with “Save history when conversations are closed”

And that’s my eleventh Option key blog post. This one doesn’t really count unless you’re using an older macOS since they took the feature away, but I’m keeping the blog post here anyway.

Click here to see all of my blog posts involving the Option key. Save yourself time and effort with the tips in those posts!

Should I install the iOS 9.3.2 Update?

Updated April 21st, 2020.

The latest iOS is 13.5.1, released Monday June 1st, 2020. If you've installed iOS 13 already you should get the update to 13.5. This is an important security fix. Apple also released iPadOS 13.5.1 June 1st, 2020. If you have an iPhone that can't go past iOS 12, get the 12.4.7 update, released Tuesday, May 20th, 2020.

Easy answer: yes, unless you are thinking of updating an iPad Pro 9.7 inch. In that case, don’t. The iPad Pro 9.7 inch can, in some cases, become “bricked” (completely unresponsive) when the 9.3.2 update is applied.

UPDATE:Apple has recognized the problem and for now the highest available iOS version for the iPad Pro 9.7 inch is 9.3.1. If you try to get 9.3.2 on an iPad Pro 9.7 inch you’ll be told that 9.3.1 is the highest version available. For now.

UPDATE #2: Apple has released a revised 9.3.2 for the iPad Pro 9.7 inch. They’ve included complete instructions, even addressing the “Error 56” problem.

You may be wondering what’s new in 9.3.2, compared to 9.3.1. As with most small updates it’s security improvements and bug fixes. You can read all about it on Apple’s site and it won’t take long as there are only five bug fixes listed.

I recommend you install the 9.3.2 update “over the air” which means you go to Settings, General, and Software Update. Do it when your device is plugged in (charging) and connected to WiFi.

Wondering whether to update your Mac? See this article about updating to 10.11.6.

If you have other questions, contact me. Use the form on my Contact page.

The Daily Tip: New Folder from Selected Items

Updated April 12th, 2016.

I see a lot of Macs in a day and most of them have a giant mess of files on their desktops. Cleaning things up, for most people, is a four-step process:

  1. Make a new folder
  2. Select the files you want to drag to the new folder
  3. Realize you can’t find the new folder because now there’s even more clutter
  4. Give up

There is a better way. It goes like this:

  1. Select the items that you want to put into a folder (use the Shift-click technique)
  2. Choose “New Folder with Selection” from the Finder’s File menu.
  3. There is no step 3! You’re done.

Here’s a little video demonstration. Click the picture below to start the movie.


This feature arrived in Mac OS X 10.7 (Lion) and it’s still present in 10.8 (Mountain Lion). I use it all the time. So will you.

The Daily Tip: Tips and Shortcuts for Mac Mail

Updated January 26th, 2017.

If you’re a Mac user you’re probably using Apple’s Mail program for email. Here are some of my favorite Mail tips and shortcuts.

1. Command-Shift-M
Hide the Mailbox list if it’s showing, show it if it’s hiding. Go from this…

… to this…

… and back, using Command-Shift-M. Show the Mailbox list when you need it, hide it when you don’t.

2. Show the Text labels under the toolbar buttons
The standard Mail toolbar looks like this:

Hold the Control key and click in the gray part of the Mail toolbar, producing this contextual menu:
Choose “Icon and Text,” leading to a Mail toolbar with labeled buttons, and larger targets (you can click the labels as well as the buttons).

Ah, that’s better.

3. Customize the toolbar to include your favorite buttons
Use the same control-click technique as above, and choose “Customize Toolbar…”. Drag the buttons you want right up to Mail’s toolbar and put them where you want. Here’s how mine looks:

4. Use the Favorites bar
(If it’s not showing, look for it in the View menu).

Show the Mailbox list (Tip 1) and then drag your key mailboxes (folders) to the Favorites bar. Once you’ve done this you’ll hardly ever have to show the Mailbox list, because you can switch mailboxes by clicking a button in the Favorites bar, and you can file messages by dragging them to buttons in the Favorites bar. Works great, but hardly anyone uses it. Everyone should.

There are plenty of other Mail-related tips but these are my favorites because they save me time and trouble every day.

If you have a question about Mail on the Mac please send me a note. And, as always, if you think this will help someone else please pass it along. There’s a “Share” button at the bottom of this post. Your friends will thank you and so will I.

The Daily Tip: Automate ebay Searches with SearchDome

Updated April 27th, 2016.

Automate ebay Searches with SearchDome

ebay is great, but if the thing you’re looking for isn’t available the first time you search for it you’re going to have to come back and search for it again. That’s a bit of trouble, and half the time you forget to do it anyway. So you either put up with searching ebay for your item day after day, or you simply don’t find it ever (because you eventually forget to look, or it becomes too much trouble).

All of the difficulties go away if you use a marvelous automated ebay search site called It’s free, though you can pay and get a little more. But the free service is terrific and I use it all the time. Basically you tell it what you’re looking for (by searching ebay once), and then SearchDome remembers your search and performs your search on a recurring basis. The results are emailed to you as soon as they find what you’re looking for. If you’re not in a hurry to purchase something, and you’re willing to wait for the perfect item to appear, SearchDome is just the ticket. Here’s how it works.

