The Mac desktop

Apple invented the graphical user interface as we know it, so OS X will feel familiar to any computer user. Let’s take a closer look

The dock

The Dock runs across the bo4om of the screen and ives you quick access to commonly used apps, documents and folders. The Mac’s le browser, called the Finder, always has its icon in the rst position at the le , and the Trash basket at the far right, but all the other icons can be moved around, deleted or added as you like. You’ll notice the Dock is split into two un­ equal parts. The larger portion, at the le , shows all the apps that are currently running, indicated by a bluish­white light in the bar below, plus any apps that you choose to keep handy in the Dock permanently, which appear without the light when not running. If an app is in the process of launch­ ingor needs a4ention, it’ll bounce repeatedly. To the right of the Dock’s dividing line sit other items that you want to remain visible. In addition to the Trash, your Documents and Downloads folders will appear here by default. Click either of them and its contents pop up in a fan; you can then click on any document in the fan to open it (or run it, if it’s an app). If there are too many items in the fan to t on the screen, click the ringed arrow at the top of the list.

Moving froM WindoWs OS X is the name of the Mac’s operating system, pronounced ‘oh ess ten’. It looks di erent from Windows, the operating system installed on most PCs, but they have many common features. Each uses windows to display things and a pointer to interact with them. Where Windows has the Taskbar at the foot of the screen, the Mac has the Dock. While Windows apps each have their own menu bar inside their own windows, OS X has one menu bar at the top of the screen, which changes when you switch between apps.

Working with stacks

These sets of items are called stacks. You can change the way they display by right-clicking the icon. As in Windows, right-clicking most things on your Mac will pop up a contextual menu showing options speci)c to that item. In this case, the menu lets you choose whether this stack appears as a fan, a grid or a list, and how the items it shows will be sorted. Or you can let your Mac choose automatically depending on how big the stack is. By default, when you switch on your Mac for the )rst time, the Dock icon for each stack is a li?le pile of documents, seen from the top, with the most recent item on top. That’s sometimes handy, but makes it hard to see at a glance which is your Downloads folder, for example, so you may want to choose Folder instead of Stack in the contextual menu – then the icon will represent the type of folder you’re looking at. You can add any folder as a stack to make it quickly accessible in future. Make sure you’re in the Finder:the current app is named at the top le’ of the screen, the only bold menu heading. If you’re not, click the Finder icon at the le’ of the Dock. Now hold the Cmd key (the Mac’s equivalent of Ctrl in Windows; the Ctrl key on a Mac serves di&erent purposes) and press ‘N’ to open a new window. By default, every Finder window has a sidebar on the le’ listing commonly used storage locations on your system. Let’s add the Applications folder, which normally stores all the programs on your Mac, to the Dock, to make it easy to )nd apps whose icons aren’t in the Dock. Near the top of the sidebar you’ll see your Mac’s main hard disk (startup drive), normally labelled Macintosh HD. Click this once to view its contents in the main part of the window at the right. Near the top you’ll see the Applications folder. Drag it across the screen to the Dock and hold it there at the le’ of the Trash icon. Notice how the other stacks shu(e along to make space for it. Let go when it’s positioned where you want it, and it’ll move smartly into place. Its icon either shows a pile of apps, or the Applications folder icon (like an ‘A’), depending on your stack options. If you accidentally drop the Applications folder somewhere else – for example, onto another Finder window – the Finder may start copying its contents to that location. Don’t panic: see ‘Help, I got it wrong’ on the next page.

THERIGHTwayToclIck Years ago, Mac mice had only one bu2on, so to right-click you held the Ctrl key. This still works, but you can also right-click on your Magic Mouse by tapping the right-hand side, or on an Apple trackpad by tapping with two !ngers. Alternatives are available in the Mouse and Trackpad panes of System Preferences. You can also plug in a USB mouse rom any other manufacturer and right-click as normal.
Help,IgotItwrong If you put any process in motion on your Mac by accident, you can enerally stop it by hi5ingCmd-. (that is, hold the Cmd key and press the full stop or period key). For example, if a box pops up sayingit’s copying100 les, and you hadn’t meant to do that, hit Cmd-. and everythingwill stay just as it was. If you’ve already made a mistake, hit Cmd-Z straight away to undo it. These shortcuts will save a lot of hassle.
Trash, click the Trash icon in the Dock (it always opens as a folder in a new window). To resurrect a deleted ,le, right-click it and choose Put Back, or drag the ,le to where you want it stored. If you let deleted ,les build up in the Trash, it won’t have any bad e*ect, but they’ll take up disk space. Now and again, right-click the Trash icon and pick Empty Trash. If the deleted ,les include con,dential information, hold the Cmd key and the option changes to Secure Empty Trash. Select this to delete the ,les permanently, with no hope of retrieving them using unerase so+ware later, but liAle or no risk of others doing so either.

