Getting Acquainted with the Mac User Interface - Getting Started with Mac Basics - Macs All-in-One For Dummies, 4th Edition (2014)

Macs All-in-One For Dummies, 4th Edition (2014)

Book I. Getting Started with Mac Basics

Chapter 2. Getting Acquainted with the Mac User Interface

In This Chapter

arrow Perusing menus and windows

arrow Using the mouse, trackpad, and keyboard

arrow Getting familiar with the parts of the Desktop

arrow Working with Dashboard widgets

arrow Getting help from your Mac

Theoretically, using a computer is simple. In practice, using a computer can cause people to suffer a wide range of emotions from elation to sheer frustration and despair.

The problem with using a computer stems mostly from two causes:

· Not knowing what the computer can do

· Not knowing how to tell the computer what you want it to do

In the early days of personal computers (PCs), this communication gap between users and computers arose mostly from ordinary people trying to use machines designed by engineers for other engineers. If you didn’t understand how a computer engineer thinks (or doesn’t think), computers seemed nearly impossible to understand.

Fortunately, Apple has mostly solved this problem with the Mac. Instead of designing a computer for other computer engineers, Apple designed a computer for ordinary people. And what do ordinary people want? Here’s the short (but definitely important) list:

· Reliability

· Ease of use

From a technical point of view, what makes the Mac reliable is its operating system, OS X. An operating system is nothing more than an application that makes your computer actually work.

An operating system (OS) works in the background. When you use a computer, you don’t really notice the operating system, but you do see its user interface (UI) — which functions like a clerk at the front desk of a hotel: Instead of talking directly to the housekeeper or the plumber (the operating system), you always talk to the front desk clerk, and the clerk talks to the housekeeper or plumber.

Apple designed a UI that everyone can understand. You control your Mac with multitouch gestures applied to the trackpad or mouse, making the UI even more intuitive and literally hands-on. In this chapter, we first explain what you see on the screen when you turn your Mac on, and then we explain how to use a mouse, trackpad, and keyboard to control your Mac. Then we introduce the Dock, Finder, and Dashboard, and tell you how to get help from your Mac if you need it.

Chances are if you work with a computer, you know how to click and drag and open menus, but we explain it step by step in the beginning in case this is your first time using a computer. After all, we were all newbies at one time or another. The layout and gestures you read about in this chapter apply to almost everything you’ll ever do with your Mac.

Looking at Menus, Dialogs, and Windows

The Mac UI acts like a communication pathway between you and the OS, serving three purposes:

· To display all the options you can choose

· To display information

· To accept commands

This section tells you how menus and windows serve those three purposes.

image One of the most crucial parts of the Mac user interface is an application called the Finder, which displays files stored on your Mac. You find out more about the Finder later in this chapter.

Exploring the menu bar

The menu bar runs across the top of your Mac’s screen. The menu bar is always accessible and almost always visible (it’s hidden when you use an app in full-screen view — be patient, we get to that soon) and provides a single location where you can find nearly every possible command you might need for your computer or the app you’re using. The menu bar consists of three parts, the Apple menu, the app menus, and menulets. Figure 2-1 identifies the parts that appear on the left side of the menu bar.


Figure 2-1: The left side of the menu bar.

· The Apple menu (image): This menu always appears on the menu bar and gives you one-click access to commands for controlling or modifying your Mac.

· The App menus: Here’s where you find the name of the active app along with several menus that contain commands for controlling that particular app and its data. (If you don’t run any additional apps, your Mac always runs the Finder, which you find out more about in this chapter.)

On the right side of the menu bar, you see the menulets, shown in Figure 2-2. Menulets are mini menus that open when you click the icons on the right end of the menu bar and give you quick access to specific System Preferences settings, such as Network, Time and Date, or Sound.


Figure 2-2: The menulets.

The icons on the right end of the menulets open menus that perform one or more system functions, such as providing fast access to Wi-Fi controls or battery status (MacBook models). The two icons to the right open Spotlight Search and the Notification Center.

image If you don’t want a menulet cluttering up the menu bar, you can typically remove it by holding down the image key, moving the pointer over the icon you want to remove, dragging (moving) the mouse pointer off the menu bar, and then releasing the mouse button.

Understanding menu commands

Each menu on the menu bar contains a group of related commands. The File menu contains commands for opening, saving, and printing files; the Edit menu contains commands for copying or deleting selected items; and the View menu gives you options for how and what you see on the screen. The number and names of different menus depend on the application.

To give a command to your Mac, drag your finger across the trackpad or move the mouse so the pointer points to the menu you want. Then tap the trackpad or click the mouse to call up a pull-down menu listing all the commands you can choose. Drag the pointer (with your finger on the trackpad or with the mouse) to highlight the command you want the computer to follow and click it (File⇒Save, for example).

Working with dialogs

When your Mac needs information from you or wants to present a choice you can make, it typically displays a dialog — essentially a box that offers a variety of choices. Some common dialogs appear when you choose the Print, Save, and Open commands.

Some dialogs (particularly Save and Print) often appear in a condensed version, but you can blow them up into an expanded version, as shown in Figure 2-3. For example, to switch between the expanded and the condensed version of the Save dialog, click its disclosure triangle, which looks like triangle to the right of the Save As field.


Figure 2-3: When expanded, the Save dialog offers more options.

Whether expanded or condensed, every dialog displays buttons that either let you cancel the command or complete it. To cancel a command, you have three choices:

· Click the Cancel button.

· Press Esc.

· Press image+. (period).

To complete a command, you also have two choices:

· Click the button that represents the command that you want to complete, such as Save or Print.

· Press Return or Enter to choose the default button, which appears in blue.

Managing windows

Every app needs to accept, manipulate, and/or display data, also referred to as information. A word processor lets you type and edit text, a spreadsheet app lets you type and calculate numbers, and a presentation app lets you display text and pictures. To help you work with different types of information (such as text, pictures, audio, and video files), every app displays information inside a rectangular area called a window. Figure 2-4 shows two app windows.


Figure 2-4: Multiple apps can display in windows onscreen at the same time.

Dividing a screen into multiple windows offers several advantages:

· Two or more apps can display information on the screen simultaneously.

· A single app can open and display information stored in two or more files or display two or more views of the same file.

