How to test a Mac or Apple keyboard

Apple keyboards or the built-in keyboard on a MacBook are generally good quality keyboards but they aren’t immune to problems. They can stop working entirely, or in part i.e., just a few keys. This can be a software problem and Apple has had trouble with its keyboard in the past though, it was to do with keys repeating when they shouldn’t. If you think the keyboard on your Mac or MacBook is broken, you can test it.

Test an Apple keyboard

You can test an Apple or a MacBook keyboard with a web app or with a desktop app for the Mac. The choice is yours. If you’d like to test the keyboard with a web app, we recommend using Keyboard Checker. We’ve recommended this app before for checking a Windows keyboard. It has a test for Apple’s keyboards too. Visit the keyboard checker and tap each key on the keyboard. The key that is pressed is highlighted in green.

If you prefer to use a desktop app to test the keys, you can use Inspect. It’s a free, open-source app that can test a keyboard and also test your screen for dead pixels. Download and run the app. Select the ‘Keyboard Test’ on the app’s launch screen and you will get an on-screen keyboard.

Go ahead and tap different keys to see if they’re working or not, and which key is recognized in response to a keypress. The green highlight indicates a key that is being held down while the blue highlight indicates a key that was pressed and released.

For the function keys, you need to hold down the Fn key on your keyboard in order to execute them.

If some of the keys on the keyboard are not responding, and you’re using an external Apple keyboard, you can try using it on a different system and see if the unresponsive keys work on it. If not, the keyboard is broken. You’re either going to have to replace it or have it repaired. If you don’t want to splurge on an Apple keyboard which is generally more expensive than a non-Apple keyboard, you can use one with it pretty easily. The keys on a Windows keyboard can be remapped so that they are more intuitive to use on macOS. The remapping feature is available out-of-the-box if all you’re looking to do is change how the modifier keys work. If you want to remap other keys, you can use an app called Karabiner.

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How to remap a Windows keyboard for a Mac

A Mac can be used with any type of keyboard. It’s probably better to use an Apple keyboard or one that’s designed for a Mac but that’s really only because of the keys on it. A normal Windows keyboard will work just fine but you will have to relearn how the modifier keys work. Again, it’s not especially difficult but you need to form a new habit. If you’re struggling with it, you can remap a Windows keyboard for a Mac.

Windows keyboard

There are lots of non-Apple keyboards available in the market, and they have their own set of keys. When we say ‘Windows keyboard’, we mean a keyboard that has a key with the Windows logo on it, as shown in the image below. Most non-Apple keyboards will have it but there are always exceptions.

Windows keyboard default behavior

When you connect a Windows keyboard to a Mac, the modifier keys are mapped as below;

Windows key: Command

Control key: Control

Alt key: Option

Shift key: Shift

The above arrangement makes sense from the name point of view but on macOS, the Command key is the more important modifier key. Every Windows command that uses Control is executed with the Command key on a Mac. For example, on Windows, you can use Control + C to copy text but on Mac, this shortcut is Command + C. You can see why it can be confusing.

Remap Windows keyboard

To remap the Windows keyboard, you need to open System Preferences and go to Keyboard. Select the ‘Modifier keys’ button at the bottom right. In the panel that opens, you need to modify two keys; the Control key and the Command key.

Open the dropdown for the Command key and set it to act as the Control key. Open the dropdown for the Control key and set it to act like the Command key. Apply the change.

Now, the keys will map as below;

Windows key: Control

Control key: Command

Alt key: Option

Shift key: Shift

If you want to copy text, you will execute the Control + C keyboard shortcut. On your keyboard, you will tap the key that says ‘Ctrl’ and the Mac will detect it as Command.

You can modify the Alt key too if you want but it maps to the Option key which is reasonable behavior. Make sure you make this change for the external keyboard that you’re using if you’re using it with a MacBook. You can open the Keyboard selection dropdown on the modifier keys panel and select it there. If you do not change the keyboard, the behavior of the keys will change for the internal keyboard.

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How to install Python 3 on macOS

Installing Python 3 isn’t the easiest thing to do on macOS. It’s not exceptionally hard but you need to know what conditions you’re working with. Hopefully, we can take most of the confusion out of the process. Here’s how you can install Python 3 on macOS.

Requirements

This is for macOS Catalina. macOS comes pre-installed with Python but on Catalina, this is version 2.7 which has reached the end of its life. This will create a few hiccups in the process but let’s start with the basics.

First, install Xcode on your Mac. You can get it from the Mac App Store. Once installed, make sure that the app is running. Launch it once to ensure there isn’t a problem.

