How to Restart a Frozen Mac

The frozen Mac—it shouldn’t happen, but it does. If you should be so unlucky as to find your Mac completely locked up and unresponsive to the mouse or keyboard, you may wonder how you can restart it. The trick is to hold the power button down for 5 seconds, which will force your Mac to turn off. Wait another 5 or 10 seconds, and then press the power button again to restart the Mac. On a desktop Mac, look for the power button on the back of the computer. On a Mac laptop, the power button is near the top-right corner of the keyboard. On a 2016 MacBook Pro with a Touch Bar, press down on the blank Touch ID button until you feel and hear a click. Remember that it is always better to restart your Mac gracefully by choosing Restart from the Apple menu—this technique is only for when the Mac is frozen.


How to Enter Emoji on the Mac

The only characters that are easier to type in iOS than on the Mac are emoji, those cartoon-like pictures that were created in Japan just before the turn of the century as a way of sharing pictures on mobile devices. They caught on in the United States in 2011 after Apple built an emoji keyboard into the iPhone with iOS 5 and added them to OS X 10.7 Lion. They’re most often used to pretty up chat messages, but since they’re actually font characters, you can also increase their size and use them like clip art in any Mac app.

Even though emoji have been readily accessible since 2011, many Mac users have never figured out how to enter them, since you can’t just type them on a keyboard. So, if you want to insert a ???? in a post in Messages or a note in Mail, you need to use the Characters viewer. To bring it up in most Mac apps, choose Edit > Emoji & Symbols or use its keyboard shortcut: Command-Control-Space.


When the Characters viewer first appears, it may be compressed (above left); click the square expansion emoji-expansion-icon-inline icon to expand it to its full glory (above right). The compressed view is fine, but the expanded view makes it easier to browse through the full set of emoji and search for particular emoji—you can also make the expanded version larger and see more emoji at once by dragging a corner. With Emoji chosen in the first column of the enlarged view, the second column lists emoji categories, such as Smileys & People, Animals & Nature, Food & Drink, and so on. In the compressed view, you can see the same categories by clicking the icons at the bottom. If you want a particular emoji, search for it by typing in the Search field—try “fruit” or “apple.”

You can insert an emoji from the Characters viewer in three main ways—if one method doesn’t work in a particular app, try another:

  • While the cursor is active in a text area, double-click a character in the viewer.
  • Drag a character out of the viewer and into a text area.
  • Drag a character out of the viewer to the Desktop to create a text clipping with it. Then drag that text clipping anywhere you can type.

Once you insert a character, it appears in the Frequently Used category; in the expanded version of the Characters viewer, you can also click the Add to Favorites button to add the current emoji to the Favorites category.

With many of the emoji of people, the first time you click the emoji, you’ll see a popover that lets you choose a skin tone other than the default, and macOS remembers your selection. If you wish to change an emoji’s skin tone later, click and hold until its popover appears (or use Force Touch, if you’re working with an appropriate trackpad).


One warning: If you send emoji from an Apple device to someone using a non-Apple device or operating system, they may see slightly different emoji than what you sent. The most notable example of this is Apple’s “pistol” emoji, which now looks like a green squirt gun ????, whereas that emoji on other platforms generally looks like a more realistic handgun. The Unicode Consortium publishes a full list of what each emoji looks like on different platforms.

It’s easy to assume that emoji are a fad, or are used only by the young, but in reality, they’re having a profound effect on written communication. While an octogenarian may not understand that a line of dancers ???????????????????? is meant to convey enthusiasm, a teen from China who speaks no English might get it. New York Magazine has covered the topic in depth, so give that article a read if you’re curious.

Get Better Weather Forecasts on Your iPhone with Dark Sky

Apple has included the Weather app on the iPhone for many years and has even improved it over time. It’s not a bad app, providing current conditions, a full day of hourly temperature and precipitation forecasts, and nine days of extended forecasts for general weather conditions plus high and low temperatures.

But if you work or play outside regularly, or are just curious about the weather, spend a few bucks on one of the many more-capable weather apps in the App Store. Many provide useful features like hyperlocal precipitation warnings, animated radar maps, and forecasts that give you a sense of how the weather will be changing throughout the day. Most of them rely on the uncannily accurate data from the Dark Sky Company, which specializes in weather forecasting and visualization. That means that they should all have pretty much the same data and forecasts, so deciding which app to use is more about whether you like an app’s interface than the accuracy of the app’s predictions.