· You can copy (or move) data from one window to another. If each window belongs to a different app, this action transfers data from one app to another.

Of course, windows aren’t perfect. When a window appears on the screen, it might be too big or too small, be hard to find because it’s hidden behind another window, or display the beginning of a file when you want to see the middle or the end. To control the appearance of a window, most windows provide built-in controls, as shown in Figure 2-5. The following sections show you what you can do with these controls.


Figure 2-5: Every window provides controls so you can manipulate it.

Moving a window with the title bar

The title bar of every window serves two purposes:

· Identifies the filename that contains the information displayed in the window

· Provides a place to grab when you want to drag (move) the window to a new location on the screen, which we explain in the sections “Using the mouse” and “Operating the trackpad”.

Resizing a window

Sometimes a window might be in the perfect location, but it’s too small or too large for what you want to do at that moment. To change the size of a window, follow these steps:

1. Move the pointer over any corner or edge of the window to reveal a resizing handle.

It looks like a dash with arrows on both ends if you can make the window larger or smaller; it has just one arrow if the window has reached its size limits and can only be made smaller (or larger).

2. Hold down the mouse or trackpad button with one finger or your thumb and drag the mouse, or a second finger on the trackpad, to move the resizing widget.

· If you have a two-button mouse, hold down the left mouse button.

· If you have a trackpad, you can also tap when the pointer becomes a resizing widget, and then with three fingers swipe in the direction you want the window to grow or shrink.

The window grows or shrinks while you drag or swipe.

3. Release the mouse or trackpad button (or tap in the window if you’re swiping) when you’re happy with the new size of the window.

Closing a window

When you finish viewing or editing any information displayed in a window, you can close the window to keep it from cluttering the screen. To close a window, follow these steps:

1. Move the pointer to the upper-left corner of the window and then click the Close button (the little red button) of the window you want to close.

If you haven’t saved the information inside the window, such as a letter you’re writing with a word-processing application, the application displays a confirmation dialog that asks whether you want to save it.

2. In the dialog that appears, click one of the following choices:

· Don’t Save: Closes the window and discards any changes you made to the information inside the window.

· Cancel: Keeps the window open.

· Save: Closes the window but saves the information in a file. If this is the first time you’ve saved this information, another dialog appears, giving you a chance to name the file and to store the saved information in a specific location on your hard drive.

image Computers typically offer two or more ways to accomplish the same task, so you can choose the way you like best. As an alternative to clicking the Close button, you can click inside the window you want to close and then choose File⇒Close or press image+W.

Minimizing a window

Sometimes you might not want to close a window, but you still want to get it out of the way so it doesn’t clutter your screen. In that case, you can minimize or hide a window, which tucks the window onto the Dock. We explain the features and functions of the Dock a bit later in this chapter.

To minimize a window, choose one of the following methods:

· Click the Minimize button — the yellow button in the upper left corner — of the window you want to tuck out of the way.

· Click the window you want to minimize and choose Window⇒Minimize Window (or press image+M).

· Double-click the window’s title bar.

To open a minimized window, choose image⇒Open Recent and then click the minimized app or document in the list, or click the minimized window on the Dock, as we explain in the section “The Dock.”

Zooming a window

If a window is too small to display information, you can instantly make it bigger by using the Zoom button — the green button in the upper-left corner of most windows. (When you move the mouse over the Zoom button, a plus sign appears inside.) Clicking the Zoom button a second time shrinks the window to its prior size.

image Zooming a window makes the window — not the contents — grow larger. Many apps have sliders or menus that increase, or decrease, the size of the contents: 100 percent is the actual size; a lower percentage (such as 75) shows more information at a smaller size; and a higher percentage (such as 200) shows less information but may be easier on your eyes.

Employing full-screen view

Most Apple apps and many third-party apps offer full-screen view. When available, a full-screen button (a line with an arrow on each end) appears in the upper-right corner of the title bar of the app window. When you click the full-screen button, the application fills the screen, and the menu bar is hidden from view. Hover the pointer at the very top of the screen to reveal the menu bar so you can point and click to use the menus. Move the pointer back to the window and the menu bar disappears again. Press the Esc key or Control+image+F to return to normal view or click the full-screen button again, which you find by hovering the pointer over the upper-right corner.

image If you use several applications in full-screen view, swipe left or right with four fingers across the trackpad or Control+→ or Control+← to move from one application to another.

Scrolling through a window

No matter how large you make a window, it may still be too small to display all the information contained inside. If a window isn’t large enough to display all the information inside it, the window lets you know by displaying vertical or horizontal scroll bars.

You can scroll what’s displayed in a window two ways:

· Mouse or trackpad scrolling: See the next sections “Using the mouse” and “Operating the trackpad” to learn how to use both the mouse and trackpad. With either one, moving your fingers or the mouse up and down and left and right move the contents of the window up and down, left and right.

· Scroll bars: You can move the contents by

· Dragging the scroll box: Click and drag the gray oval scroll box in the scroll bar to move forward and backward in the window. This scrolls through a window faster than mouse or trackpad scrolling.

· Clicking in the scroll bar: Scrolls up/down or right/left in large increments or directly to the spot where you click.

Although the scroll bar is the size of the window, it represents the length, or width, of the document; if you want to jump to page 25 of a 100-page document, click in the upper quarter of the vertical scroll bar; to go to page 90, click near the bottom of the scroll bar.

· image You can adjust the scroll bars’ appearance — or eliminate them altogether — which we explain in Book I, Chapter 6.

image Depending on your Mac model, your Mac’s keyboard may have dedicated Page Up and Page Down keys, which you can press to scroll up and down. Not seeing Page Up and Page Down keys on your Mac or MacBook keyboard doesn’t mean they aren’t there. To use your Mac’s invisible Page Up and Page Down keys, see the “Arrow and cursor control keys” section.

Mastering the Mouse, Trackpad, and Keyboard

To control your Mac, you use the mouse or trackpad and the keyboard. Using both the mouse or trackpad and the keyboard, you can choose commands, manipulate items on the screen, or create such data as text or pictures.

