Entering high numbers on your Mac - this is how it works!

Entering an exponent number on the Mac, e.g. displaying something in the Pages word processor or Numbers spreadsheet in square or cube, is no rocket science. It's even easier to do in Word and similar Office apps. If you want to enter and use exponents - or more scientific: exponents - on your Apple Mac, iMac or MacBook, then simply use one of the following tips and tricks. Because there is not just one, but several ways to get under macOS 2, 3 or . to enter.

Enter exponents on the Mac using a keyboard shortcut, system and app settings. In this advisory article you will find help for all methods.

Enter exponents on the Mac using a keyboard shortcut, system and app settings. In this advisory article you will find help for all methods.

Enter exponents on the Mac using a keyboard shortcut

The fastest way to get an exponent or a superscript is a keyboard shortcut on Mac OS X and macOS. The shortcut for exponents is used after entering and marking it. So you first enter the number, the variable or the text that you want to increase, then mark it and then press control + command + plus key or [ctrl] + [cmd] + [+]. By the way, you proceed similarly if you want to place characters in lower places. Then you mark the respective characters and press control + command + minus key or [ctrl] + [cmd] + [-]. In this way, exponents and subscripts can be entered on the Mac without having to change anything in the programs or their settings.

Update 14.02.2020/XNUMX/XNUMX: Keyboard shortcuts no longer work

Unfortunately, I can't say since when the abovementioned keyboard shortcuts no longer work, but the fact is that they do not change the text for me under macOS Catalina. If a reader has a tip on how to do it with key shortcuts, I'll be happy to add it here.

The number-superscript key combination on the Apple Mac looks like this.

The number-superscript key combination on the Apple Mac looks like this.

Control videos with keyboard shortcuts: Practical YouTube shortcuts summarized

Enter exponents in iWork, MS Office, OpenOffice and Co.

Let's start with the simplest office apps, namely the Microsoft Office programs. In the formatting bar of Word, Excel and Co. there is the menu item the corresponding symbol for superscript and subscript characters. Here you just have to mark the corresponding text or the numbers and then click on the menu item. Since most of the free office packages such as OpenOffice are based on Microsoft specifications, they also have such a menu item.

This is not the case with Apple iWork, i.e. Pages, Numbers, Keynote and similar apps that can be used on the Apple Mac, iPhone and iPad. Here you can either use the key combination for the keyboard that I showed you above - or you can fix the lack of options on the toolbar in the program's settings. Because Apple definitely keeps the option open to format numbers in superscript and subscript. To do this, simply click with the right mouse button or with the secondary click of the Apple mouse on the toolbar, select "Customize toolbar ...", drag the desired symbols into the toolbar and then press Escape or [esc] on the keyboard.

In addition to superscript and subscript, many other options can be stored as symbols.

In addition to superscript and subscript, many other options can be stored as symbols.

Recommended reading: macOS Mojave keyboard shortcuts by Johann Szierbeck

Automatic number superscript on the Mac

Whether in the Word app, the apps from free "Open" offers or the Pages app from Apple - characters can usually be automatically replaced by others. For example, I have set the two in brackets and the three in brackets to automatically become ² and ³. You can also set the same for ^ 2 and ^ 3 or other strings. To do the whole thing under macOS on the Apple Mac, proceed as follows:

  1. Click on that Apple symbol in the top left of the menu bar
  2. Click on in the corresponding menu System settings ...
  3. Pick the point Keyboard
  4. Select the second tab named Text
  5. Click on the "+" under the replace with table to add a new entry
  6. Enter the character string to be entered in "Replace" and the desired exponent in "Through"
  7. Here!
In the macOS system settings you can set which character strings should be replaced by which alternative.

In the macOS system settings you can set which character strings should be replaced by which alternative.

Define exponent shortcuts for specific app

It does not always make sense to go through the above procedure via the system settings of macOS. Because these are applied to all programs (relating to the settings). So if you want to use the app's own resources in Word and Excel, but use shortcuts in Pages and Numbers, then you follow very similar steps in the respective program. For Pages, the procedure for individual number / superscript key combinations is as follows:

  1. Opens Pages or another iWork program you use
  2. Click on the menu item Pages (or Numbers, Keynote, etc.)
  3. Click in the drop-down menu Settings ...
  4. Choose the tab Automatic correction
  5. Now fill the replace with table again by clicking on the "+"
  6. Done!
This is what the individual settings for automatic correction look like in Apple's own word processor.