Next, open Terminal and run the following command. This will install Command Line tools for Xcode. You need these to install Homebrew. The process is short and simple. You only need to follow the on-screen prompts.

xcode-select --install

Finally, run the following command in Terminal to install Homebrew

/usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)"

Install Python 3

Now that you’ve installed the basic apps you need, you can install Python 3. Open a new Terminal window, and run the following command.

brew install python3

The installation won’t take too long but you may need to authenticate with your user password during the installation process. Once it’s complete, you will see a message telling you that Python 3 was installed. Now you need to install pip.

pip is a package manager for Python. When you install Python scripts or apps, you often see ‘pip’ at the start of the install command. To install pip, run the following command in Terminal.

brew postinstall python3

This command may, or may not work. If you see the ‘setup.py –no-user-cfg install ‘ message in Terminal, this means that pip did not install.┬áIf that’s the case, simply run this command instead and it will install pip.

sudo easy_install pip

Python 2 vs Python 3

Python 2 is still on your system even though you’ve installed Python 3. In order to send commands to Python 3, you will need to enter python3 in the terminal. If you enter python, the command will be sent to Python 2.

Assuming you’ve now installed Python 3, you can check it by running the following command in Terminal.

python3 --version

Notice that we entered python3 and not just python. If you enter python –version, you will get a different version number i.e., the Python 2 version. At this point, we don’t recommend removing Python 2 from macOS since there are still a few kinks that Python 3 and pip have on the Mac platform. It is always a good idea to have the old version to fall back on.

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How to install Homebrew on macOS Catalina

Homebrew is a package managing tool. It’s more popular on Linux but is also used extensively on macOS. In fact, for apps that install as packages, Homebrew is the easiest way to remove them. Here’s how you can install Homebrew on macOS Catalina.

Xcode

In order to install Homebrew on macOS Catalina, you must have Xcode installed. You can get it from the Mac App Store. The app is large and for some reason, it downloads really slow when you get it from the Mac App store so you’re in for a little wait.

Once it’s installed, you also need to install Command Line tools for it. To install Command Line tools, open Terminal and enter the following command.

xcode-select --install

You will see a prompt asking you to confirm that you want to install the tools, and you will also see an EULA that you have to agree to.

The Command Line tools don’t take too long to install. Once it’s finished you can install Homebrew.

Install Homebrew

Open Terminal and run the following command.

/usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)"

You will have to confirm that you want to install Homebrew. The Terminal will show you all the changes it will be making i.e., new directories it will make when it is installed. Confirm that you want to install it.

After that, you only have to wait for the installation to complete. Once it is complete, you will see a message in Terminal confirming that installation was successful. You can now close Terminal.

If at any point you want to verify the Homebrew installation, you can run the following command in Terminal.

brew -v

The command will return which version of Homebrew is installed on your Mac.

If you want to uninstall Homebrew, you can run the following command in Terminal.

ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/uninstall)"

Homebrew has tons of documentation available so if you’re not sure how to use it, go through the documentation. Apps that you can install via Homebrew often provide the command that you need to run to install them. They basically come with a script that can be run via Homebrew and the script takes care of the installation. If there’s an uninstall script available, you can run it to remove the app.

You should know that apps you install via Homebrew still have to be 64-bit if you’re installing them on Catalina. Homebrew doesn’t let users by-pass the 64-bit condition that Catalina has. There is no getting around that. On that note, Homebrew had to update to a Catalina compatible version so it’s unlikely that you will be able to install older versions of it.

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How to install a Mail Plugin on macOS

The macOS Mail app is an app that supports plugins, and quite a few useful ones have been developed for it. These plugins install in a lot of different ways. Those that are distributed as packages are easy to install; you only have to run the installer and it will be installed. Some plugins are distributed as apps and they’re also simple to install. If you have a Mail plugin that is a .mailbundle folder, it has to be installed manually. Here’s how you can install a Mail plugin on macOS.

Install Mail plugin

Download the plugin and extract it, or mount it and open the mounted volume. Examine the contents of the volume or the folder, whichever it is you have. If the contents have a folder that ends with the .mailbundle extension, you need to move it to the Mail app’s folder.

Open Finder and go to the Library folder for your user. Inside, you will find a folder called Mail. Open it. Inside, there should be another folder called Bundles. It is possible that this folder does not exist. In that case, you can create it yourself. Right-click inside the Mail folder and select New Folder from the context menu. Name it Bundles, and open it.

Cut and paste the .mailbundle folder into the Bundle folder. Log out, and log back into your Mac.

Once you’re logged back into your system, you need to enable the plugin within the Mail app. Open Mail and go to its preferences. On the General tab, click the ‘Manage Plug-ins’ button.

A panel will appear listing all the plugins that are available. Click the checkbox next to the plugin you want to enable and click the ‘Apply and Restart Mail’ button.

Plugins differ from one to another. Some work invisibly e.g., a plugin that sorts your mail, some have an interface of their own. There’s no definitive list of methods for accessing a plugin. After you’ve followed the above steps to install a Mail Plugin, you should consult the documentation for it to see how it works and what changes to the interface, if any, you should expect.

Plugins, like apps, also have compatibility limitations. Make sure the plugin you’re planning to use supports the version of macOS that you’re using. In some cases, if your version of macOS is a bit old, you might have to perform a few additional steps (specific to the plugin) to get it going.

Need to install a plugin for QuickLook? It’s almost a similar process.

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