Using the mouse

A typical mouse looks like, and is about the size of, a bar of soap. The main purpose of the mouse is to move a pointer on the screen, which tells the computer, “See what I’m pointing at right now? That’s what I want to select.” To select an item on the screen, you move the mouse (which in turn makes the onscreen pointer move), put the pointer on that item, and then press and release (click) the mouse button, or press down the top, left side of the mouse if you have a mouse, such as Apple’s Mighty Mouse or Magic Mouse, that doesn’t have visible buttons.

The whole surface of the wireless Apple Magic Mouse uses touch-sensitive technology that detects your fingertip gestures just like the MacBook trackpads, whereas the Mighty Mouse (sometimes called simply “Apple Mouse”) is touch-sensitive where your fingertips hit when you rest your palm on the mouse, but a scroll ball that doubles as a button on the top and squeezable side buttons. These are the basic mouse gestures to use with either mouse:

· Clicking (single-clicking): This is the most common activity with a mouse. With the Magic Mouse, move the mouse and tap anywhere on the surface. If you have an older mouse with buttons or an Apple Mighty Mouse, pressing the left mouse button, or the left side of the mouse, isclicking.

· Double-clicking: If you point at something and tap twice in rapid succession on the surface (that is, you double-click it), you can often select an item and open it at the same time. (If you’re using an older mouse, click the left mouse button or the mouse’s single button twice in rapid succession to double-click.)

· Dragging: Another common activity with the mouse is dragging — pointing at an item on the screen, holding down the left mouse button or the Magic Mouse’s invisible single center button to select the item, moving the mouse, which drags the item in the direction you move the mouse, and then releasing the button. Clicking and dragging is often the way to open menus, too.

· Control-clicking/right-clicking: Holding down the Control key while you click, or clicking the right button on the mouse, commonly displays a menu of commands (a contextual or shortcut menu) at the point you clicked to do something with the item that the mouse is pointing at. For example, in some apps (such as Pages), right-clicking a misspelled word displays a list of properly spelled words to choose from. Or, in Word, access a list of synonyms by right-clicking a correctly spelled word and then dragging on the contextual menu to Synonyms, as shown in Figure 2-6.

On the Magic Mouse, hold down the Control key and tap to click. To simulate a right-click with a single-button mouse, hold down the Control key and click the mouse button. On a two-button mouse, click the right button (or the right side of a Mighty Mouse).

image You can set up the Magic Mouse to function like an old-style two-button mouse by choosing the image menu and choosing System Preferences. Click Mouse in the Hardware section and then select the Secondary Click check box. You can even choose left or right side, making it more natural if you’re left-handed.


Figure 2-6: Right-clicking typically displays a list of commands.

· Scrolling: The surface of the Magic Mouse has the sensitivity of a trackpad, so you can move a finger up or down to scroll up and down the onscreen image (say, a word-processing document or a web page). Hold down the Control key while you scroll with one finger to zoom in on items on the screen.

· Swipe: Swipe two fingers left and right on the Magic Mouse surface to move back and forth through web pages or to browse photos in iPhoto.

Likewise, you can use System Preferences to make the Mighty Mouse to function like a one-button mouse.

image If you don’t like the mouse that came with your Mac, you can always buy a replacement mouse or a trackball, which looks like a golf-ball embedded in a switchplate; you rotate the trackball with your fingers or palm to move the pointer instead of moving the entire mouse across your desktop or mousepad. Some mice are ergonomically molded to be a better fit for the shape of your hand, so find a mouse that you like and connect it via the USB port of your Mac. Or, get a wireless mouse that connects to your Mac using your Mac’s Bluetooth wireless connection feature.

Operating the trackpad

All current MacBook models sport trackpads that can do more than most advanced multibutton mice. If you have a desktop model or find the trackpad on a MacBook model inconvenient, you can opt for the Magic Trackpad, which will give you all the multitouch gestures explained here.

Thanks to the trackpad’s smart sensing abilities, point-and-click has a whole new meaning because you’re often using your index (or pointer) finger to move the pointer and then tapping once on the trackpad to “click.” A double-tap is the same as a double-click. Other gestures you can use with the trackpad are

· Scroll: Move what you see on the screen up and down or left to right is as easy as sliding or swiping two fingers up and down or across the trackpad. The items in the window follow the movement of your fingers, the window contents move up when you move your fingers up.

· Rotate: Move the window contents 360 degrees by placing two fingers on the trackpad and making a circular motion.

· Swipe: Swipe the tips of three or four fingers across the trackpad to perform various tasks:

· Swipe up with three or four fingers to open Mission Control (see Book I, Chapter 5), and then tap to close it or switch to a different window.

· Swipe down with three or four fingers to open App Exposé (see Book I, Chapter 5), and then swipe up or down to close it.

· Swipe left and right with three or four fingers to switch between full-screen applications or Spaces (see Book I, Chapter 5).

· Pinch: Place three fingers and your thumb slightly open on the trackpad, and then bring them together as if picking up a small item; doing so opens Launchpad (see Book I, Chapter 5). Tap to close it or double-tap to open a different app.

· Unpinch: Place three fingers and your thumb together on the trackpad and open them to move everything off the Desktop. Pinch to bring everything back.

· Control-click: Hold the Control key and tap the trackpad or tap with two fingers.

· Click and drag: Move the pointer to a menu, window title bar, file, folder, or just on the Desktop. Press and hold your thumb on the trackpad. Then, with another finger, drag down to open a menu, drag the title bar of an open window to move the window, or drag a closed file or folder to move the file or folder. On the Desktop, or if your windows are in Icon view (as explained in Book I, Chapter 4), drag around multiple objects, as if you were lassoing them, to select a group. Click and drag across text to select it in an app you can type in such as a word processing or e-mail app.

· Two-finger tap: Tap the trackpad once with two fingers to Control-click/right-click.

· Two-finger double-tap: Tap the trackpad twice with two fingers to zoom in on a web page.

· Three-finger double-tap (in Apple apps): Tap the trackpad twice with three fingers to look up a word in the built-in dictionary.

· Three-finger drag: Move the pointer to the title bar of a window and move it around on the desktop with three fingers.

image Choose image⇒System Preferences and then choose Mouse or Trackpad to specify how you want to use the mouse or trackpad and to see examples of how the multitouch gestures work, as shown in Figure 2-7.


Figure 2-7: See multitouch gestures in action in System Preferences.

