MacSamurai Archive


rebootMacSamurai Consulting will celebrate its 15th anniversary soon and this website hadn’t been “rebooted” in almost that long. This week I finally got motivated to change that. If you already know me, you know that brevity is not my strong point, but I’ve tried to keep this new site lean and clean. All the basic info that one typically expects to find on the website of a service provider is accounted for, I think, and I’ll try to remember to “brain dump” things I think are worth sharing. Moving forward, I’ll make a concerted effort to keep the info current and occasionally engaging.

I’m still tweaking a few things here and there, but today felt like a good day to rip off the bandaid. If you stumble across anything that’s broken, please let me know!

Help us help you

Skills aside, communication is the real key to providing great tech support. It’s also the real key to getting great tech support. No matter how good we are at our job, we still can’t read your minds and – contrary to popular belief – we’re not really wizards.


With some plagiarizing from an old, but very relevant Lifehacker post, here are some tips for getting the best from us, which helps us give our best to you.

The more specific, reliable, and reproducible details you can provide the better.

When communicating tech problems, words like “thing”, “crazy”, “weird”, “problem” and “broken” aren’t actually very helpful. It’s ok if you don’t know the right words to use. That’s why you’re looking for help after all. We get that. Still, it’s better to say “I was tapping away on my Mac and suddenly everything on my screen got huge and I can’t work like this. What’s up with that?” instead of “My computer is doing this weird thing and the screen is all crazy. Help!”

Surprisingly, the word “help” is also not very helpful. Asking “Can you help me with a printing problem?” leaves a pretty broad range of responses for us to consider. You know that you need help, specifically, with printing a PDF that crashes every time you try to print it, for example. So tell us that instead of leaving us hanging. Because we’re going to reply back with “Yes, I probably can help, but can you elaborate a bit more on the nature of the problem?” instead of “Sorry you’re having trouble. Can you try printing a different PDF as well as a Word file and tell me if those also crash? Then I can advise further and/or resolve it for you.” The point is: the more specifics we have up front, the faster we can get to the part where we actually help.

When sending an email, PLEASE include a meaningful Subject. Do you know how many messages we have accumulated over the years that have the subject of “Help” or “Hi Laurie” or “Question” or “Problem?” Even worse are the thousands that contain no subject at all. The subject line of an email is a really useful tool. It summarizes the content of the email for the recipient. Sure, we’re going to read the entire email anyway, but that subject line helps us prioritize. It also helps us locate important reference info in the future when you (or someone else) emails us with the same or similar problem. Think of our email archives as a filing cabinet, and all the email we receive as individual file folders. Now imagine that every single folder in the file cabinet is labeled with the word “Documents.” Now go ahead and try to find the one folder that contains your child’s birth certificate. See what I mean?

Always provide more details than you think you need to in your email or voicemail. Background info and context such as: specific make and model (ex: iMac, MacBook Air, iPhone 5s, iPad mini, Epson Workforce 845, etc), specific OS version (ex: iOS 9.0.2, OS X 10.10.5), browser used (ex: Safari, Firefox, Chrome) other relevant software version (ex: Word 2008, Keynote ’09), connectivity type (ex: WiFi at home/hotel/cafe/Jetpack/Hotspot, cellular 3G/4G/LTE, hard-wired/Ethernet) are really important details for us. Don’t be stingy with them!

Show and tell isn’t just for grade school. A picture is worth a thousand keystrokes. If you can show us your actual screen when you’re experiencing a problem, it’s extremely helpful. Since we’re not always available to jump on your system with LogMeIn at the very minute you’re having that problem, an emailed screenshot is the next best thing. Here’s how to take a screenshot. If you’re not able to take a screenshot on your Mac or not able to send email from your Mac, taking a picture of your Mac’s screen with your iPhone or iPad is a good option. Just be sure that you choose “medium” or “large” for the size on the photo on your iPhone or iPad when you’re attaching it to the email. Sending a “small” picture from your phone usually won’t allow us to see the important details in the image.