First, go to and create an account. Start by clicking the “Join SearchDome” button.
They’re going to ask for an email address and a password. Go ahead and fill in the boxes but please please please, do NOT use your actual email password for your SearchDome password! Make up something else. Using the same password means that if someone discovers your SearchDome password he will also have discovered your real email password. And that’s bad. So make up something else. You won’t have to type it in very often anyhow.

After you fill in the boxes, check the “I agree” box, and then click Join, SearchDome will send an email to you to verify that your email works and that you can tell them that you really do want an account. When you get the email, which should arrive within 10 minutes, click the link in it and you’ll be ready to log into the SearchDome service.

So now login. The button’s at top right. You’ll see something like this when you’re done:
From here it’s a matter for following the directions they provide. (Try to overlook the mis-used “your” in step 2.) Here’s how I set up a recurring search, trying to find a certain kind of cowboy boot that Tony Lama used to make. I started by clicking the “Search eBay” button at the top left. Then I set up my search the same way I’d do it on ebay itself. (In case you didn’t know, Tony Lama has a number for every style of cowboy boot, so instead of searching for “two-tone black boots, leather uppers, embroidered, with goat leather vamps” you just say “Tony Lama 6250.” Easy. Of course you have to know the numbers. Hint: they print them on the inside of the boots.)

You can leave a lot of the search form blank, as I did, which of course means you’ll get more matches. The “Listing Types” is especially important so pay attention there. I probably should have checked “eBay Stores” too but didn’t. Also, maybe I should have told it to search “Titles and Descriptions” instead of “Just Item Titles.” Luckily this is changeable later.

Now you click “Run Search” and see what comes up. See below.
If it looks as if the search is worth saving, which in this example it is, scroll back up and click the Save Search button. You’ll get the chance to specify the frequency of the search, and if it’s daily or even more infrequently you’ll also get to specify the time of the search. Note also that you can set an HOURLY search (still for free), which is great for “Buy it Now” listings where time is of the essence. Note: if you’ve skipped the “Login” step you will not be able to save your search. So login.

Want to make another search? Go right ahead. It can be similar to the first one or completely different. SearchDome does set a limit on the number of free searches you can have at any one time, and though they do not specify the number I can tell you it’s at least 16 (because that’s how many items I’m searching for with SearchDome).

Now just sit back and let SearchDome do the work. You’ll receive emails from them with your search results, on the schedule you specified. You WON’T receive any other emails from them and you won’t receive any SearchDome-connected emails from third parties either. SearchDome does not give out your email address.

Here’s an example of the kind of email SearchDome delivers. You can quickly scan through the matches to see if any of the items are interesting, and if they are, the link is right there in the email for you to click. SearchDome’s automated searches save me a lot of time and they also keeps me in cowboy boots because without SearchDome I would not have the time to track these beauties down.
It’s easy to edit a search, it’s easy to suspend a search (what a great idea– they don’t make you delete it, they just put it on ice), and if you want some extra options they are there in the Power Search tab at the top of the SearchDome webpage. Explore a little and you’ll see.

I really like SearchDome. It’s made ebay a lot more usable for me and I think it will also for you. It will also work for your friends so click that Share button at the bottom of this article.

The Daily Tip: Google Translate

Updated December 18th, 2015.

Do you ever need to translate something into another language? Of course you do. Here’s how you do it quickly and effortlessly, using Google Translate.

1. Go to Here’s what you’ll see:


In this case the box on the left is set for English, which is what I’m going to type in. The box on the right is set for Spanish, which is what I want Google to translate into. You can use the menus at the top of the web page (bordered here in RED) to choose whichever languages you’d like.

2. Now type something into the box on the left. (This is going to come in handy when the gardeners come on Wednesday).


3. Now learn how to say it out loud! Click the little speaker on the Spanish side of things to hear how it sounds. Amazing stuff.


4. Very impressive… but how do we know that the translation is any good? One way is to select the translated text, copy it, and translate THAT into English. I use a second browser window for that (here’s how my screen looks when I do it):

The window on the left shows what I wrote, translated into Spanish. The window on the right shows what happens if I ask Google to translate the Spanish (from the window on the left) into English. Since the English is pretty close to what I typed originally I can feel pretty good about the Spanish translation. Sometimes it does not check out so well but this time it did. Of course you could handle this in one window, by copying the Spanish translation and pasting it into the box on the left and changing the “From” and “To” languages there. I just like seeing the two windows side-by-side.

That’s all there is to it, though there are some advanced options for those how really know a foreign language. For example, those people (not I) can click the checkmark in the lower right corner of the translated text and rate Google’s translation. This helps Google to make improvements.

BONUS: how about translating an entire website? This comes up from time to time when people are traveling, and they find that all of the best websites are written for the locals (that is, in a “foreign” language). In that case just put the URL into the box on the left, and then click the big blue “Translate” button near the top of the screen.