All else being equal, check out the $3.99 Dark Sky app. It’s the top-seller in the App Store’s weather category, and for good reason: it provides a fast, slick interface to the weather information you need, along with notifications that alert you to the weather events that matter in your life.

What sets Dark Sky’s forecasts apart from those from many other weather forecasting services is that they’re “hyperlocal,” which means that the app uses your iPhone’s GPS to know exactly where you are, enabling it to “see” when a blob of precipitation on its radar map will intersect with your location. It’s almost spooky the first time Dark Sky tells you that rain will be starting in 10 minutes… and it does! No weather forecasting system is perfect, of course, but if Dark Sky can alert you to pack up your picnic before the thunderstorm hits or show you that putting off your run for 30 minutes will let you avoid getting wet, it’s worth every penny.

Dark Sky provides three screens. The main screen shows the current conditions, along with a graph of precipitation predictions for the next hour. Below that is a vertical timeline that displays the predicted temperature and conditions for the next 24 hours. Tap the buttons beneath the graph to change the default predicted temperature to instead show the likelihood of precipitation, wind speed and direction, humidity, or UV index.


Swipe from right to left to reveal Dark Sky’s 7-day forecast screen. It displays the likely conditions (and the likelihood of precipitation) plus high and low temperatures for each day. But tap any day, and Dark Sky zooms in to the same hourly vertical timeline as on the main screen for that day. A general forecast that predicts rain on Wednesday isn’t nearly as useful as Dark Sky’s hourly view that shows the rain won’t begin until late afternoon.

Swiping from left to right on the main screen switches to Dark Sky’s animated radar view of precipitation, with a pin marking your current location on the globe. Pinch in and out to change the zoom level and drag the view with a finger so you can see what weather the radar says is coming your way. Once you have the view as you like it, tap the triangular Play button to animate the last 3 hours of radar visualization. Even better, Dark Sky lets you drag the playhead 1 hour into the future, so you can see if a particular storm might slide by to the north instead of raining on your parade.

On the main screen, you can tap My Notifications to enable precipitation alerts at your exact location along with another alert with the forecast for the day. Those are configurable, so you can set how heavy the rain has to be before Dark Sky will alert you and at what time the daily forecast will roll in. There’s also a switch for severe weather alerts if you live in hurricane or tornado country, and you can even create your own alerts along the lines of “Notify me at 9 am if daytime feels-like temperature will rise above 90°.”

Finally, if Dark Sky ever gets it wrong, claiming that it’s merely cloudy while the rain beats down outside, you can submit a weather report to help the company refine its predictions. Correcting an errant forecast won’t make it sunny, but it will make you happier.

Paste Phone Numbers into the Phone App

Although many iOS apps identify phone numbers so you can just tap them to call, that doesn’t always work for a phone number sent to you in a text or email message, or posted on a Web page. Here’s the workaround so you don’t have to memorize the number temporarily or flip back and forth to the Phone app. Double-tap the start of the phone number to select it, and then drag the blue handle to extend the selection to the entire number. Tap Copy in the popover that appears to copy it. Then, in the Phone app, tap Keypad at the bottom, and then press and hold in the blank white area at the top where typed numbers would appear until a Paste button appears (it’s not a 3D Touch press, just a normal press without removing your finger right away). Tap Paste, and if the Phone app recognizes the number correctly, tap the green Call button to place the call.


Make Text Bigger in Safari on the Mac

Some Web sites have, shall we say, unfortunate choices in fonts. If you run across a site where the font is too small to read, you can choose View > Zoom In or press Command-+ (the Shift key isn’t necessary to get the + symbol; Command-= is the same). But that zooms the entire page, both text and graphics, and can result in a jumbled-up page. To increase just the size of the text on the page, leaving the graphics alone, press Option and choose View > Make Text Bigger or press Command-Option-+. If necessary, similar commands make text smaller too.


Undo Typing on an iPhone or iPad

It’s no secret that typing on the iPhone and iPad is way slower, more difficult, and more error-prone than typing on a Mac’s real keyboard. But on the Mac when you make a mistake, you can hit Command-Z to undo in the blink of an eye. On an iOS device, you can usually undo typed mistakes, but the process is different—you physically shake the device, and then tap the Undo button that appears. (Tap Cancel if you’ve shaken the iPhone accidentally.) Shaking once is enough; you’re not trying to get the last bit of ketchup out. It’s a little easier to do with the iPhone than the iPad, but either way, make sure to hold on tight while shaking! On the iPad, happily, there’s a dedicated Undo button in the upper left corner of the keyboard and even an Undo key on the numeric keyboard. iPhones have the Undo button only in landscape mode.