9 Mac Calculator Tricks

Learn about new ways to use the Calculator app on your Mac. You can generate random numbers, copy and paste numbers and results, convert time durations, backspace to correct numbers, have the app speak results to you, and more.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: 9 Mac Calculator Tricks.

Let's take a look at the Calculator app and see if I can teach you some tricks that you didn't already know. To start off with let's look at conversions. Now you probably know that you can convert things like lengths or volume or area, that kind of thing. But did you know you can convert time durations? So, for instance, say you want to find out how many seconds there are in a day. You would type 1 for one day. Then Convert time and select from days to seconds. Now you get how many seconds there are in a day. If you want to find out how many seconds there are in a year you can do it just the same way. Just 1, and then Convert Time from years to seconds.

You can also use the Calculator as a kind of counter. The way you do that is you simply use the ability for it to repeat the last operation. So, for instance, I would type zero plus one. Now when I hit equals it will add one to zero. The result is one. But if I hit the equals again it repeats the plus one to give me two, three, four, five. Every time I hit equals it adds one up. Now you can use the equals key on your keyboard or the return key on your keyboard to do the same thing. So then you can use it as a simple counter. If you need to count something by simply tapping on your keyboard you can do it using the Calculator app.

You can also use the Calculator for random numbers. To do that you need to switch to the scientific mode. When in the scientific mode you can use the Rand button here. Pressing it will give you a random number between zero and one. So it will always be something just less than one. So in this case 0.509 etc. Now you can use this say to flip a coin. So anything that's below .5 could be tails. Anything above is heads. If you wanted to do something more complex, say a random number between one and ten, just hit the Rand key, multiply by the value that you want, 10, and now you get a random number here before the decimal point that's going to be between one and ten. It actually will be between zero and nine. So you're going to want to add one or just count the zero as a tenth value.

Now let's say you do a complex calculation using the Calculator. So we'll just do one right here and you get the result and you want to actually export the entire calculation to show it in a document. Well, you can do that using the paper tape. So Show Paper Tape will bring up all the previous calculations that you've done in this session and you can see the last one there. You can select it and Copy and Paste out of Paper Tape. You can also Print the tape as well. Now if you don't want all the previous calculations, you just want to do one, you would use the Clear button first and then go and start your calculation and they will be the only thing there in the Paper Tape.

Now you can also use Copy and Paste to put numbers into and take numbers out of the Calculator app. So, for instance, say I'm working on a document and I type the following sentence and now I want to get the answer. I could select this number here, copy it with Command C. Go to Calculator and paste with Command V. You can see here the shortcuts. Paste it. Multiply, copy from here, and Paste again. It's just as if I had typed it. Now I can hit equals. Now I get the result. Now I can copy, Command C, and Paste it here into my document. Also, for this kind of thing it's handy to turn on the Thousands Separators. Now you can see it there. Now when I Copy from the Calculator app and paste it in I get those commas there as well.

Another thing you may want to use in the View menu is Decimal Places. Instead of having it set it to the default 15 you can set it to one to have just one decimal place. Maybe that's all you need in your calculation. So if I type 1.25 and hit equals it's going to round it to 1.3. But it's important to note it still knows the number is 1.25. So for instance if I add 1.26 to that, if it was 1.3 plus 1.26 I would get 1.56 which would round to 1.6. However it knows that first number was really 1.25. So 1.25 plus 1.26 is really 2.51 which is going to round to 2.5. Like that. So the number of decimal places is just the visible number of decimal places. It's cosmetic. That actual number is retained in memory.

So here are two nice features that you get with your Mac Calculator app that you won't get on a regular calculator. Say you go to type a number and you mess up. On a regular calculator you would just have to start again. There's no way to undo entering that last number. But on the Mac you have the Delete key, or your backspace key, on your keyboard. You can use that and backspace and enter the correct number in. So that's really nice.

You also have the ability to have the results spoken. So you can go Speech, Speak Result and you can get the result. So 25 plus 36 and I hit equals and I will hear the result. 61. You can also do Speak Each Button Pressed which will help you, you know, prevent you from making mistakes as you type in long calculations.

Comments: 5 Responses to “9 Mac Calculator Tricks”

    2 years ago

    Calculator is also ‘order of operations’ savvy.

    An example: if 1+2×3 is keyed in, it returns the correct 7, not 9 as with most cheap calculators. Unless parentheses dictate otherwise, the order is multiplication, division, addition and subtraction. There is more to all this… see the Wikipedia ‘order of operations’ entry.

    Calculator can also be run RPN mode! Again see Wikipedia.

    2 years ago

    Thanks, I really like the tape feature appearing on the Mac, thanks!

    2 years ago

    I LOVE the information I learned from you about Calculator so much I am becoming a Patreon member. I use old calculator apps and had this one at my fingertips all along? THNX for passing along MAC support, keep it up :)

    2 years ago

    Marilyn: Thanks!

    2 years ago

    Thanks! Love learning all the things my Mac will do.

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