Mac Basics Training

This is a basic introduction to the Apple operating system Mac OS X, as included on faculty Macs.

New Features

If you are familiar with using a Mac but new to Apple’s newest operating system, Snow Leopard, see Mac OS X Snow Leopard Training .


Turn your Mac on

To turn your Mac on, press the power button. The power button looks like this:

On an iMac, the power button is located on the back of the computer. On a MacBook, it is on the top right of the keyboard.

Once your computer turns on, you will see an Apple logo. After a while, you will be presented with the login window.

Log in

To log in, click your username. Then type your password and click Log In (or press Enter). After a moment you will see the Desktop.

The Desktop

The Desktop is the name for what you see on your screen right now: the menu bar at the top, the Dock at the bottom and various icons in between.

The Desktop can also mean the actual folder stored at /Users/yourname/Desktop, which contains the icons you see on your screen.

The Dock

The Dock, located at the bottom of your screen, is intended to be a shortcut to the Finder and your most frequently used applications, folders and files.

On the left side of the Dock is the Finder (blue smiling icon) and applications. (more on that later)

On the right side of the Dock is the Trash and a place to store your favorite documents and locations.

  • To open something in the Dock, click its icon once.
  • To remove something, drag it away from the Dock.
  • To add something to the Dock (an application or file, for instance), drag it to the Dock.
  • You can also rearrange the icons in the Dock by dragging them left and right relative to each other.
  • To make the Dock larger or smaller, drag the vertical divider line up or down.
    To know more about the Dock in Snow Leopard visit Mac 101: The Dock

The Menu Bar

The menu bar is a typical place to perform actions in various applications. The menu bar contains menus for the active application. The menu bar also contains a few icons on its right side that represent menus for other features on your Mac, such as Spotlight and sound volume.

  • Apple Menu – The Apple Menu, located in the upper-left corner of the screen contains many frequently used commands and actions.
    • System Preferences – Using System Preferences you can let your Mac know how you prefer to work. This is done through preferences.
    • Recent Items – Recent Items stores your 10 most recently used applications, documents and network locations for easy access.
    • Force Quit – If an application freezes, you can often force it to quit using this item. You will lose any unsaved work. Click and hold the frozen application icon; you will then be prompted to select “force quit.”
    • Sleep Puts your computer into a low-power mode but does not turn off your computer. Waking your computer from sleep is much faster than turning on from a shut down’; you can get back to your work faster if you use sleep mode. However, the computer still uses some power in this mode.
    • Log Out Closes all applications and takes you back to the login window. This prevents anybody from tampering with your files while you are gone.
    • Shut Down Turns your computer completely off.
    • Restart Turns your computer off then back on again. Often, a restart is necessary after installing system software updates or major applications.
  • Application Menu – The Application menu displays the name of the application you are currently in. When no other applications are open, for instance, it says Finder – The Finder lets you organize, view and access practically everything on your Mac including applications, files, folders, discs, SD memory cards and shared drives on your network.
  • File – In most applications the file menu contains commands to open, close, save and print documents.
  • Edit – The edit menu usually contains the Undo, Cut, Copy and Paste commands.
  • Go – It’s a quick way of accessing Applications, Network devices, Desktop and Utilities.
  • Other menus – Other menus vary by application. Poke around in them to discover new features and menu items!

Status menus

The status menus are small icons on the right-hand side of the menu bar.


This black shield icon will display a white X if your anti-virus software is not updating properly. Click on it to access various options related to the anti-virus software. Run a complete virus scan at least once a month.


This padlock icon contains a handy “Lock screen” command; if you only need to secure your computer for a few minutes and don’t want to completely log out.


This menu allows you to adjust the volume of your Mac’s speakers.


The clock displays the current time. Click for the date.


The magnifying glass icon allows you to search your entire computer for various files and information. Simply click on the icon and type what you’re looking for. It will search many different kinds of files and present you with the most relevant results.

Application Tour

Now let’s go on a brief tour of the applications in your Dock, at the bottom of the screen. We will start with the Finder on the left side.


