Basic Mac Calculator Tricks

Besides the alternate calculator types or conversion functions in the Mac calculator app there are some advanced features that you may not know about. You can use copy and paste, the delete key, set a number of decimal places, and have your Mac speak the results. The most useful feature is the paper tape window where you can record your calculations.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Basic Mac Calculator Tricks.

Hi, this is Gary with On this episode let me show you some useful calculator tricks for your Mac.

The Calculator app is a really cool, powerful app that comes with your Mac. I'm not even going to look at some of the really advanced stuff that's in here like, for instance, you can go to scientific calculator or programmer calculator or just stick with the basic one. I'm not even going to look at all the different ways you can convert numbers using Calculator.

Just using the basic calculator here there's some really cool things. It looks like a regular calculator so you may want to use it just like that. But there's some functions that you can't do. For instance say you are typing a number and you realize that you just typed the wrong digit. On a regular calculator, of course, there's no delete key and there's no delete button on this one. But you can use the delete key on your keyboard to delete the ones you've just typed in. So if you're typing a really long number and you make a mistake you can use the delete key and correct it. That's just one of many things that you can do that you can't do with a regular calculator.

One of the things that you can do here is that you can set the number or decimal places. So, for instance, say you want to calculate sales tax on something. So something is going to cost $399 and the local sales tax is 7.3%. So you can add 7.3%. Now that gives you the $29 extra there. That's something that a regular calculator does and if you hit equals now it will perform that addition and you get your total $428.12. But you have that extra decimal place. You don't really want that there because you're doing calculations based on money.

So instead you can go to View, Decimal Places and set the number of decimal places to 2. So it always now will round. So whatever calculation you do you can always count on it to just give you two decimal places. There you go. So I get two decimal places even though there are more mathematically behind it. This is all I'm going to actually have to pay when I buy the item.

Now if you've ever had to do a lot of calculations with a calculator you know the way to speed it up is to use two people. One person is actually reading out the numbers and the other person does the calculation and then reads the number back. Then you can kind of fill in long lists of numbers that way. You can do something similar here with Calculator because you can turn on Speech. You can turn on Speak Result. Now I can type something like eight plus nine and when I hit equals it automatically reads it out.

Now in a simple example like this it doesn't make much sense. But when you have something that is a little bit more complex like what we were looking at before it makes a lot more sense now.

Even a cheap calculator that you get at a drugstore or a supermarket will have a memory button here. There is none here on this simple calculator. But you don't really need it because you're on a computer and you've got things like Copy and Paste. You can use that here. So I can basically say 7+8=15 and anytime I want to copy what's in that window there I can do Edit, Copy or Command C. I can clear this out. Perform another calculation 2+3+9+ and at this point instead of typing a number I can actually Paste and it will Paste in what I had copied and will treat it just as if I had typed it in.

So use Copy and Paste to actually substitute for memory functions.

Now I want to show you my very favorite trick in Calculator. Go to Window, Show Paper Tape. You get this little window here that will show you all the calculations that you've recently performed and it will continue to record them. So if you do a new calculation it will put it right there and it will just continue to accumulate these even to the point where it's going to scroll. You can go into this window and scroll up and down and see your calculations.

If you're doing a calculation like, you see this a lot in calculators where say you do nine times two equals and the last operation I did was times two. So if I hit equals again it will reperform that calculation. So it will do times two again. It will show you the full calculation here. 9x2x2 and you can continue to do that. You can see not just what you think is 144 times 2 but what it actually did was 9x2x2x2x2x2 and there's the result.

So you get this great paper tape here that includes everything that you're doing and it will allow you to go back, basically, and see results. So you can see here I did that sales tax calculation here.

Now you can use this also for memory because you can copy out of it. So I can go back to something I was doing earlier and say ah that's the calculation here I want to select it, Command C to copy, and then I'll 9+ and then I'll do Command V to paste and I can perform a new calculation using that number. So it is very easy to go back here and grab something and use this as an extended memory of everything you've done and all the results.

As you would expect not only can you copy large sections and paste them say into a document but you can also save the tape and it will save it out so we'll save it here to the deck top and it will open up in TextEdit. In addition to that you can even print the tape as well. So the tape itself is such a really cool function that takes this very simple calculator and goes well beyond it and makes it very useful.

Comments: 13 Responses to “Basic Mac Calculator Tricks”

    3 years ago

    I had no Idea! thanks!!!!

    3 years ago

    This is terrific! Especially for a numbers-dummy like me. I’ve really needed a tape but my little solar calculator doesn’t have that skill but now I do! Thanks.

    Nancy N
    3 years ago

    This helped me so much! How awesome to have all those capabilities I didn’t know I had.
    Plus, I didn’t even realize my MacBook Air had a calculator app.
    Thank you!!

    3 years ago

    Good trick, thanks… Can we show calculator’s icon on the menu bar?

    3 years ago

    Ertugrul: No, it is an app. So you would add it to the Dock for quick access, not the menu bar.

    Sonja Davis
    3 years ago

    OMG! I use the calculator all of the time and never knew about the tape or the decimal places. This is really awesome and thanks for sharing the knowledge!

    Dr. Jacqui Cyrus
    3 years ago

    I will share this Mac tutorial with my undergraduate students who take my course in a Mac computer lab. Thank you so much for sharing.

    3 years ago

    Thank you for this. I was not aware of these things.

    Freddie Pineiro
    3 years ago

    Everyday you learn something new. Keep up the great work Gary.
    Thanks a million!!!

    3 years ago

    Thanks .Great tutorial on such a simple but usefull everyday application.

    John Russell
    3 years ago

    I will have to let my students play with this.

    Jean H
    3 years ago

    All I can say is wow!! Thanks for the info.

    3 years ago

    Have wanted to know a couple of the calculator tricks and now I do.
    Thank you so very much for your tutorials!

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