SMS texts and iMessages are really convenient for chatting with friends and family and for transient info and questions like “I’ll be there in 5 minutes” or “Are you on your way?” or “I’m at Starbucks, can I get you anything?” But it’s a really inefficient way to give or receive tech support. We don’t speak for others, but for us, email is the best and fastest choice for communicating support-related matters.

The above points are just a few examples of how you can help us to help you, but they’re a great start – for us both.

How to take a screenshot

…on your Mac:

You can take screenshots of your whole screen or just part of it. Screenshots are saved automatically as .png files on your desktop.

Take a screenshot of your whole screen

  1. Press Command (⌘)-Shift-3.
  2. Find the screenshot as a .png file on your desktop.


Take a screenshot of part of your screen

  1. Press Command (⌘)-Shift-4. You’ll see that your cursor changes to a crosshair pointer.
  2. Move the crosshair pointer to where you want to start the screenshot.
  3. Drag to select an area. To adjust the area, hold Shift, Option, or the Space bar while you drag.
  4. When you’ve selected the area you want, release your mouse or trackpad button. Or to cancel, press Escape (esc).
  5. Find the screenshot as a .png file on your desktop.
In Mac OS X v10.6 and later, the screenshots are saved as .png files on the desktop. They’re automatically named “Screen Shot (date and time).png.” You can open these screenshots with Preview or other image editing apps.

…on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch:

You can capture the screen on your iOS device using the Sleep/Wake and Home buttons.

Press and hold the Sleep/Wake button on the top or side of your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, then immediately press and release the Home button. You’ll find the screenshot in your Photos app.

Adding a Google Apps or Gmail account to your iOS device

Go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > and click on Add Account

Tap the Google logo

Enter your email address and your email password.  Then tap “Sign in.”

Tap “Allow”

Enable or Disable services as desired.

Anything enabled here will SYNC with the same relative sections of and/or any computer that’s connected to the same account.

Mail should be “on” for most people

Contacts and calendars are optional, but recommended for convenience

Notes is optional and should be disabled if you’re already using iCloud Notes. Enable it here if you’d rather have your Notes synced through your Google account instead.


Tap SAVE when you’re done.

Once the account is saved, change the “description” of the acount by tapping on the “Gmail” account you just added to edit it…

Now tap on your Account at the top of that screen…

Now enter a more meaningful and easily identifiable name in the Description field.

The Description field is what shows (only to you) in your list off Accounts in Mail, Contacts, Calendars. Since people often have multiple accounts listed there, it’s helpful to identify them for easy reference, other you end up with multiple accounts just called “Gmail” even they they are all different addresses.

Most people will benefit by using the actual email address for the description instead of the default description for any given account.


Making sense of Mac keyboard shortcut modifier symbols

Mac CommandsThere are so many keyboard shortcuts throughout Mac OS X and it’s myriad of third-party apps that it’s easy to forget them or get lost trying to memorize the sea of keystrokes for each app. This is where CheatSheet will make your life easier, it’s a tiny free application that sits in the background waiting to be summoned from any app to instantly show all keyboard shortcuts for that application.

Get CheatSheet for free from Media Atelier  (requires OS X 10.7 or later)

After you’ve downloaded CheatSheet, place it in your /Applications/ folder and the launch the app. Now from any application, hold down the Command key for a few seconds to summon the “Cheat Sheet” list of all keyboard shortcuts for that app. This allows you to quickly see even the most obscure shortcuts that would otherwise be buried deep within a submenu somewhere.

You should also keep an eye on Dan Rodney’s Mac Central: Your Place for Good, Concise Mac Keystrokes, Tips & Tricks

Full Keyboard Symbol List:

is command (Formerly known as the  key)

is option

is control

is shift

fn  is Function key

is caps lock

is left arrow

is right arrow

is up arrow

is down arrow

is tab

is backtab

is return

is enter (extended number pad)

is delete

is forward delete

is page up

is page down

is home

is end

is clear

is space

is escape

is eject

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