Examining the parts of the keyboard

The primary use of the keyboard is to type information. However, you can also use the keyboard to select items and menu commands — sometimes more quickly than using the mouse. Figure 2-8 shows how the keyboard groups related keys. The next few sections cover each group of keys in detail.

Function and special feature keys

Depending on your particular keyboard, you might see 12 to 20 function and special feature keys running along the top of the keyboard. These keys are labeled F1 through F12/F19, along with an Esc key — short for Escape — and an Eject key that looks like a triangle on top of a horizontal line.


Figure 2-8: The separate parts of the keyboard.

On Mac models made after April 2007, the function number appears in the lower right corner of the key and a larger icon represents the special feature task that happens when you press the key to do things, such as turn down the screen brightness (F1), play or pause music you’re listening to in iTunes (F8), or open your Mac’s Dashboard Widgets application to check the weather forecast (F4). Although the icons on each of these special feature keys are self-evident, check out Table 2-1 to find out what all your Mac’s special features keys do when you press them.

Table 2-1 Mac Assigned Commands

Function Key

What It Does


Decreases display brightness


Increases display brightness


Displays Mission Control


Displays Launchpad (displays Dashboard on older Macs)


Decreases keyboard backlight brightness


Increases keyboard backlight brightness


Video and audio rewind


Video and audio play/pause


Video and audio fast-forward


Mutes sound


Decreases sound volume


Increases sound volume

image You select the Mac’s application-specific function keys by pressing and holding the Fn key and then pressing one of the function keys on the upper row of the keyboard. (You can see the Fn key to the left of the cursor control keys earlier in Figure 2-7.) In Microsoft Word, for instance, pressing Fn+F7 tells Word to run the spell checker; pressing Fn+F5 opens the Find and Replace dialog.

In other words, holding down the Fn key tells your Mac, “Ignore the special feature controls assigned to that function key listed in Table 2-1 and just behave like an old-fashioned function key.”

image To reverse the way the Mac’s function keys work when you press them, choose image⇒System Preferences and click the Keyboard icon. Click the Keyboard tab at the top of the window, and then select the check box next to Use All F1, F2, Etc. Keys as Standard Function Keys. When you activate this option, you must hold down the Fn key to perform the commands shown in Table 2-1, but you don’t have to hold down the Fn key to use app-specific function keys.

Here are some additional tips for getting the most out of the function and special feature keys:

· App Exposé: Pressing Fn+F10 (or Ctrl+F3) shows you all windows that belong to the active app (this feature is called App Exposé). You can identify the active app by looking for its name on the left side of the menu bar. Pressing Fn+F11 or image +F3 shoves all windows out of the way so you can see the Desktop.

· Dashboard: Pressing Fn+F12 (F3 on older Mac keyboards) displays the Dashboard app and its widgets, which are simple mini-apps, such as a calculator, calendar, or a display of your local weather forecast. You find out more about Dashboard in the later section, “Exploring the Dashboard.”

· Shortcut commands: As for the other keys — F1–F7 and (possibly) F13–F19 — holding the Fn key and pressing these fellows can carry out shortcut commands on a by-application basis.

· Escape and Eject: Turning to the two keys grouped near the function keys, here’s what you need to know. The Esc key often works as a “You may be excused” command. For example, if a pull-down menu appears on the screen and you want it to go away, press the Esc key. The Eject key ejects a CD or DVD from your Mac. (If your MacBook Pro or Air came without a disk drive, there’s no Eject key.)

image Originally, function keys existed because some applications assigned commands to different function keys. Unfortunately, every application assigned different commands to identical function keys, which sometimes made function keys more confusing than helpful. You can assign your own commands to different function keys, but just remember that not every Mac will have the same commands assigned to the same function keys. (Not everyone thinks exactly like you, as amazing as that might seem.) To customize which function keys perform which commands, choose image⇒System Preferences⇒Keyboard, and then click the Keyboard Shortcuts tab at the top of the window and adjust your Mac’s keyboard shortcuts to your heart’s content.

Typewriter keys

You use the typewriter (also known as the alphanumeric) keys to create data — the typing-a-letter-in-a-word-processor stuff or the entering-of-names-and-addresses-into-the-Contacts-app stuff. When you press a typewriter key, you’re telling the Mac what character to type at the cursor position, which often appears as a blinking vertical line on the screen.

image You can move the cursor by pointing to and clicking a new location with the mouse or by pressing the arrow keys as explained in the upcoming “Arrow and cursor control keys” section.

image Just because you don’t find a character labeled on your keyboard doesn’t mean you can’t type that character. Holding Shift, Option, and Shift+Option while pressing another key on the keyboard results in different symbols or letters, such as uppercase letters or the symbol for a trademark or square root.

To see all the key combinations, follow these steps:

1. Choose image⇒System Preferences and then click Keyboard.

2. Click the Keyboard tab and then select the Show Keyboard & Character Viewers check box.

3. Close System Preferences.

A menulet for the Keyboard & Character Viewer appears in the menu bar at the top of your screen.

4. Choose the Keyboard & Character Viewer icon and then Show Keyboard Viewer.

A graphic representation of the keyboard appears on your screen, as shown in Figure 2-9.

5. Hold down the Shift, Option, or Shift+Option keys.

The keyboard changes to show the letter or symbol that will be typed when you hold down Shift, Option, or Shift+Option and type a letter or number.

Refer to the Cheat Sheet at for more information about typing special characters.


Figure 2-9: Keyboard Viewer.

In addition to keys that type letters and characters, you’ll find keys that don’t type anything but nevertheless play an important role.

· Delete: Appears to the right of the +/= key. The Delete key deletes any characters that appear to the left of the cursor. If you hold down Delete, your Mac deletes any characters to the left of the cursor until you lift your finger.

· Tab: This key indents text in a word processor and moves from cell to cell in a spreadsheet app, but it can also move from text box to text box in a form, like when you type a shipping address for an online bookstore or merchant.

· Return: Moves the cursor to the next line in a word processor, but can also choose a default button (which appears in blue) on the screen. For example, the Print button is the default button in the Print dialog, so pressing Return in the Print dialog sends your document to the printer.

The Return key is sometimes named Enter on third-party external keyboards you can buy to use with your Mac.