This is what the individual settings for automatic correction look like in Apple's own word processor.

Conclusion on the topic

Macs superscripts and superscripted variables or other raised characters in word processing and spreadsheets are not difficult to achieve. Whether a key combination for superscripting characters or settings in the system and programs that help - there is always a way. Hopefully this little advisory article could be of help to you. If so - or if you have any further tips and tricks on the subject - please leave a comment;)

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12 comments

  1. Tea jay says:

    That's what I've been looking for! thanks

  2. Aaron says:

    Many Thanks. I've missed that since my Mac Switch in 2006.

  3. Henry says:

    Hello, the variant "Enter exponents on the Mac using a key combination" does not work. Has this changed? Or am I doing something wrong?

    • sir appleot says:

      Hi henry! You're right. It doesn't work for me either. But I don't know how long they stopped working. It is now noted in the article so that future readers will not be surprised. Thank you for your hint.

  4. Klaus-Peter says:

    The contribution is certainly helpful, but it does not reveal to me how I get the small superscript 2 in the "Through" field.

    • sir appleot says:

      Hello Klaus-Peter,

      simply mark the superscript 2 here in the post, copy it with cmd + C, and then paste it into the table with cmd + V. I hope it helps.

      Best regards!

  5. toniB says:

    Insert superscripts and subscripts on the Mac

    Apparently, every year the engineers in Cupertino rack their brains about creating even more stupid new emojis, but completely forget that you can also use the Mac for meaningful things.

    In Apple's own programs, such as Pages, Numbers, Keynote etc., there is a cumbersome version of superscripting and subscripting characters (first write down characters - mark them - and then press the key combination "alt, cmd and + or -"). Everywhere else you work, for example commenting on various platforms, YouTube etc., you are left in the rain.

    The forums also only provide cumbersome suggestions, e.g. replace them with text.

    I've found a pretty practical way to for example

    m², m³, 2¹⁶, CO₂, P₂O₅, H₂O, H₂SO₄ etc.

    to be able to write relatively quickly.

    * To do this, enter the key combination "ctrl, cmd and the space bar" at the desired position.
    * The "Character overview" window opens with emojis, bullets ...
    * You move the window to a position where it does not interfere.
    * In the left column you click on "√ Mathematical symbols".
    * Then scroll all the way down in the middle column - there you will find several rows of numbers from 0-9
    * For the result above, I took the 3rd from the bottom.
    * Choose the first number 0
    * and then in the right column under "Similar characters" the small superscript number - this is displayed at the top in the preview.
    * "Save as favorite".
    * You do this with each number in sequence
    * And then the same thing again with the subscripts
    * You can also use characters that are often used, such as ??????????????????????????? repeat the process.

    In the future you just press "ctrl, cmd and space bar" and find the characters immediately in the "★ favorites" ????

    A double click on the desired character inserts it into the text at the cursor position and you can continue working with the hardware keyboard without further ado.

    ⭐︎✯✡︎✩✪ Also works in Pages, Numbers etc. without having to mark it beforehand ???? ✪✩✡︎✯⭐︎

    • Jen Kleinholz says:

      Hello Toni! Thanks for the hint. That's a nice idea with favorites! Only the key combination CMD + CTRL (ALT) and space bar causes Spotlight and not the character overview to open for me. How did you set that up?

      • toniB says:

        ... don't know ... I still use macOS Catalina ...

        BUT there is also a good alternative and you don't even have to remember a key combination.

        Go to → System Settings → Keyboard and activate the checkmark at "☑︎ Show keyboard and emoji overviews in the menu bar" - (if that was not already the case) - then the national coat of arms of the set will appear in the menu bar to the left of the magnifying glass Keyboard displayed.

        Wherever you need a special character, you simply click on the flag and select "Show emoji & symbols" in the drop-down menu and you have immediate access to the characters.

        Tip: with a click on the symbol in the upper right corner of this window you can reduce the size of the display so that it does not disturb you while you are working.

        ps a superscript "-" also makes sense to be able to represent eg "10⁻²³".

  6. toniB says:

    Error detected: You used the "alt (select)" key.

    On the left is first the "fn" key, then "ctrl (control)", "alt (selection)", "cmd (command)" and then the "space bar"

    So "ctrl, cmd, space"

    • Jen Kleinholz says:

      Unfortunately it wasn't. I have now tried all the combinations below, but the character overview does not come up with me. Although I also have Catalina. : D

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