How to insert a return (line feed) in Messages on the Mac


If you’ve ever tried inserting a return (or technically, a line feed) in a Messages message on a Mac, you’ve probably not been successful, because pressing the Return key on the keyboard sends the message. (Line feeds in messages on an iPhone or iPad are easy– just press Return, as you’d expect.)

Turns out you can insert a return in a Messages message on a Mac, and as usual, there’s a bit of a trick. Also as usual, it involves the Option key. All you have to do is…

Hold the Option key down as you press Return! That’s it. So now you can write text messages such as the one below.

Message with line feeds, ready to be sent.
Message with line feeds, ready to be sent.

Tap Return (without the Option key) to send it.


Check out my Option Key series of articles at christianboyce.com for more Mac Option key fun.


How to temporarily turn off all Notifications on a Mac

Notifications (those little banners that slide in at the top right of your screen) are handy.

Representative Mail notification
Representative Mail notification

It’s nice to be notified that you got an email, or a Message, and nice to be able to respond right there. But, sometimes you want to focus on something, or watch a video full-screen, or otherwise not be bothered.

Here’s how you temporarily turn Notifications off, quickly and easily. (Apple calls this “Do Not Disturb” mode.)

Note: it’s just as easy to turn them back on.

All you do is hold down the Option key and click on the Notification menu at the very top right of your screen. When you do it, the icon goes from black to grey. Option-click it again to turn Notifications back on. You’ll see the icon return to black when you do it.

Notification Menu (normal)
Notification Menu (normal)
Notification Menu (inactive)
Notification Menu (inactive)

So easy! Way easier than going to the Notification control panel and doing it there.

BONUS: here’s a link to my other articles about cool things you can do with the Option key.

How to find your photos with the Photos app’s Search feature

The Photos app has a really good search feature. It’s ridiculously easy to use, with almost magical results. You should try it.

1. Get into Thumbnail mode in Photos.
2. Enter a search term into the Search box at upper right
3. Photos will show you a menu (attached to the Search box) with various things: pictures whose category match what you searched for, pictures whose album matches what you searched for, pictures whose location matches what you searched for, and so on.

Searching in Photos for Deer
Searching in Photos for Deer

The “Category” stuff is the most amazing. Look what happened when I chose the Deer category from the list that appeared when I began to search:

176 Pictures with Deer

Note: the Photos app figured out which images had deer in them, automatically. I didn’t have to do anything other than search. I didn’t have to categorize my photos, or tag them, or put them into albums, or name them, or anything. Photos figured it out by itself: I have 176 pictures with deer in them.

On occasion, Photos makes a mistake. Here’s a picture of a rabbit– Photos thought it was a deer.

Not a deer. A rabbit.
Deer?

Note: if you try the same kind of search on your iPhone you might find the results don’t match the ones from your Mac. This is because Apple thinks it’s best for the categorization to be performed on each device rather than having iCloud analyze your photos as they reside on Apple’s servers. This is a privacy choice by Apple, which is nice, but on occasion it results in one or two more photos being found within a category on either your phone or your Mac.

Apple’s Holiday Return Policy (it’s extra-long)

Apple has modified its return policy for the holidays:

“Items purchased at the Apple Online Store that are received between November 14, 2018 and December 25, 2018, may be returned through January 8, 2019.”

This should make it easier for people giving (and receiving!) Apple products as gifts, as Apple’s standard return window is limited to 14 calendar days.

Here is a link to Apple’s Returns & Refunds web page, a useful read as there are some “terms and conditions.” Note that only items purchased directly from Apple, either online or at an Apple Retail Store, are eligible for being returned to Apple. Resellers such as Amazon (referral link) have their own return policies.

How to make the annoying “To use the java command-line tool you need to install a JDK” pop-up go away forever

Some older Mac apps (Adobe’s Photoshop is one) require Java in order to work. Java is not part of the macOS so it has to be installed manually. The problem is, the modern Java installer puts Java into a different location than it used to, so when Adobe and the others look for Java, they don’t find it– because they are looking in the wrong place.

The solution is to install an older version of Java, with an installer that puts things where Adobe expects to find them.

You would think that clicking the “More Info…” button in the pop-up would take you to a page where you could download the proper version of Java… but that’s not the case. The “More Info…” button takes you to the page for the latest version of Java, not the older one.

Click here to go to the older, “Legacy” Java installer page on Apple’s website. You’ll see a picture of a lion. That’s because Lion (10.7) was the current macOS when that version of Java came out.

Download the installer from that page, run the installer, and you’re done. No more annoying pop-up.

Safari Secrets: how to reload a stubborn web page


Sometimes a web page doesn’t load properly. In that case, you need to “reload” it. In Safari on the Mac, you can reload a web page by clicking the reload button (the curvy arrow in the address bar), as shown below.

Safari reload button
Safari reload button

But did you know…

1. If you click and hold the reload button, you get a menu with choices, as shown below…

Safari's Reload menu
Safari’s Reload menu

The options might come in handy for when a page just won’t load properly. Some need to be allowed to pop up a window. Some require plug-ins, like Adobe’s Flash. If a regular reload doesn’t give you the results you want, try the other two options in the menu.