Modifier keys

Modifier keys are almost never used individually. Instead, modifier keys are usually held down while tapping another key. Included in the modifier keys category are the Function (Fn) keys mentioned in a few of the previous sections, along with the Shift, Control (Ctrl), Option, and image(Command) keys.

Here’s an example of how modifier keys work. If you press the S key in a word-processing document, your Mac types the letter “s” on the screen. If you hold down a modifier key, such as the Command key (image), and then press the S key, the S key is modified to behave differently. In this case, holding down the image key followed by the S key (image+S) tells your word processing application to issue the Save command and save whatever you typed or changed since the last time you saved the document.

Most modifier keystrokes involve pressing two keys, such as image+Q (the Quit command), but some modifier keystrokes can involve pressing three or four keys, such as Shift+image+3, which saves a snapshot of what you see on your screen as an image file, which is commonly referred to as ascreenshot.

The main use for modifier keys is to help you choose commands quickly without fumbling with the mouse or trackpad to use menu commands. Every application includes dozens of such keystroke shortcuts, but Table 2-2 lists the common keystroke shortcuts that work the same in most apps.

Table 2-2 Common Keystroke Shortcuts


Keystroke Shortcut

















Select All




The Caps Lock key, when active as indicated by the green light on the key, lets you type in all capital letters but doesn’t effect the function of modifier keys combined with letters.

Most Mac apps display their keystroke shortcuts for commands directly on their pull-down menus, as shown in Figure 2-10.


Figure 2-10: Most pull-down menus list shortcut keystrokes for commonly used commands.

image Instead of describing the modifier keys to press by name (such as Shift), most keystroke shortcuts displayed on menus use cryptic graphics. Figure 2-11 displays the different symbols that represent shortcut commands.


Figure 2-11: A guide to symbols for keystroke commands.

Numeric keypad

The numeric keypad appears on the right side of the keyboard (if your keyboard has one!) and arranges the numbers 0–9 in rows and columns like a typical calculator keypad. It also features other keys that are useful for mathematical calculations. The main use for the numeric keys is to make typing numbers faster and easier than using the numeric keys on the top row of the typewriter keys.

Arrow and cursor control keys

The pointer becomes a cursor when you use the keyboard to enter data in any type of app or even when naming a file. The cursor often appears as a vertical blinking line and acts like a placeholder. Wherever the cursor appears, that’s where your next character will appear if you press a keyboard key. You can move the cursor with the mouse or trackpad, or you can move it with the arrow keys.

The up arrow moves the cursor up, the down arrow moves the cursor down, the right arrow moves the cursor right, and the left arrow moves the cursor left. (Could it be any more logical?) Depending on the application you’re using, pressing an arrow key might move the cursor in different ways. For example, pressing the right arrow key in a word processor moves the cursor right one character, but pressing that same right arrow key in a spreadsheet might move the cursor to the adjacent cell on the right.

On some Mac keyboards, you might see four additional cursor-control keys: Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down. Typically, the Page Up key scrolls up one screen, and the Page Down key scrolls down one screen. Many applications ignore the Home and End keys, but some applications let you move the cursor with them. For example, Microsoft Word uses the Home key to move the cursor to the beginning of a line or row and the End key to move the cursor to the end of a line or row, and image+Home/End moves the cursor to the beginning or end, respectively, of a document.

image Just because you might not see the Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys on your Mac or MacBook keyboard doesn’t mean those command keys aren’t there. On the MacBook that I’m using to write this, holding down the Fn key and then pressing the left arrow key acts as the Home key, which moves the cursor to the start of the line that the cursor is in. Pressing Fn+→ jumps the cursor to the end of the current line, Fn+↑ scrolls the text up one page, and Fn+↓ scrolls the text down one page. Also, image+Fn+←/→ moves the cursor to the beginning or end (respectively) of the document. Because seeing is believing, try it on your own Mac keyboard so you can see what I mean — even if you don’t see keys bearing those actual labels.

To the left of the End key on a full keyboard, you might find a smaller Delete key. Like the bigger Delete key, this smaller Delete key also deletes characters one at a time. The difference is that the big Delete key erases characters to the left of the cursor, but the small Delete key, sometimes labelled Del, erases characters to the right of the cursor. If your keyboard lacks the Del key, holding the Function (Fn) key while pressing the delete key erases characters to the right.

Getting to Know the Parts of the Desktop

Consider your physical desk: You keep the things you use most frequently, like a calculator or day planner, out in the open so you can grab them easily. Likewise, if you start leaving documents about, sooner or later there are so many you can’t see the surface, so you divvy up the documents and place related ones in folders, keeping only the most pertinent folders on your desk and putting the others in a filing cabinet to be pulled out when needed.

The theory behind the Mac Desktop — the screen you see most of the time — is the same. Windows open on the screen display the documents or files you’re working on. Windows cover part of — or, when you use a full-screen app, all of — the Desktop. File and app icons are like those documents and tools you keep on your desk. Unfortunately, the more icons you store on the Desktop, the more cluttered it appears, making it harder to find anything — just like your physical desk. Organizing your app and files into folders makes things easier to find and your virtual desktop more orderly. In addition, you can place frequently used apps and files on the Dock, which is a quickly accessed area of the Desktop.

The Desktop generally shows an icon that represents your hard drive — think of it as your filing cabinet. If you have any additional storage devices attached to your Mac (such as an external hard drive, a CD or DVD, or a USB flash drive), you typically see icons for those storage devices on your Desktop, too. We describe the menu and menulets at the beginning of this chapter. Here we take a look at the other parts of the Desktop: the Dock and the Finder.

image The cool thing about the virtual Mac Desktop is that you can have more than one, and we explain how to do that trick in Book I, Chapter 5.

The Dock

The Dock is a rectangular strip that contains app, file, and folder icons. It lies in wait just out of sight either at the bottom or on the left or right side of the Desktop. When you hover the pointer in the area where the Dock is hiding, it appears, displaying the app, file, and folder icons stored there. When you use your Mac for the first time, the Dock already has icons for many of the pre-installed apps, as well as the Downloads folder and a Trash icon. You click an icon to elicit an action, which is usually to open an app or file, although you can also remove the icon from the Dock or activate a setting so that app opens when you log in to your Mac. We tell you about working with apps in the Dock in Book I, Chapter 5; here we tell you how to change the Dock’s appearance.