Mac Basics
Mac Basics

The Finder is the application that allows you to deal directly with files, folders, CDs, network volumes and the icons on the Desktop. To open a Finder window, click on the Finder icon in the Dock.
Parts of a window

  • Title bar – Contains the name of the current folder (Finder) or document (other applications)
  • Buttons in the upper-left corner – Close, Minimize and Resize the window.
  • Button in the upper-right corner – Show/hide toolbar.
  • Tab in lower-right corner – Resize the window by dragging this tab.
  • Any “metal” looking surface – Drag here to move the window.
    The Finder window also contains these items:
  • Back/forward buttons – Navigate to the last or next place you’ve been.
  • View buttons
    • Icon view – Displays the contents of your folder as a series of icons. Familiar view carried over from OS 9.
    • List view – Displays your folder in a spreadsheet-style manner; good for sorting by particular attributes of files, like putting recently modified files at the top of the list.
    • Column view – Displays the hierarchy of your hard disk where each column represents a folder. Most efficient way to drill down through folders.
    • Cover Flow view – Displays the contents of your folder just like the Cover Flow used in iTunes.
  • Action menu – Same options you would get if you right-clicked/control-clicked on a file. It gives you a quick access to Finder functions for highlighted items, such as Get Info, Move to Trash and Services.
    • Get Info – Show information about the selected file or folder.
    • Compress – Compress selection into a ZIP archive. (Useful for emailing folders.)
    • Labels – Color-code files and folders. Useful for organizing.
      Other Places of Interest in the Finder
  • Macintosh HD – The hard drive, which stores all your files and folders.
  • The Desktop – Use this for temporary storage. Avoid clutter! Disks, network drives and other volumes appear here.
  • Home folder – This is your folder. All your documents and data should be stored in here. Nobody else can access it without your password.
  • Applications – All applications are in this folder. If you don’t see an application in the Dock, check here.
  • Documents – Save all your files in here whenever possible.
  • Trash – Located at the right-hand side of the Dock, this is where you put files and folders you don’t want anymore. Like a real trash, it should be emptied regularly. To do this select Empty Trash from the Finder menu.

Safari or Firefox

Safari (by Apple) or Firefox (by Mozilla) are both included on your Mac. Try them both out and pick your favorite as the default browser.

Put your favorite in the Dock, and remove the other. Also, set the default browser in Safari > Preferences > General.


Mail (by Apple) is included on your Mac. However, the recommendation is to use a web browser and access your email through

Put your favorite in the Dock, and remove the other. Also, set the default email client in Mail > Preferences > General.

Microsoft Office

This suite of applications is located in the Applications folder. If you have specific questions about Office, contact the Technology Help Desk.

System Preferences

System Preferences is where you change many of your computer’s settings. We encourage you to poke around and mess with things. Among the favorites:

  • Desktop and Screen Saver – You can change your desktop background picture and screen saver behavior in this panel.
  • Energy Saver – You can change sleep interval, among other things, in here.

Other Applications

Other applications on your Mac can be found in the Applications folder. Among them are the following:

  • iTunes – This program allows you to store and play digital music files, including MP3s, AACs and many other formats. It also includes Internet Radio stations.
  • iPhoto – This program allows you to manage your digital photo collection, make web pages, slide shows and more.
  • Share My Desktop – If you ever require assistance from the Technology Help Desk, they may ask you to launch this program to use a protocol called VNC. If so, they will provide instructions for using it.
  • Adobe Creative Suite (or Adobe CC) – This suite of art applications includes Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator.
  • Macromedia Studio – This suite of media applications include Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks and Freehand.

Additional Tips

Software Update

The Software Update program, located in the Apple menu, keeps your system software and Apple applications up to date. By default, it will prompt you automatically if there are updates available. You simply need to type your password and click Install. Software updates on Luther-owned computers are to be performed by ITS. Contact the Technology Help Desk for more information.


Exposé is a feature that allows you to manage your open windows or move them out of your way quickly. To use it, press:

  • F9 to see all open windows side by side. You can then click on any window to bring it to the front.
  • F10 to see all open windows in the current application only. Again, click on any of them to bring them forward.
  • F11 to move all windows out of the way, giving you clear access to the Desktop behind them. Press F11 again to bring the windows back.


Pressing F12 brings up Dashboard, a new feature that uses “widgets” to present information in a simple interface. Some sample widgets have been included with your Mac. You can find more widgets at Apple’s website .

Turn your Mac off

To turn your Mac off completely, choose Shut Down from the Apple menu, or press the Power key and then click Shut Down.