O'Reilly logo

Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, Second Edition by David Pogue

Stay ahead with the world's most comprehensive technology and business learning platform.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required

Windows and How to Work Them

In designing Mac OS X, one of Apple’s key goals was to address the window-proliferation problem. As you create more files, stash them in more folders, and launch more programs, it’s easy to wind up paralyzed before a screen awash with cluttered, overlapping rectangles. Mac OS X offers some clever new tools for retaining control.

Title Bar

The title bar has several functions. First, when several windows are open, the darkened window name and light pinstripes tell you which window is active (in front); windows in the background appear dimmed, with translucent, slightly darker-striped title bars. Second, the pinstripes act as a handle that let you move the entire window around on the screen. That’s a critical tool in Mac OS X, because you can no longer drag the other three edges of a window to move it.

Note

Here’s a nifty keyboard shortcut that debuted in Mac OS X 10.2: For the first time in Mac history, you can cycle through the different open windows in one program without using the mouse. Just press

Title Bar

-~ (that is, the tilde key, to the left of the number 1 key). With each press, you bring a different window forward within the current program. It works both in the Finder and in your everyday programs.

(On the other hand, the

Title Bar

-~ keystroke no longer summons the Go To Folder dialog box. The new keystroke for that is Shift-

Title Bar

-G.)

After you’ve opened one folder that’s inside another, the title bar’s secret folder hierarchy menu is an efficient way to backtrack—to return to the enclosing window. Figure 1-3 reveals everything about the process after this key move: press the

Title Bar

key as you click the name of the window. (You can release the

Title Bar

key immediately after clicking.)

By choosing the name of a folder from this menu, you open the corresponding window. When browsing the contents of the Users folder, for example, you can return to the main hard drive window by

Title Bar

-clicking the folder name Users and choosing Macintosh HD from the menu.

Note

Keyboard lovers, take note. Instead of using this title bar menu, you can also jump to the enclosing window by pressing

Title Bar

-up arrow. Add the Option key if you want to switch into “Old Finder Mode” in the process (see Section 1.2.7).

Pressing

Title Bar

-down arrow takes you back into the folder you started in, assuming that it’s still highlighted. (This makes more sense when you try it than when you read it.)

Once you’ve mastered simple dragging, you’re ready for these three terrific title bar tips:

  • Pressing the

    Title Bar

    key lets you drag the title bar area of an inactive window—one that’s partly covered by a window in front—without bringing it to the front.

    As a matter of fact, depending on the program you’re clicking into, you can operate any control in a background window without bringing it to the front—its resize box, buttons, pop-up menus, and even scroll bars. In fact, you can even drag through text without bringing a window forward. In every case, just keeping

    Title Bar

    pressed as you click or drag is the secret.

    Note

    Only Cocoa programs, as described in Section 4.6, offer the full range of

    Title Bar

    -clickable controls. In general, programs that have simply been Carbonized respond only to

    Title Bar

    -clicking title-bar elements.

    By the way, you can always close (or minimize or zoom) a background window without the help of the

    Title Bar

    key. Just click its title bar buttons normally. Mac OS X does its thing without taking you out of your current window or program.

  • One more title bar trick: By double-clicking the stripes, you minimize the window, making it collapse into the Dock exactly as though you had clicked the minimize button (Section 1.2.3).

  • The Option key means “apply this action to all windows.” For example, Option-double-clicking any title bar minimizes all desktop windows, sending them flying to the Dock.

Press and click a window’s title bar (top) to summon the hidden folder hierarchy menu (bottom). The Finder isn’t the only program that offers this trick, by the way. It also works in most other Mac OS X-compatible programs, and even many Mac OS 9 programs.

Figure 1-3. Press Press and click a window’s title bar (top) to summon the hidden folder hierarchy menu (bottom). The Finder isn’t the only program that offers this trick, by the way. It also works in most other Mac OS X-compatible programs, and even many Mac OS 9 programs. and click a window’s title bar (top) to summon the hidden folder hierarchy menu (bottom). The Finder isn’t the only program that offers this trick, by the way. It also works in most other Mac OS X-compatible programs, and even many Mac OS 9 programs.

Close Button

As the tip of your cursor crosses the three buttons at the upper-left corner of a window, tiny symbols appear inside them: x, -, and +. Ignore the gossip that these symbols were added to help colorblind people who can’t distinguish the colors red, yellow, and green; colorblind people are perfectly capable of distinguishing the buttons by their positions, just as they do with traffic lights.

Instead, these cues appear to distinguish the buttons when all three are identical gray, as they are when you use Graphite mode (Section 8.11). They also signal you when it’s time to click. For example, as described in the previous section, you can use these three buttons even when the window is not frontmost. You know the buttons are ripe for the clicking when you see the little symbols appear under your cursor.