When you open an app that isn’t on the Dock, a temporary icon appears there; when you quit that app, the icon is deleted from the Dock. You can add icons to the Dock for apps, folders, or files you use frequently. To help keep your icons organized, application icons appear on the left side of a divider and file icons on the right side, as shown in Figure 2-12.


Figure 2-12: The Dock.

By default, the Dock appears at the bottom of the screen, and the icons have a standard size. Like most things on your Mac, however, the Dock is flexible, and you can move it to the left or right of the screen and modify the size of the icons. If you move the Dock to the side of the screen, the application icons are above the divider, and the file icons are below.

The Dock grows longer each time you add more app and file icons to it. (You find out how to customize the icons on the Dock in Book I, Chapter 5.) If you have a lot of icons, depending on your screen size, you may not see them all at once. You can make the icons smaller so that you can see the whole length of the Dock at once, but the icons can then appear too small, making it hard to see which icon the mouse is pointing at. Fortunately, the name of the application beneath the pointer appears to tell you what application it is, and you can turn on magnification, which makes Dock icons zoom in size when you move the pointer over them (refer to Figure 2-12).

To make changes to the Dock’s appearance, follow these steps:

1. Choose image⇒Dock⇒Dock Preferences.

The Dock preferences pane appears, as shown in Figure 2-13.


Figure 2-13: Control the appearance and position of the Dock.

2. Drag the Size slider to adjust the size of all the icons on the Dock.

3. Select (or clear) the Magnification check box.

4. Drag the Magnification slider to adjust the magnification of the Dock.

image Magnification makes the icons appear larger as you move the pointer over them, which is especially helpful if you have a small size Dock with a lot of items on it.

5. Click your preferred location for the Dock: Left, Bottom, or Right.

6. Choose how you want apps and files to open when clicked in the Dock:

· Genie Effect: When you open or minimize a file or app, it exits and enters the Dock like a genie being pulled in and out of a magic lamp.

· Scale Effect: Files or apps exit and enter the Dock in a simple, linear fashion.

7. Select the check boxes next to the other display choices to turn them on or off.

We prefer to turn three of the five choices on, as shown in Figure 2-13. Minimizing windows keeps the Dock icons to a minimum; automatically hiding the Dock keeps it out of sight until you need it; and showing indicator lights lets you know which apps are open.

8. Click the Close button of the Dock preferences window.

image For a fast way to turn Hiding or Magnification on or off, or to change the position of the Dock, choose image⇒Dock⇒Turning Hiding Off (On)/Turn Magnification On (Off)/Position on Left/Bottom/Right.

When you click the Minimize window button — the yellow button in the upper-left corner — a minimized window icon on the Dock actually displays the contents of that window, and sometimes continues playing the content. If you squint hard enough (or have a large enough screen), you can see what each minimized window contains. Reopen minimized windows as you would any other file or app, hover the pointer over the window and then click; the window pops back up on the Desktop.

image If you select Minimize Windows into Application Icon on the Dock Preferences (refer to Figure 2-13), any windows you minimize will be kept with the app icon. Click and hold the app icon, then drag to the name of the file that was in the window to open it.

The Finder

The Finder is an app that lets you find, copy, move, rename, delete, and open files and folders on your Mac. You can run apps directly from the Finder although the Dock makes finding and running apps you use frequently much more convenient.

The Finder runs all the time. To switch to the Finder, click the Finder icon on the Dock (the Picasso-like faces icon on the far left, or top, of the Dock) or just click an area of the Desktop outside any open windows. You know you’re in the Finder because the app menu is Finder, as opposed to Pages, System Preferences, or some other app name.

Open a new Finder window by choosing File⇒New Finder Window or choosing New Finder Window from the Finder’s Dock menu. You can open as many Finder windows as you want, although it’s common just to have one Finder window open and several tabs within that window for the folders and devices you want quick access to.

Because the Finder helps you manage the files stored on your hard drive, a Finder window consists of two panes and multiple tabs, as shown in Figure 2-14.


Figure 2-14: The Finder displays panes and tabs to help you navigate to different parts of your hard drive.

The left pane — the Sidebar — displays up to four different categories:

· Favorites: Lists the Desktop, Home, Applications, and Documents folders, which are the default folders for storing files, as well as any others you select in Finder preferences so you can access them more quickly.

· Shared: Lists all shared storage devices (if any) connected on a local area network (LAN).

· Devices: Lists all the storage devices connected to your Mac, such as hard drives, flash drives, and CD/DVD drives.

· Tags: Lists tags you can apply to files; clicking a tag shows all the files tagged with that criteria.

The right pane displays the contents of an item selected in the Sidebar. For example, if you click the hard drive icon in the Sidebar, the right pane displays the contents of that hard drive. All apps and files displayed in a Finder window or tab appear as icons with text labels, regardless of which type of view you chose to view the Finder window.

You find out how to use the Finder and create tabs, tags, and folders in Book I, Chapter 4.

image You can change what your Mac displays on the Desktop. To do so, click the Desktop to activate the Finder, and then choose Finder⇒Preferences. In the Finder Preferences window, shown in Figure 2-15, check, uncheck, or change the different options to suit your style.


Figure 2-15: Select what you want to see on the Desktop with Finder Preferences.

Exploring the Dashboard

Many apps have so many features crammed into them that succeeding versions get more bloated and harder to use. If you want to perform a simple task, such as adding a few numbers together or printing an envelope, you probably don’t need to load a full-blown spreadsheet or word-processing app. Instead, you’re better off using a much simpler app specifically designed to solve a single task.

That’s the idea behind Dashboard, which provides you with quick access to a collection of small, simple-task apps called widgets. Some typical widgets display a calendar, weather forecasts for your city, a calculator, stock market quotes, and movie times for your neighborhood movie theaters.

Widgets are designed to simplify your life, and Dashboard is the feature that helps you display, manage, and hide widgets. By using Dashboard, you can be more productive without having to master an entirely new application to do so. In this section, we tell you everything you need to know about using Dashboard widgets.

