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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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How to type an accent

accented e

This one’s easy. If you want to type an accent, it’s a two-stepper:

  1. Hold the Option key down and type the “e.” Note: it will appear that nothing happens.
  2. Let go of the Option key and type the “e” again. Voilá!

As you might guess by my “voilá,” you can actually type any vowel in Step 2. Step 1 is always the same: Option-e. But Step 2 can be a, e, i, o, or u.

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Option-drag to resize windows in two directions

You know you can grab any edge of a window and drag to resize the window. Everyone knows that. But… if you hold the Option key while you do it, the window grows in the opposite direction too! For example, if you’re grabbing a window’s right edge and dragging it to the right, the window grows to the right… unless you’re holding the Option key. In that case, the window also grows to the left! You have to try it to believe it. Works with up/down too. Try it!

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Option-click speaker icon in menubar to choose sound sources

If your Mac’s sound isn’t playing properly– maybe it’s coming through the built-in speakers but you want it to play through the headphones– check the settings in the Sound preference panel. You can go to the Apple menu, then Sound, but it’s quicker and easier to hold the Option key down and click on the Sound icon in the menubar. Instead of seeing a volume slider, as you would without the Option key, you’ll see choices for Output (and also Input). Make your choice and you’re done. See below.

Sound with Option key

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