When Steve Jobs unveiled Mac OS X at a Macworld Expo in 1999, he said that his goal was to oversee the creation of an interface so attractive, “you just want to lick it.” Desktop windows, with their juicy, fruit-flavored controls, are a good starting point.

Figure 1-4. When Steve Jobs unveiled Mac OS X at a Macworld Expo in 1999, he said that his goal was to oversee the creation of an interface so attractive, “you just want to lick it.” Desktop windows, with their juicy, fruit-flavored controls, are a good starting point.

The most important window gadget is the close button, the red, droplet-like button in the upper-left corner (see Figure 1-4). Clicking it closes the window, which collapses back into the icon from which it came.

Note

If, while working on a document, you see a tiny dot in the center of the close button, Mac OS X is trying to tell you that you haven’t yet saved your work. The dot goes away when you save the document.

The universal keyboard equivalent of the close button is

When Steve Jobs unveiled Mac OS X at a Macworld Expo in 1999, he said that his goal was to oversee the creation of an interface so attractive, “you just want to lick it.” Desktop windows, with their juicy, fruit-flavored controls, are a good starting point.

-W (for window)—a keystroke well worth memorizing. If you get into the habit of dismissing windows with that deft flex of your left hand, you’ll find it far easier to close several windows in a row, because you don’t have to aim for successive close buttons.

In many programs, something special happens if you’re pressing the Option key when using the close button or its

When Steve Jobs unveiled Mac OS X at a Macworld Expo in 1999, he said that his goal was to oversee the creation of an interface so attractive, “you just want to lick it.” Desktop windows, with their juicy, fruit-flavored controls, are a good starting point.

-W equivalent: You close all open windows. This trick is especially useful in the Finder, where a quest for a particular document may have left your screen plastered with open windows for which you have no further use. Option-clicking the close button of any one window (or pressing

When Steve Jobs unveiled Mac OS X at a Macworld Expo in 1999, he said that his goal was to oversee the creation of an interface so attractive, “you just want to lick it.” Desktop windows, with their juicy, fruit-flavored controls, are a good starting point.

-Option-W) closes all of them.

On the other hand, the Option-key trick doesn’t close all windows in every program—only those in the current program. Option-

When Steve Jobs unveiled Mac OS X at a Macworld Expo in 1999, he said that his goal was to oversee the creation of an interface so attractive, “you just want to lick it.” Desktop windows, with their juicy, fruit-flavored controls, are a good starting point.

losing an AppleWorks document closes all AppleWorks windows, but your Finder windows remain open. Moreover, Option-

When Steve Jobs unveiled Mac OS X at a Macworld Expo in 1999, he said that his goal was to oversee the creation of an interface so attractive, “you just want to lick it.” Desktop windows, with their juicy, fruit-flavored controls, are a good starting point.

losing works only in enlightened applications, such as AppleWorks, Quicken, and the Finder. (In this department, Microsoft is not yet enlightened.)

Minimize Button

Click this yellow drop of gel to minimize any Mac window, sending it shrinking, with a genie-like animated effect, into the right end of the Dock, where it then appears as an icon. The window isn’t gone; it hasn’t actually closed. It’s just out of your way for the moment, as though you’ve set it down on a shelf. To bring it back, click the newly created Dock icon (see Figure 1-5, and see Chapter 3 for more about the Dock).

Minimizing a window in this way is a great window management tool. In the Finder, minimizing a window lets you see whatever icons were hiding behind it. In a word processor, this technique lets you type up a memo that requires frequent consultation of a spreadsheet behind it.

Note

If you enjoy the ability to roll up your windows in this way, remember that you actually have a bigger target than the tiny minimize button. The entire striped title bar becomes a giant minimize button when you double-click anywhere on it.

Better yet, you can also minimize a window from the keyboard by pressing

Minimize Button

-M. That’s a keystroke worth memorizing on Day One.

The minimize button harbors only one hidden feature, but it’s very entertaining. If you Option-click it, all windows in the current program shrink away simultaneously—great when you’ve got several Web browser windows open, for example, or an abundance of word processor documents. (Unfortunately, there’s no one-click method for un-minimizing all of the windows in that program. You have to click them one at a time on the Dock.)

Clicking the minimize button sends a window scurrying down to the Dock, collapsing in on itself as though being forced through a tiny, invisible funnel. If you collapse a document window in this way (as opposed to a desktop window), a tiny icon appears on the corner of its minimized image to identify the program it’s running in.

Figure 1-5. Clicking the minimize button sends a window scurrying down to the Dock, collapsing in on itself as though being forced through a tiny, invisible funnel. If you collapse a document window in this way (as opposed to a desktop window), a tiny icon appears on the corner of its minimized image to identify the program it’s running in.