Adding and removing apps

Apple includes some essential apps in the Dock for you, including Safari, the Mac’s default web browser – but you can rearrange or remove them, or add others. Click the Applications icon near the top of the sidebar in any Finder window to see all your installed apps, then drag any one to the Dock and drop it where you want it. If you change your mind and want to remove it, right-click the Dock icon and choose Options > Remove from Dock (this isn’t possible if the app is currently running).

Tweaking the Dock

To make the Dock bigger (to see icons more clearly) or smaller (to ,t more icons in), hover over the dividing line to the le+ of the Trash icon and your stacks, so that the cursor turns into a double-headed arrow, then drag up or down. You can adjust the Dock’s appearance and behaviour further: either right-click in the same place, or click the Apple icon at the top le+ of the screen to show the Apple menu, then pick Dock. Extra options are found in the Dock Preferences submenu here.

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The Trash

Whenever you delete something on your Mac – for example, by selecting a ,le in the Finder and pressing Cmd-Backspace – it normally ends up in the Trash. To see what’s in the Trash, click the Trash icon in the Dock (it always opens as a folder in a new window). To resurrect a deleted ,le, right-click it and choose Put Back, or drag the ,le to where you want it stored. If you let deleted ,les build up in the Trash, it won’t have any bad e*ect, but they’ll take up disk space. Now and again, right-click the Trash icon and pick Empty Trash. If the deleted ,les include con,dential information, hold the Cmd key and the option changes to Secure Empty Trash. Select this to delete the ,les permanently, with no hope of retrieving them using unerase so+ware later, but liAle or no risk of others doing so either.

The Mac menu bar

OS X’s menu bar runs across the top of the screen at all times, unless you’re using an app in full-screen mode or one that takes over the display completely, such as a game. Every app, even the Finder, uses the same menu bar, but each will display its own submenus and commands in it your Mac – although most of them can also e accessed from elsewhere. The )rst, About This Mac, pops up a simple ox reminding you what version of OS X you’re running and what processor (CPU) and how much memory your Mac has. You won’t normally need to use the So(ware Update u@on here, ecause y default OS X will tell you automatically when any updates are available; it’s usually a good idea to install these when invited to, especially those that relate to security. In OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and later, Software Update is integrated with the Mac App Store and will alert you to updates via Notification Center.
Like the Dock, the menu ar has two parts. At the le( side of the screen, the Apple menu (which never changes) is always followed y a menu labelled in old with the name of the app you’re currently using; this always contains that app’s Preferences and options to hide or quit it. The app’s other menus then follow. At the far right of the menu ar is an icon to show or hide Noti)cation Center, a relatively new feature of OS X that lets you keep up to date with reminders, updates, alerts and social media while you work. To the le( of this is a magnifying glass icon representing Spotlight, OS X’s system-wide search facility. A(er these, you’ll )nd utility icons similar to those found in Windows’ ‘system tray’, including the clock, your Mac’s a@ery level and network connection status, and various other optional tools – for example, to set the volume and screen resolution. Clicking any of these icons drops down a menu related to it.

Apple menu

The Apple menu at the top le( of the screen gives you access to important tools for managing your Mac – although most of them can also e accessed from elsewhere. The )rst, About This Mac, pops up a simple ox reminding you what version of OS X you’re running and what processor (CPU) and how much memory your Mac has. You won’t normally need to use the So(ware Update u@on here, ecause y default OS X will tell you automatically when any updates are available; it’s usually a good idea to install these when invited to, especially those that relate to security. In OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion and later, So(ware Update is integrated with the Mac App Store and will alert you to updates via Noti)cation Center.

Sleep, Restart, Shut down

 Your Mac will put itself to sleep a(er a period of inactivity, controlled in your Energy Saver preferences, which we’ll cover later in this ook. While sleeping (indicated y a ‘breathing’ LED on its case), your MacBook will use very li@le a@ery power, ut if necessary it’ll automatically put itself into a deeper sleep, from which it’ll take a few extra seconds to wake. There’s generally no reason to use the Shut Down command.

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