Viewing Dashboard widgets

The Dashboard can be a Desktop unto itself — remember that you can have more than one Desktop — or you can view widgets on top of whatever windows are open on your Desktop. As a Desktop space, it resides to the left of the first Desktop. (Discover how to add more Desktop Spaces in Book I, Chapter 5.) To choose where you want to view your widgets, choose image⇒System Preferences, and then click Mission Control or right-click (two-finger tap on the trackpad) the Dashboard icon on the Dock. Select the Show Dashboard as a Space check box to give Dashboard its very own Desktop space. Deselect the check box to make widgets appear on top of the open windows on your Desktop.

To view your widgets, open Dashboard in one of the following ways:

· Press the Dashboard key. Depending on the keyboard you use, Dashboard may have its very own key. It has a little clock on it and shares space with one of the function keys.

· Press Fn+F12. Do this if your keyboard doesn’t (or does) have a dedicated Dashboard key.

· Click the Dashboard icon on the Dock. It looks like a speedometer.

· Open Launchpad (press Fn+F4 on a newer Mac) and click the Dashboard icon. You can find more info on Launchpad in Book I, Chapter 5.

· Navigate to the Dashboard’s Desktop space. If your Dashboard has its own Space (as it does by default), you can do any of the above or swipe from left to right with four fingers on the trackpad, or hold the Control key and press the left arrow.

When you finish using a widget, you close it (and the Dashboard) the same way: by pressing the Dashboard key (if your keyboard has one), Fn+F12, or press Esc. If your widgets are on top of your windows, click anywhere on the Desktop. If you gave Dashboard its own Space, you can use the keys or click the arrow in the lower-right corner, swipe from right to left with four fingers on the trackpad, or press Control+→.

image While most MacBook and recent Apple keyboards have a Function (Fn) key, other Mac keyboards don’t always have the Fn key. If your Mac’s keyboard doesn’t have an Fn key, you can just press whatever function key we tell you to press and ignore our mention of the Fn key whenever you encounter it.

As soon as you open Dashboard, several widgets pop into view, as shown in Figure 2-16. The defaults that appear are the calendar, clock, calculator, and weather widgets.


Figure 2-16: Dashboard displays widgets on their own desktop.

The calendar widget lets you view dates for different months and years. The clock widget displays the time in a big clock, which can be easier to read than the tiny time display in the right end of the menu bar. The calculator widget acts like a typical four-function calculator, and the weather widget offers forecasts for a city of your choosing.

If you don’t like the position of your widgets on the screen, you can always move them to a new location. To move a widget, click it and drag it to its new position. After you use a widget, you can hide Dashboard, and all its widgets are out of sight once more.

image Many widgets, including the weather widget, rely on an Internet connection. If you aren’t connected to the Internet when you display such a widget, the widget can’t display the latest information.

Customizing a widget

Some widgets always appear the same way, such as the calculator widget. Other widgets let you customize them to change their appearance or the type of data they display. To customize a widget, follow these steps:

1. Press the Dashboard key to open Dashboard and display all your widgets (or press Fn+F12).

2. Hover the mouse on the widget you want to customize and then click the Information (i) button.

The i button (the Information button) appears only for widgets you can customize, such as the weather widget.

3. Select any check boxes the widget may provide to display additional information, type the new information you want the widget to display, and then click Done.

In Figure 2-17, we clicked the Information button on the Weather widget. Type the city and state or zip code of a city whose weather forecast you want to keep track of, and then select the Include Lows in 6-Day Forecast check box if you want to see that information as well.


Figure 2-17: Widget options you can modify.

image Displaying and then clicking a widget changes or expands the information that appears. For instance, clicking the weather widget shows or hides the six-day forecast, and clicking the day/date display of the calendar widget toggles the month-at-a-glance and upcoming appointments displays. Click other widgets to discover whether they offer other additional displays.

Adding and removing widgets

When you open Dashboard, you see several widgets, even if you actually want to use just one widget. In case you don’t want to see a particular widget, you can remove it from Dashboard. (Don’t worry; you can always put it back on Dashboard again.) Conversely, you can also add more widgets to your Dashboard.

Removing a widget from Dashboard

When you remove a widget from Dashboard, you don’t physically delete the widget. Instead, you just tuck the widget into storage where you can retrieve it later. To remove a widget from Dashboard, follow these steps:

1. Press the Dashboard key or Fn+F12 to open Dashboard and display all your widgets.

2. Click the minus sign button that appears inside a circle in the bottom-left corner of the screen to display Close buttons (x’s in circles) in the upper-left corner of every widget, as shown in Figure 2-18.

image If you hover the pointer on the widget you want to remove and hold down the Option key, a Close button appears in the upper-right corner of just that one widget (and you don’t have to click the circled minus sign icon).


Figure 2-18: Click the Close button to remove a widget you no longer want to see.

3. Click the Close button of the widget you want to remove to make it disappear from the screen.

4. Press the Dashboard key or Fn+F12 to close Dashboard.

image Clicking anywhere on the screen except on another widget is another way to close Dashboard.

Displaying more widgets in Dashboard

When you open Dashboard, you see only a handful of all the widgets in the Dashboard’s library of widgets that come with every Mac. Table 2-3 lists all of Dashboard’s available widgets that you can choose to display every time you open Dashboard, some of which are shown earlier in Figure 2-18. (Note: Apple may have changed the lineup since we wrote this, so keep in mind that your collection may vary.)

Table 2-3 Dashboard’s Library of Widgets


What It Does


Lets you search for names stored in the Contacts app.


Displays a Yellow Pages directory for looking up business names and phone numbers.


Displays a four-function calculator.


Displays a dictionary and thesaurus.


Displays sports news and scores.

Flight Tracker

Tracks airline flights.


Displays a calendar and any appointments stored within Calendar.


Displays which movies are playing at which times at a certain zip code.

Ski Report

Displays the temperature and snow depth at your favorite ski resort.


Displays color-coded windows for jotting down notes.


Displays stock quotes.

Tile Game

Displays a picture tile game in which you slide tiles to re-create a picture.


Translates words from one language to another, such as from Japanese to French.

Unit Converter

Converts measurement units, such as inches to centimeters.


Displays a weather forecast for your area.