Note

Mac OS X’s high-horsepower graphics engine can even change menu commands as you press modifier keys. For example, open a couple of Finder windows and then click the Window menu. Focus your eyes on the Minimize Window command. Now press Option and watch both the wording and the listed keyboard equivalent change instantly to Minimize All Windows (Option-

Clicking the minimize button sends a window scurrying down to the Dock, collapsing in on itself as though being forced through a tiny, invisible funnel. If you collapse a document window in this way (as opposed to a desktop window), a tiny icon appears on the corner of its minimized image to identify the program it’s running in.

-M).

Zoom Button

A click on this green geltab (see Figure 1-4) makes a desktop window just large enough to show you all of the icons inside it. If your monitor isn’t big enough to show all the icons in a window, the zoom box resizes the window to show as many as possible. In either case, a second click on the zoom button restores the window to its original size. (The WindowZoom Window command does the same thing.)

Note

Option-clicking the zoom button doesn’t make a Finder window fill the entire screen, as it did in Mac OS 9. But Option-clicking it still works in many Mac OS X applications. (A few, such as OmniWeb, require Shift-clicking it instead.)

The Folder Proxy Icon

Each Finder-window title bar features a small icon next to the window’s name (Figure 1-6), representing the open window’s actual folder or disk icon. By dragging this tiny icon, you can move or copy the folder to a different folder or disk, to the Trash, or into the Dock without having to first close the window. (If this feature strikes you as unimpressive, you probably never witnessed a hapless Mac novice making repeated attempts to drag an open window into the Trash in, say, System 7.5.)

Note

When clicking the folder proxy icon, hold down the mouse button for a half second, or until the icon darkens. Only then are you allowed to drag it.

When dragging this proxy icon to a different place on the same disk, the usual folder-dragging rules apply: Hold down the Option key if you want to copy the original disk or folder. Without the Option key, you move the original folder. (You’ll find details on moving and copying icons in the next chapter.)

The Finder Toolbar

Chapter 3 describes this fascinating desktop-window element in great detail.

“Old Finder Mode” (Toolbar Disclosure) Button

In the old days, double-clicking any folder opened it into a new window. Double-click three folders, you get three windows. But Mac OS X doesn’t work that way. As shown in Figure 1-7, double-clicking a folder makes the original window disappear.

Note

If you Option-double-click a folder, you don’t simply replace the contents of a fixed window that remains on the screen; you actually switch windows, as evidenced by their changing sizes and shapes.

When you find yourself confronting a Finder window that contains useful stuff, consider dragging its proxy icon to the Dock. You wind up installing its folder or disk icon there for future use. That’s not the same as minimizing the window, which puts the window icon into the Dock, and only temporarily. Most Mac OS X document windows also offer a proxy-icon feature, but produce only an alias when you drag it to a different folder or disk.

Figure 1-6. When you find yourself confronting a Finder window that contains useful stuff, consider dragging its proxy icon to the Dock. You wind up installing its folder or disk icon there for future use. That’s not the same as minimizing the window, which puts the window icon into the Dock, and only temporarily. Most Mac OS X document windows also offer a proxy-icon feature, but produce only an alias when you drag it to a different folder or disk.

So what if you’ve now opened inner folder B, and you want to backtrack to outer folder A? In that case, just click the tiny left-arrow button labeled Back, shown in Figure 1-7, or use one of these alternatives:

  • Choose GoBack.

  • Press

    When you find yourself confronting a Finder window that contains useful stuff, consider dragging its proxy icon to the Dock. You wind up installing its folder or disk icon there for future use. That’s not the same as minimizing the window, which puts the window icon into the Dock, and only temporarily. Most Mac OS X document windows also offer a proxy-icon feature, but produce only an alias when you drag it to a different folder or disk.

    -[ (left bracket).

  • Press

    When you find yourself confronting a Finder window that contains useful stuff, consider dragging its proxy icon to the Dock. You wind up installing its folder or disk icon there for future use. That’s not the same as minimizing the window, which puts the window icon into the Dock, and only temporarily. Most Mac OS X document windows also offer a proxy-icon feature, but produce only an alias when you drag it to a different folder or disk.

    -up arrow.

None of that will help you, however, if you want to copy a file from one folder into another, or to compare the contents of two windows. In that case, you’ll probably want to see both windows open at the same time.

In such situations, you can open a second window using any of these techniques:

  • Choose FileNew Finder Window (

    When you find yourself confronting a Finder window that contains useful stuff, consider dragging its proxy icon to the Dock. You wind up installing its folder or disk icon there for future use. That’s not the same as minimizing the window, which puts the window icon into the Dock, and only temporarily. Most Mac OS X document windows also offer a proxy-icon feature, but produce only an alias when you drag it to a different folder or disk.

    -N).

    Note

    The window that appears when you do this is the Computer window, which usually isn’t where you find the folders you want to work with. Changing this setting should be one of your first bits of business in Mac OS X.

