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Intro to Navigating Your Way Around The Macintosh Desktop
Compiled by Abigail Schearer from the Mac OS X Book, Jaguar Edition, by Robin Williams

I. Desktop:

A. The word “desktop” is used in different ways.

1. The Desktop is what you see on your monitor when you first turn on your computer. It is the home base for all your computer activities. It’s the background that the windows and the Dock sit on, and you probably have disk icons also sitting on the Desktop.

2. In Mac OS 9, the Desktop and the Finder look like the same thing. Actually the Finder is the software that runs the Desktop, but when we would say “Go to the Finder” or “Go to the Desktop,” we meant the same place.

3. In Mac OS X, the Desktop and the Finder are more clearly separated. The Desktop is the background, and you can still place things on it and save to it.

The Finder is a defined application with its own special windows. The menu across the top of the Desktop is the Finder menu, and all windows that display documents and application files are “Finder windows.” [further explained in section V, A-3 in outline below]

4.Desktop” also refers to the Desktop folder which holds the same things you see on the Desktop itself, and is located in the “Home” area of your Mac.
Note: “Home” is the secure area of your Mac for you to work in and for your files. It has a number of folders already created in which you can store your work. It is VIP that you do not move or rename any of the folders in your Home area.

5. “You can also change the view of the active window by using the “View” menu at the Desktop” ...ie the menu bar on the desktop.


II. Menu bar: The second thing you’ll notice when you turn on your computer.

Whenever you are at the Finder level, or in any program on your Mac, there will always be a menu bar across the top of the monitor screen, or desktop, that displays individual menu titles.


III. Menus commands

A. Menus:

Click on any title in the menu bar and a list of menu commands will pop open, drop-down or pop-up. The specific menu commands you find there will vary with different menu items whenever you open another application or utility.

1. Hierarchical menus or h-menu is a a pop-out menu some programs have that are indicated by an arrow, >, which points to additional menu command options. “Hierarchy: Any group of things arranged in successive order.” (Webster)

2. Contextual menus contain commands that apply to the item the pointer is on. These are contextual menus because the context of the menu varies depending on what you click on. This contextual menu might be an application icon, a folder icon, a document icon, a disk icon, a blank spot inside a window, a blank spot on the Desktop. To open a contextual menu, press the control key, point and click on the item and a menu pops up.

3. Drawer: Apple’s “Mac Help” uses the File>drawer system. Type a word or words, select a topic from the list & a “drawer” pop-out menu opens.

B. Dialog box:

1. Often you will see an ellipsis (the three dotts, ...) after a menu command, such as “Open ...” or “Save As ...”. The ellipsis indicates that you will get a dialog box when you choose that command. It’s called a dialog box because the Mac is telling you something and asking for your response.

2. Basically, all dialog boxes are meant to communicate with you before they activate a command. They almost always give you an option to cancel, so it is quite safe to explore menu commands that have ellipses.

3. Dialog boxes have all sorts of controls that let you easily input information and give commands...such as buttons, boxes, lists and menus.

4. There are different types of dialog boxes such as...

a. alert box or message box announced by one or more beeps, which gives you information or a warning.

b. edit boxes: The small spaces in a dialog box where you are to type something new or to change specifications.

c. dialog “sheets” that drop down from the title bar.


IV. Macintosh WINDOW

1. Analogy: A window is a rectangular frame on the Mac’s screen, much like the window in your house, but in your house you are inside looking out. A window on the computer you are outside looking in. So, when you open a document inside an application, you open a window to see what’s inside, and the contents of the document are displayed in a window.

2. In general, windows are your work areas when you’re using the Mac, and although Finder windows have special properties to make file-handling easier, most Mac windows behave in the same way and have common controls, such as opening/closing, moving, resizing, and scrolling.

