A Beginners Guide to Apple Mac Computers
This article is the beginning of a thread of articles that give novice users a grounding in the Apple mac operating system. For those used to Windows computers the switch to Apple can seem daunting. It needn’t be. In this series of articles I will lead you through the transition from the Windows environment to the latest version of Apple OS 10.6, also known as Snow Leopard. Each article in the series will cover one specific area of using the computer, and will give hints and tips that help you use your computer efficiently and effectively to meet your needs. Upcoming articles will include:
Finding the similarities between Windows and OS 10.6
The Desktop, Dock and Finder
Email using Mail
Browsing the Internet with Safari
Word Processing using Open Office
Using iTunes for music
Using iPhoto for photos
Connecting to networks and the Internet
Backing up your computer using Time Machine
Some free software to expand your Mac’s capabilities
So, on to the first article. Identifying the similarities between Windows and Snow Leopard is a great way to get your bearings, and quell any fears about the size of the task ahead. The first place to Start on a Windows PC is the Start menu, and on a Mac it’s really very similar. On a Windows PC you find the Start button in the bottom left hand corner of the Toolbar that remains visible by default on the bottom of your screen. On a Mac you click on the Finder icon on the left hand side of your Dock, which is also by default visible on the bottom left hand side of the screen.
Clicking the Finder icon brings up a window that looks very much like the Windows Explorer window that would open if you selected My Documents from the Start menu on your PC. The window has a number of familiar, similar features that enable you to navigate through your computer. In the left hand column of the window you will see three headings: Devices, Places, and Search For. Under Devices you can see your computer’s hard disk, by default called Macintosh HD, an iDisk, and any others drives that may be connected to your computer such as a USB pen drive or external hard drive.
Under the Places tab you will again see many familiar features, including: Documents, Music, Movies, Pictures, Downloads, and Desktop. These names are self-explanatory, but for clarity you can relate them to the corresponding Windows folders: My Documents, My Music, My Videos, My Pictures, Downloads and Desktop.
To navigate through your computer you simply click the relevant name to see the files contained within that folder displayed on the right hand side. At this point you should experiment with the different view options that you select by clicking on the icons along the top of the window. There are four view options: Icons, List, Columns and Cover Flow. Icon and list view display the files within the folder on the right hand window. The Column view enables you to click on an individual file and see a preview of that file with information on what type of file it is, when it was created, what size it is, and even shows a quick preview of the file contents. Finally Cover Flow combines the list view with a preview panel and lets you click the left and right arrow keys to navigate through the files viewing the preview for each.
As with your Windows PC you save your documents, music, video and photos in the corresponding folders. In later articles we will explore the programs, or applications as they are known on a Mac, that you can use with each file type. The Applications folder in the Finder window is where all programs are saved on your computer, and you can open any program installed on your computer by clicking Applications and then double-clicking the relevant program, such as Mail if you wanted to send or receive emails.
There is another way to open Applications that is quicker and more user-friendly, this is called the Dock. The Dock is like the Windows Start menu and is by default located at the bottom of the screen. You have already found the Finder icon, and you can now scroll your cursor across the other icons on the Dock to see the name of each Application. Simply click on any of these icons to open the program. By clicking on the apple icon on the top left hand corner of the screen you can modify the way in which the dock is displayed.
Click the apple icon and hover over the Dock option. A pop-up menu appears and you can choose to Turn Hiding On, Turn Magnification On, change the position of the Dock, and go to the Dock preferences within System Preferences. System Preferences is the Control Panel of a Mac computer, and all settings in your Mac can be found and controlled there. Let’s deal with the Dock settings first before looking at System Preferences. Hiding the dock means that it will disappear giving you a full screen to work on and will reappear when you move your cursor off the edge of the screen that the Dock is positioned on. In the default example with the Dock at the bottom of the screen you simply scroll down to the bottom of the screen and the Dock appears.
Changing the magnification alters the size of the icons as you scroll across the Dock. Within the Dock settings in System Preferences you can also change the total size of the Dock. If you have many applications on the Dock it can be easier to decrease the Dock size but increase the magnification. You can add applications to the Dock by dragging the corresponding icon from the Applications folder in the Finder window down to the Dock. Simply click on the icon and hold down the button, drag the icon to the Dock, and release the mouse button. All applications that are currently running will also appear in the Dock if they are not there normally. Applications that are open or running have white dot beneath their icon. To remove an application from the Dock simply click and hold the cursor on the icon and drag it across to the trash can on the right hand side of the Dock.
Well done, you’ve navigated around your Mac for the first time and found your Documents, Music, Videos, Pictures and Applications folders. You also know how to open and close applications, and how to add or remove applications from the Dock. In the next article we will go deeper on navigating through your Mac, opening and closing programs, and using keyboard shortcuts.