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.


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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.

Want some more, longer how-tos?

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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).

Want some more, longer how-tos?

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How to check your MacBook’s, MacBook Pro’s or MacBook Air’s battery condition

Normally, when you click on the battery menu you get basic information about your laptop’s battery, like this:

Apple laptop battery menu
Apple laptop battery menu

Turns out you can get more information. Press and hold the Option key, then go to the battery menu again. You get this:

Apple laptop battery menu, Option key held down
Apple laptop battery menu, Option key held down

If the condition says “Replace soon” it’s probably time for a visit to the Apple Store. You can get a battery from Amazon and do it yourself, for certain models– otherwise, go to Apple. Figure about $129 for a battery at Apple, installed. Batteries do eventually wear out so if yours says something other than “Condition: Normal” that’s just the way it goes.

Want some more, longer how-tos?

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Delete Conversations in Messages from the Keyboard

You may have tried pressing Delete or Backspace or even the forward delete key to delete a conversation in Messages. If you’ve tried, you know they don’t work. What does work is to hold the Command key down while pressing Delete or Backspace (forward delete won’t work).

If you select a conversation (see below) and then press Command-Delete (or Backspace– depends on what your keyboard calls it) you’ll get a message asking whether you’re sure you want to delete the conversation.

Dialog box in Messages on a Mac, asking whether one wants to delete a conversation
Are you sure you want to delete this conversation?

BONUS: skip the confirmation dialog box by adding the Option key to the mix. Command-Option-Delete (or Backspace) deletes the conversation without asking whether you’re sure. So be sure!

Want some more, longer how-tos?

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Make the green zoom window button work the way you expect it to

Click the green zoom button in a Mac window and it not only gets bigger, it goes full screen– and it’s so full-screen that the menu bar’s taken away. That’s not what most of us expect– especially if you’re used to the way that button used to work (it zoomed, but it left the menu bar alone).

Turns out you can make the green button behave the zoom-but-don’t-hide-the-menu-bar way by holding the Option key down while you click it. Apple gives you a tiny visual clue that holding the Option key will give you a different result– try hovering over the green button with and without the Option key held down.

Green zoom button, without the Option key
Green zoom button, without the Option key
Zoom button with Option key held down
Zoom button with Option key held down

Sometimes bigger isn’t better. This is one of those times.

(If you click the green button without the Option key, bring the menu bar back by pressing the Escape key at top left of your keyboard. There are other ways but that’s for another post.)

BONUS: see this article for an even better way to resize your windows.

Want some more, longer how-tos?

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How to delete a file without having to empty the trash

— How to delete a file without having to empty the trash —

You know that things you put into the trash aren’t really gone until you empty the trash, right? Turns out that in 10.11.x (El Capitan) you can throw something way and have it be deleted immediately if you want. Just click on the item you want to delete, then go to File/Move to Trash… except hold the Option key down while you do it, and you’ll see “Delete Immediately…”

Delete Immediately with the Option Key
Delete Immediately with the Option Key

You’ll still have to deal with a dialog box:
Are you sure you want to delete immediately?
Are you sure you want to delete immediately?

Keyboard Junkies: you know that Command-Delete (or Command-Backspace) sends the selected item to the Trash. So, if you hold the Option key while you do it (Command-Option-Delete) the items will be “Immediately Deleted.” Very fast– but then you have to deal with the “Are you sure” dialog box. Bonus Hint: use Command-D to click the “Delete” button in that box from the keyboard. Command-Option-Delete, then Command-D, takes care of everything.

Want some more, longer how-tos?

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Use Wireless Diagnostics to troubleshoot your network

Wireless Diagnostics

If your wireless network isn’t working the way it should Apple’s “Wireless Diagnostics” can help. It’s at the bottom of the WiFi menu… but only if you hold the Option key before you drop the menu. That is, press and hold the Option key, then click the WiFi menu, then slide down to “Open Wireless Diagnostics.” If you don’t hold the Option key first the Wireless Diagnostics menu item won’t be there.

My friend Tom used to say “It’s always the Option key! I should always try that first!” and he was right. That goes for you too.

Want some more, longer how-tos?

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Save a step when emptying the Trash

Are you sure you want to empty the Trash?

You’ve seen this box before. You get it every time you go to the Finder’s File menu and choose “Empty Trash…” Then you click the blue Empty Trash button, and finally the Trash starts to empty. It’s not a LOT of work but you can cut out a step if you hold the Option key down when you choose “Empty Trash” from the File menu. If you do it with the Option key the Trash begins to empty as soon as you choose the Empty Trash menu item.

Sharp-eyed readers will notice that without the Option key, the menu item is “Empty Trash…” while with the Option key, the menu item is “Empty Trash” (no ellipsis.). (The ellipsis always indicates “there’s a dialog box coming.”) Holding the Option key goes straight to the emptying action.

Want some more, longer how-tos?

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