Web Clip

Displays parts of a web page that you’ve clipped from Safari. (See Book II, Chapter 1 for more information about creating Web Clips.)

World Clock

Displays the current time.

To display a hidden Dashboard widget, follow these steps:

1. Press the Dashboard key or Fn+F12 to open Dashboard, and then click the plus sign that appears inside a circle in the bottom-left corner of the screen to display a selection of widgets.

2. Click a widget that you want to display in Dashboard, such as ESPN or Stocks, to make it appear onscreen.

3. Move the cursor to the widget, click and drag the widget to wherever you want it to appear on your screen, and release the mouse button.

4. Press the Dashboard key or Fn+F12 to close Dashboard.

All your widgets disappear. The next time you open Dashboard, your newly added widgets appear onscreen.

image You can have multiple instances of the same widget opened at the same time. For instance, to track the weather in two or more cities, you can just repeat Step 2 in the preceding steps for each additional instance of the weather widget you want to display.

Finding new widgets

Dashboard comes with a library of widgets, but people are always creating more, which you can browse and download by visiting Apple’s website. To find the latest widgets, follow these steps:

1. Press the Dashboard key or Fn+F12 to open Dashboard, and then click the plus sign that appears inside a circle in the bottom-left corner.

2. Click the More Widgets button.

The Widget Browser on Apple’s download website opens.

3. Scroll through the Widget Browser or click the Categories to display a list of the widgets.

4. Click a widget in the Widget Browser or one of the lists.

This displays details about the widget.

5. Click the Download button if you decide to add the widget to your Mac’s library of Dashboard widgets.

Your Mac downloads the chosen widget to the Downloads folder and displays a dialog confirming whether you want to install your newly downloaded widget in Dashboard.

image We found a lot of outdated widgets that OS X 10.9 Mavericks refused to open, but we can also assure you that valid widgets exist. A little patience and trial and error can help you find functioning widgets.

6. Click the Install button to give your Mac permission to open Dashboard and install the new widget.

7. Click the widget and drag it to where you want it to appear on your screen.

Disabling and deleting widgets from Dashboard

If you keep installing new widgets, eventually your list of available widgets can get crowded and overwhelming. To reduce the number of available widgets, you can disable or delete them.

Disabling a widget hides it from view but keeps it stored on your hard drive in case you change your mind and decide to display it after all. Deleting a widget physically removes it from your hard drive.

Disabling a widget

To disable a widget and temporarily remove it from view, follow these steps:

1. Press the Dashboard key (or Fn+F12) to open Dashboard and then click the minus sign that appears in a circle in the bottom-left corner of the screen.

Widgets that are active on the Dashboard are displayed.

2. Click the “x” in the upper-left corner to disable the widget and remove it from the Dashboard.

3. Press the Dashboard button (or Fn+F12) to close the Dashboard.

image To re-enable a widget you disabled, repeat the steps for adding widgets.

Deleting a widget

You can delete any widgets that you install (see the “Finding new widgets” section, earlier in this chapter, for more about downloading additional widgets) although you can’t delete the widgets that came with your Mac. To delete a widget, follow these steps:

1. Press the Dashboard key or Fn+F12 to open Dashboard and then click the plus sign that appears in a circle in the bottom-left corner of the screen to display installed widgets.

2. Click and hold any widget icon until they all begin to wiggle.

3. Click the “x” in the upper-left corner on the widget you want to delete.

A confirmation dialog appears, asking whether you really want to move the widget to the Trash.

4. Click OK.

5. Repeat Steps 3 and 4 to delete other widgets or click anywhere to stop the wiggling.

6. Click the Escape key to return to the Dashboard.

7. Press the Dashboard key (or Fn+F12) to return to the Desktop.

Getting Help

Theoretically, the Mac should be so easy and intuitive that you can teach yourself how to use your computer just by looking at the screen. Realistically, the Mac can still be confusing and complicated — there’d be no need for this book otherwise. We’ve done our best to give you steps and tips to handle any Mac task you come across, but we probably missed a few things. And sometimes it might just help to read the same task explained in a different way. So, any time you’re confused when using your Mac and can't find the answers in this book, try looking for answers in the Help Center — you might find the answer you’re looking for!

image You may have apps that we don’t cover in this book, but look at the section “Reading Help topics” to find out how to access help for them, too.

Your Mac offers two types of help. First, it can point out specific menu commands to choose for accomplishing a specific task. For example, if you want to know how to save or print a file, Mac Help will point out the Save or Print command so you know which command to choose.

Second, the Help Center can provide brief explanations for how to accomplish a specific task. By skimming through the brief explanations, you can (hopefully) figure out how to do something useful.

Pointing out commands to use

To use the Help Center to point out commands you can use with the Finder or an application you’re running, follow these steps:

1. Click the Help menu at the right end of the menu bar for any application you’re running.

Or you can switch to the Finder by clicking the Finder icon on the Dock or clicking the Desktop outside any windows, and then click Help.

A Search text box appears.

2. Begin typing a word or phrase.

If, for instance, you want help with printing a document, type print. While you type, a list of possible topics appears.

Help topics for the application you’re running appear first under the Menu Items category, followed by the Help Topics category, which lists topics for the Finder and any other applications stored on your Mac.

3. Move your pointer over a Menu Items topic.

A floating arrow points to the command on a menu to show you how to access your chosen topic for the application you are running, as shown in Figure 2-19.


Figure 2-19: The Help Center shows you how to access a particular command.

Reading Help topics

To read brief explanations of different topics, follow these steps:

1. Click the Finder icon on the Dock.

2. Click the Help menu, and then choose Help Center.

The Help Center window appears.

3. Click a subject in the left column, and then click a topic in the right column.

Alternatively, click the option Help for All Your Apps at the bottom of the left column to reveal the window shown in Figure 2-20.

Click the icon for the application you need help with to open a list of help topics for that application.


Figure 2-20: Access help for all your applications from the Help Center.

4. Mac Help displays additional information about your chosen topic.

image Click the Bookmark icon at the upper right of the help window to bookmark that particular help explanation. Click the Book icon to the right of the bookmark icon to see explanations you bookmarked.

5. Click the Back (or Forward) button to jump to a previously viewed topic or click the Home button to return to the original Mac Help window.

6. Click the Close button to close the Mac Help window.