Jul 16 2011
This post, originally called “How to do a Hashtag on a Mac… or anything else for that matter”, has been updated due to the help of a few readers who pointed out my mistake: not everyone who uses a Mac uses a US or Canadian keyboard and, outside North America, the keyboard mapping between PC and Mac is occasionally quite different. I have adjusted the article to take this into account but only for Mac users this time.
I make a habit of checking in to Twitter and doing a search for people who have Mac questions. By far the number one question is “How do you do a print screen on a Mac?” but a close second is “How do you do a hashtag on a Mac?”
The question perplexes me because you do a hashtag on a Mac the same way you do a hashtag on any other platform. The situation gets even more confusing when I see some people answering the question with a link to a blog post telling people that the # symbol was hiding behind Alt-3 (no self-respecting Mac person recognizes any key on a Mac keyboard by the name “Alt” so that’s a dead giveaway that you’re being conned—you get £ when you type Alt-3). Okay, so, to actually do a hashtag… on a Mac… or anything else… hold down the Shift key and type a 3 to get the # symbol and then, without any spaces, type your tag word(s). If your tag contains more than one word, omit the spaces between the words—we want one unbroken string of characters attached to that #. That’s it. It’s not hard at all. And, it’s not platform-specific at all.
To do a hashtag, you must first figure out how to type the # symbol. On a US or Canadian keyboard, that is dead easy… hold down the Shift key and type the number 3 on the main keyboard. Where it gets dicey is on other keyboard mappings in countries and cultures where the # symbol is not used as often and, thus, is hidden to allow more useful symbols to be easier to type. Here’s what you do if you find yourself in that situation:
- First open your System Preferences and go under Hardware and choose Keyboard
- Once there make sure “Show Keyboard & Character Viewer” is checked.
- You will now see a squarish box with a * in it near the clock in the menu bar—that’s the Keyboard & Character Viewer
- Go up to the menu at the Keyboard & Character Viewer and pull down to choose “Show Keyboard Viewer“
- The Keyboard Viewer will open and show you the mapping of the keyboard based on the keyboard map you have chosen in the Language & Text preferences in your System Preferences.
- Here’s where we experiment and observe:
- if you look at the Keyboard Viewer, it shows you the keys of your keyboard and what will be typed if you press on any of the keys.
- if you hold down a modifier key like Shift, Option or Shift + Option together, they characters on the keys will change accordingly showing what character will be typed when you press that key with the specific modifier key(s) you are holding down
- look over the keys as you try Shift, Option and Shift + Option until you find out which key and which modifier key must be combined to type the # symbol.
Once you know which key and which modifier key must be combined to type the # symbol, you can close the Keyboard Viewer and go back to the Keyboard preferences and uncheck “Show Keyboard & Character Viewer”. It’s a bit of convoluted process, but it’s not hard and once you learn how to do this you’ll be able to find any character you need to type that is mapped to your particular keyboard.
The hard part is more the question “What is a hashtag?” or “Why would want to use one?”
The use of hashtags on Twitter is a great way to quickly join your post to a greater conversational subject. You’ll often see charitable causes using slogany hashtags to raise awareness of their message. If you see a hashtag, you can click on it and you’ll be taken to a search result showing all the recent posts that use that hashtag.
Hashtags are also used one Twitter to associate posts with ongoing “games” or Twitter memes like #replaceawordinafamousquotewithduck where participants did just that, they took a famous phrase and replaced a word in it with the word duck to humorous effect. Clicking on the hashtag in one of these posts brought up all of the crazy submissions on one page.
I hope you found this post handy too. In fact, if you have a Mac question and would like to test out your hashtagging skills, post a question to Twitter with the hashtag #askrickmacmerc and I’ll do my best to answer it and I may even use it in a post like this one…you could also post a comment below.