The Daily Tip: Tips and Shortcuts for the Mac’s Calculator

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 pretty slick, and I think you’ll use it a lot once you’ve learned about its powers. So here we go with Tips and Shortcuts for the Mac’s Calculator.

The Calculator

First Tip: Put the Calculator into the Dock. You won’t use it if it’s any trouble to launch it, so put it in the Dock so you can launch it in a hurry. (Leave the Calculator in the Applications folder so Apple can find it when it’s time to update it.)

BONUS: easiest way to put it into the Dock is to find it in the Applications folder, double-click to launch, notice that it’s TEMPORARILY put itself into the Dock, and then click and hold on the Calculator (in the Dock), slide to Options, and then to Keep in Dock. It takes less time to do it than to read about it!

DOUBLE BONUS: Personally, I like to assign keyboard shortcuts to my favorite apps so I can pop them open with the press of a key. I launch the Calculator with F12 on all of my Macs, and I use Spark to assign the shortcut. There are other ways to do it (Keyboard Maestro is a good one, and it can do a lot more than Spark can) but Spark’s free and it works, so I use it.

Second Tip: The Calculator has three modes: Basic, Scientific, and Programmer. Switch between them using ⌘-1, ⌘-2, ⌘-3.

Basic, Scientific, and Programmer modes for the calculator
Basic, Scientific, and Programmer modes for the calculator

Third Tip: It’s a whole lot faster to enter numbers on the numeric keypad at the right on most external keyboards rather than click-click-clicking on the number buttons on the Calculator itself, so do it that way if you can.

Fourth Tip: The Calculator has a “paper tape” which keeps track of what you’ve entered. Find it under the View menu (or use the shortcut ⌘-T). You can select and copy from the paper tape, print it, or save it. Handy stuff.

Calculator's Paper Tape window
Calculator’s Paper Tape window

Fifth Tip: The Calculator can do conversions. It knows areas, lengths, volumes, temperatures, and a lot more… including currency. So, if you’re going to France and you want to know how many Euros you’ll get for 100 US dollars, use the Calculator and find out.

  1. Launch Calculator
  2. Type in “100”
  3. Select “Currency…” from the “Convert” menu
  4. UPDATE THE EXCHANGE RATES by clicking the “Update” button.
  5. Choose the From and the To, then click Convert.

Sixth Tip: The Calculator can show commas to separate the thousands, millions, and so on. If you want the commas, choose “Show Thousands Separators” from the View menu. They make things more readable so I show the commas.

Calculator without, and with, commas for thousand separators
Calculator without, and with, commas for thousand separators

Seventh Tip: The Calculator can speak the buttons you’ve pressed, giving you audible feedback that the button you actually pressed is the one you wanted to press. Besides being useful to grown-ups this is also fun for the little ones who are just learning their numbers. Look for the Speech menu and choose “Speak Button Pressed.”

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3 thoughts on “The Daily Tip: Tips and Shortcuts for the Mac’s Calculator

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  1. You can also use the calculator from spotlight! Just type in your calculation and look for the result next to the calculator icon! Complicated strings may be too difficult here, but if you just want to do a quick check on simple math, it's great.

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