3. Pane: Analogy: A pane in the window of your house is one section of a window. You can look out a pane and get different views, like a window, but you lack the common controls of a window. You can’t lock, remove to clean or open/close a pane in the window of your house. Looking through a pane on the computer you lack the common controls of a Finder window, such as opening/ closing, moving, resizing, & scrolling. See “Customize Toolbar Pane”:


V. Two Types of WINDOWS: Finder windows and Document windows.

A. Finder Windows:

1. Finder windows are those windows on the Desktop through which you can see what is stored inside of your computer. They display all the contents of your hard disk & other removable disks you might put on your computer. It is the kind of window you’ll see when you open a folder or disk on the desktop.

2. Finder window is sometimes called the “Desktop window”.

3. Difference between the FINDER and a Finder window: The Finder is the software application that displays and controls the windows, menus, icons etc., that you see on the Desktop. It is the basic program that lets you access and manage files and disks. So all of the windows on the Desktop are considered Finder windows.

B. Document window:

1. Document window is the kind of window you’ll see when you are using most applications or programs in which you create your work.

2. A Document window has most of the same features as the Finder windows, with a few differences.

3. Mac uses a window in every application. When you open an application and create something, you create it in a Document window.

4. A Document window contains buttons, scrollers, a title bar and resize corners in just about every application on the Mac, no matter what the document looks like. It differs from the Finder window in that there is no “Search box” or “Toolbar” across the top.

5. You can always tell where a particular document is stored in the Document window, once you have actually saved the document, and given it a name it will appear in the open document on the Title bar.
Path: to see the “path” to where a saved document is stored, hold the Command key, click on the Title bar icon and a menu will drop down from the title bar to reveal the path to that window.


VI. What do you see when you open any Finder Window?

A. Title bar: Every window has a Title Bar. When the window is active, its title bar has horizontal stripes, with three colored buttons, an Icon/Name and a Hide/Show button. To move a window, you press and drag it by the title bar. It contains;

1. Three colored buttons:

a. Red (x) “docker”, to put the window back into its folder or disk.

b. Yellow (-) “minimizer”, to send the window down to the dock.

c. Green (+) “zoom”, to enlarge or reduce the size of the window.

2. Title Bar Icon and Name identifies the open disk, folder or document.

3. Hide/Show Toolbar button

a. When Toolbar is visible double clicking on a folder icon displays the new folder’s contents in the existing window, replacing what was there.

b. When Toolbar is hidden double clicking on a folder icon opens another window to display the contents of that folder.

B. ToolBar: The partition on the left side of the toolbar contains;

1. Back arrow, like the “Back” button in a web browser.

2. Forward arrow

3. Views: Three ways to view the contents of a Finder window.

a. icon view

b. list view

c. column view: The partition center/right on the toolbar contains;

4. ToolBar Icons: [default or to customized the toolbar]
Note: Sometimes you see double arrows, >>, on the right end of the Toolbar. This indicated that one or more of the icons can’t fit on the toolbar. Press on the double arrows to get a menu from which you can select the icons you can’t see.

5. Search box: The Finder windows all have a “Search” box in the upper right. You can type a word or phrase into this Search Box, hit Return and the Mac will search for a file of that name.

a. If you don’t want the Search Box in your Toolbar, hold down the Command key and drag the Search box off the Toolbar, drop it on the Desktop and it will disappear.

b. To bring up the Search box: shift-click on the Hide/show Toolbar button to show “Customize” window, and drag the Search box back onto the Toolbar.

c. For another Search tool>Search box option: press command F.

C. Status bar tells you how many items are in an open window, how much disk space is available, how your icons are arranged, and the sharing status.

D. Types of Icons:

1. Disk Icons: Ex. Hard disk icon, CD or a DVD icon, ZIP disk icon

2. Folder Icons: These act like folders in your filing cabinet

3. Fancy Folders: Special folders in your “Home” window

4. Application Icons or Program Icons: These belong to the applications (the actual software programs in which you work).

5. Document Icons represent documents, or files, that have been created in any particular application.

6. Blank Document Icons: Usually means the application the document was created in is not available. If you double-click a blank document icon, you will usually see an alert box pop-up informing you of what’s happening.

7. System Icons: Represent programming that performs essential operations.

8. Trash Icon: Receptacle for items you don’t want anymore.


Made on a Mac