The image below shows what you get when you ask Google to translate into Spanish. Notice the menus near the top of the page. These let you translate into a zillion other languages in a snap.


Here’s another example. Imagine being interested in the French perspective on something… but you only read English. Google Translate to the rescue! Here’s what (sort of a French Sports Illustrated/ESPN) looks like in its native French… and next to it, what it looks like translated into English via Google Translate. Maybe not perfect, but definitely readable.

Screen Shot 2013-06-18 at 12.23.09 AM

Note: this works on the iPhone and iPad too, though it’s just a little different. With those devices, you use Safari to get to, and then you type a phrase, and then you tap the magnifying glass button to trigger the translation (that’s the different part). You can access Google Translate by typing into Safari on the iPhone or iPad, or you can use the free Google Translate app. Either way you’re tapping into the same translation engine so the results will be equally good.



P.S. Recomendar a tus amigos. Gracias.

The Daily Tip: Use Spacebar to Scroll Down

Updated December 1st, 2015.

Here’s a tip that makes web browsing on a Mac a whole lot easier. It works in Safari, Firefox, and Chrome, so you can learn it once and use it everywhere. It’s a simple, one-step procedure that could not be easier. Just remember: this is for Macs, not for iPhones and iPads.

Ready for it? Good. All you do is press the spacebar to scroll down, in Safari, Firefox, or Chrome. When you do that the page scrolls down exactly the right amount, so what was on the bottom of the page has now moved up to the top. It always scrolls exactly the right amount. And if you hold the Shift key while pressing the spacebar the page scrolls back up.

If you spend a lot of time reading web pages this is going to help you a ton. It’s especially handy for when you have a cup of coffee in your dominant hand because it’s easy to hit the spacebar with your other hand, seeing how the spacebar is the biggest button on the keyboard. No need to put down the coffee (or the phone, or your pen, or whatever). Use your other hand and press that spacebar.

BONUS: this also works in Mail.

Of course if your keyboard has Page Down and Page Up buttons you can use those to scroll down and up too, but nothing’s easier than tapping the spacebar due to its size and location. One try and you’re hooked. So try it. And after you’ve tried it, tell a friend. You can share this article using the “Share” button at the bottom of this (and every) post. Your friends will thank you and so will I.

The Daily Tip: iPhone Camera Tips

Updated January 7th, 2017.

The iPhone camera isn’t perfect but it takes pretty good pictures. Use it right and it’ll take even better pictures– much, much better pictures. Here are the most important things to know.

1. You can take a picture by pressing either of the volume buttons. This lets you hold the iPhone more like a “real” camera and take your pictures in a more comfortable way. See below.


2. Your iPhone has auto-focus and auto-exposure and they’ll work a lot better if you tell it what to focus on. It will set the exposure for the same point. All you do is tap on the screen where you want the iPhone to focus. Here’s an example:



3. Sometimes you tap on part of the picture, and it improves that part, but it makes another part worse. Tap on the worsened part, and you improve it, at the expense of the first part. It looks hopeless… except it’s not! The iPhone has something called “High Dynamic Range” (also known as HDR) and HDR solves this problem. What it does it take multiple pictures of the same scene, one after the other, and then sort of smush them together into one great result.

First you tap “Options”…

Then you turn on HDR and press “Done”…

Then you take your picture.

Here’s what you get with HDR off…

And here’s what you get with HDR on. Big difference. HDR let the iPhone camera expose for the plants in one shot, and for the sky in another shot. Then it combined the two and it sure looks good.


4. You can zoom, sort of. It’s a digital zoom, not a real zoom (that would require a zoom lens), but it’s sort of fun anyway. Just put two fingers on the screen and “reverse pinch” (stretch). You’ll get a little slider on the screen once you’ve initiated things with the reverse pinch, and you can use that to zoom in and out. See below.


With zooming you’re able to crop the picture in advance of taking it, which is sometimes exactly what you need to do in order to focus the viewer’s attention on your intended subject– in my case, the flower pot.


Hey Jay: that’s four.

The Daily Tip: Show Day, Date, and Time in the Menu Bar

Updated December 18th, 2015.

That little menubar clock at the top right of your Mac’s screen is handy, as it’s always nice to know what time it is. Of course, it is also nice to know the day of the week, and by default the day of the week shows up right next to the time. That is, it looks like this:


Nothing wrong with this… except that it doesn’t show the date. I know, I know: if you click on it you’ll see the date too, like this:


But who wants to have to click on the clock to show the date? Not me. Fortunately there is an easy way to show the date, and the day, and the time, all at once, with no clicking required. (Except for this one time, as we set things up.)

First, click on the clock, and slide down to Open Date & Time Preferences… Then click on “Clock” (circled in red below). I’d check the “Set date and time automatically” box while you’re in there. May as well show the right time if you’re going to show it at all.


There are lots of checkboxes in the Clock section of the Date & Time preference pane. You can check them all if you’d like but the ones I really want you to check are boxed in red in the screenshot below.


Check those two boxes and your clock will look something like mine:


Isn’t that better? I think so.

Hey Jay: three in a row.

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