2. You can do it from the from the View menu or via the keyboard shortcut Command-R.

Safari View menu
Safari View menu

3. You can hold the Option key down while you do Command-R (or, while you click the reload button) to force Safari to reload the page by going back to the server rather than just re-rendering what it already downloaded.

Safari Reload Page from Origin
Safari Reload Page from Origin

4. You can choose to reload the page while over-riding content blockers, or while using plug-ins from the View menu (same as the pop-up menu you get when clicking and holding on the Reload button in the address bar).

Two Shortcuts for Photos in Mojave

The Photos app in macOS 10.14 (Mojave) changes the keyboard shortcut for toggling between a zoomed-in view and the thumbnails. It used to be Spacebar— tap spacebar to pop open a selected thumbnail, tap it again to go back to the thumbnails. Spacebar doesn’t do it anymore. Now you use the Return key.

In practice you’re likely to double-click a thumbnail to open it. That’s the easiest.

Mojave Photos thumbnail view
Mojave Photos thumbnail view

You can “return” to the thumbnails three ways:
Three ways to return to Thumbnail view
Three ways to return to Thumbnail view

1. Double-click again
2. Click the “back” button at top left
3. Hit the Return key

If you’re used to using the Spacebar it will take some re-training before the Return key feels natural. I think it’s a good change though: when you’re in Edit mode, one tap of Return clicks the “Done” button, and the next tap of Return “returns” you to the thumbnails. Sort of makes sense.

Mojave Photos Edit mode
Mojave Photos Edit mode

Bonus: Command-Return (⌘-↩) takes you from Edit mode back to Thumbnail mode without requiring the second tap of Return. Similarly, if you’re in Thumbnail mode, and you have a picture selected, Command-Return takes you straight to Edit mode, saving a click.

How to solve a tricky “can’t log in” problem in Safari

If you can’t sign into web pages using Safari it might be because your cookie preferences are set incorrectly. Some website sign-in pages won’t work unless cookies are enabled, so go to Safari/Preferences…, click on the Privacy button, and make sure you are NOT blocking all cookies.

(People tend to think that turning cookies off is “better” but this is not necessarily the case. The best option for you is to allow cookies from sites you visit.)

Here’s how the Privacy settings should look in macOS Mojave’s Safari.

Safari Privacy Settings
Safari Privacy Settings (Mojave)

And here’s how the Privacy settings should look in macOS El Capitan’s Safari.

Safari Privacy Settings (El Capitan)
Safari Privacy Settings (El Capitan)


How to activate Microsoft Office 2011 for the Mac

Activating Microsoft Office 2011 for the Mac using the built-in online activation wizard seems to be broken. You enter your Product Key, you click the “Activate” button… and you get a message about the activation server being unavailable and a recommendation to try again later. You try again later and it still doesn’t work.

There was an error

So you try the “Activate by Phone” option. Activating by phone sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. If it doesn’t work for you, try calling Microsoft Sales & Support and telling them you’re trying to activate Office 2011 for the Mac. The Microsoft Sales & Support person will ask you to read off the Activation Code that you see when you clickgive you a very, very long number, which you can type into the boxes in the Microsoft Office 2011 for the Mac activation wizard, and that should take care of it.
Office 2011 for Mac, Activated

Here’s the number that’s worked for me.

Microsoft Office Sales & Support phone number

Another option: call Microsoft’s general support number (1-800-936-5700) and say “Office for Mac Activation Department” to the robot that answers. That will get you started down the right path.

There’s a chance that things still won’t work. The reason for this could be that you’ve moved Office 2011 for the Mac to a new machine, or to a new hard drive. For example, if you decide to replace your hard drive with something better– I like the Solid State Drives (SSDs) from Crucial– you’ll be asked to activate Office 2011, and in that case, you’ll never be able to… because each installation of Office is “keyed” to the hardware it’s originally installed on, and that includes the hard drive, and the Activation ID and Confirmation ID will only work on that particular configuration. In that case, you have to get rid of the Office registration files that remember what the original hardware was, and then reinstall, and then enter your Product Key, and then– finally!– do the “Activate by Phone” method.

This link from Microsoft tells you how to clear out those older registration files.

Three tips for Messages on the Mac

The Messages app on the Mac is awesome. Use these tips and make it even better.

Tip #1: on your Mac, double-click a conversation in Messages’ left-hand pane. That opens the conversation in its own window. That way, you can keep key conversations in view.

Tip #2: on your Mac, try dragging a picture from one conversation into another. Just click and hold on the picture, then drag onto the other conversation.

Tip #3: on your Mac, try dragging a picture (or other document) from your desktop right into the area where you’d ordinarily be typing a message. Or just drag it onto the conversation– anywhere on it! So easy.

(Not getting your text messages on your Mac? Set that up with my complete how-to article.)

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