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Monday, August 6, 2007

Making Friends with the MacBook Finder

Ah, the Finder — many admire its scenic beauty, but you shouldn't ignore its unsurpassed power nor its many moods. Tiger's Finder is the basic toolbox that you use every day while piloting your laptop. The Finder includes the most common elements of Mac OS X: window controls, common menu commands, icon fun (everything from launching applications to copying files), network connections, keyboard shortcuts, and even emptying the trash. In fact, one could say that if you master the Finder and use it efficiently, you're on your way to becoming a power user!

The popular attractions of the Finder are as follows:

  • The Finder menu bar: Whenever the Finder itself is ready to use (or, in Mac-speak, whenever the Finder is the active application), the Finder menu bar appears at the top of your screen. You know that the Finder is active and ready when the word Finder appears to the left of the menu bar.
    A menu is simply a list of commands. When you click a menu (such as the File menu), it extends down so that you can see the commands it includes. While the menu is extended, you can choose any enabled menu item (just click it) to perform that action. You can tell that an item is enabled if its name appears in black; conversely, a menu command is disabled if it's grayed out — clicking it does nothing.
  • The Apple menu: This is a special menu because it appears both in the Finder and in every application menu that you run. It doesn't matter whether you're in iTunes or Photoshop or Word — if you can see a menu bar, the Apple menu is there. No matter where you are in Tiger, the Apple menu contains common commands to use, such as Restart, Shut Down, and System Preferences.
    Some applications, such as Front Row and Apple's DVD Player, may hide the Finder menu bar when they're in full-screen mode. However, you can still access the menu bar, even when it's not visible: Just move your cursor to the top edge of the screen, and the menu bar will usually burst forth.
  • The Finder desktop: Your Finder desktop serves the same purpose as your physical desktop: You can store stuff here (files, alias icons, and so on), and it's a solid, stable surface where you can work comfortably. Application windows as well as other applications, such as your Stickies notes and your DVD player appear on the desktop. Just click an application there to launch it.
    Your desktop is easy to customize. For instance, you can use your own images to decorate the desktop, organize it to store new folders and documents, arrange icons the way you like, or put the dock in another location. You don't have to settle for what Apple gives you as a default desktop.
  • All sorts of icons: This is a Macintosh computer, after all, replete with tons of make-your-life-easier tools. Check out the plethora of icons on your desktop as well as icons in the Finder window itself. Each icon is a shortcut of sorts to a file, folder, network connection, or device in your system, including applications that you run and documents that you create. Sometimes you click an icon to watch it do its thing (like icons on the dock), but usually you double-click an icon to make something happen.
  • The dock: The dock is a launching pad for your favorite applications, network connections, and Web sites. You can also refer to it to see what applications are running. Click an icon there to open the item (for example, the postage stamp icon represents Apple's Mail application, while the spiffy compass launches your Safari Web browser).
  • The Finder window: Finally! You'll use Finder windows to launch applications, perform disk chores such as copying and moving files, and navigate your hard drive.

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