    To do so, choose FinderPreferences and click the Home button instead. Now every new Finder window shows you your Home folder (Section 2.1), which contains all of your files—a much more useful arrangement.

  • When you find yourself confronting a Finder window that contains useful stuff, consider dragging its proxy icon to the Dock. You wind up installing its folder or disk icon there for future use. That’s not the same as minimizing the window, which puts the window icon into the Dock, and only temporarily. Most Mac OS X document windows also offer a proxy-icon feature, but produce only an alias when you drag it to a different folder or disk.

    -double-click a disk or folder icon.

  • Double-click a folder or disk icon on your desktop.

  • Choose FinderPreferences and turn on “Always open folders in a new window.” Now when double-clicked, all folders open into new windows. (This is the option for veteran Mac fans who don’t care for the new behavior.)

  • Switch to Old Finder Mode, described next.

In an effort to help you avoid window clutter, Apple has designed Mac OS X windows so that double-clicking a folder in a window (top) doesn’t actually open another window (bottom). Every time you double-click a folder in an open window, its contents replace whatever was previously in the window. If you double-click three folders in succession, you still wind up with just one open window.

Figure 1-7. In an effort to help you avoid window clutter, Apple has designed Mac OS X windows so that double-clicking a folder in a window (top) doesn’t actually open another window (bottom). Every time you double-click a folder in an open window, its contents replace whatever was previously in the window. If you double-click three folders in succession, you still wind up with just one open window.

“Old Finder Mode,” of course, isn’t the technical Apple term, but it should be. Here’s how it works.

The upper-right corner of every Finder window contains a little button that looks like a half-inch squirt of Crest toothpaste. When you click it, you enter Old Finder Mode. (You can also enter Old Finder Mode by pressing

In an effort to help you avoid window clutter, Apple has designed Mac OS X windows so that double-clicking a folder in a window (top) doesn’t actually open another window (bottom). Every time you double-click a folder in an open window, its contents replace whatever was previously in the window. If you double-click three folders in succession, you still wind up with just one open window.

-B, the equivalent for the ViewHide Toolbar command.)

In this mode, the two biggest behavioral differences between Mac OS X and its predecessor disappear, to the relief of many Mac old-timers. First, the Finder-window toolbar, shown in Figure 1-4, slides out of sight.

The second big change in Old Finder Mode is that double-clicking a folder now works like it used to. Every time you double-click a folder, you open a new corresponding window.

When you’ve had enough of Old Finder Mode, you can return to regular Mac OS X mode by clicking the Toolbar Disclosure button again, by pressing

In an effort to help you avoid window clutter, Apple has designed Mac OS X windows so that double-clicking a folder in a window (top) doesn’t actually open another window (bottom). Every time you double-click a folder in an open window, its contents replace whatever was previously in the window. If you double-click three folders in succession, you still wind up with just one open window.

-B again, or by choosing ViewShow Toolbar.

Note

You’ll find this little white toolbar-control nubbin in a number of toolbar-endowed programs, including Mail, Internet Explorer, System Preferences, and others. Clicking it always makes the toolbar go away.

Scroll Bars

Scroll bars appear automatically in any window that isn’t big enough to show all of its contents. Without scroll bars in word processors, for example, you’d never be able to write a letter that’s taller than your screen. You can manipulate a scroll bar in three ways, as shown in Figure 1-8.

Mac OS X introduces a new scroll bar option called “Scroll to here.” Ordinarily, when you click into scroll bar track above or below the gelatinous handle, the window scrolls by one screenful. But your other option is to turn on “Scroll to here” mode in the General panel of your System Preferences (see Section 8.11). Now when you click into scroll bar track, the Mac considers the entire scroll bar a proportional map of the document, and scrolls precisely to the spot you clicked. That is, if you click at the very bottom of the scroll bar track, you see the very last page.

Note

No matter which scrolling option you choose in the General panel, you can always override your decision on a case-by-case basis by Option-clicking in the scroll bar track. In other words, if you’ve selected the “Scroll to here” option, you can produce a “jump to next page” scroll by Option-clicking in the scroll bar track.

Three ways to control a scroll. The scroll bar arrows (right side) appear nestled together when you first install Mac OS X, as shown here. If you, an old-time Windows or Mac OS 9 fan, prefer these arrows to appear on opposite ends of the scroll bar, visit the General panel of System Preferences, described in Section 8.11.

Figure 1-8. Three ways to control a scroll. The scroll bar arrows (right side) appear nestled together when you first install Mac OS X, as shown here. If you, an old-time Windows or Mac OS 9 fan, prefer these arrows to appear on opposite ends of the scroll bar, visit the General panel of System Preferences, described in Section 8.11.

It’s worth noting, however, that the true speed expert eschews scroll bars altogether. Your Page Up and Page Down keys let you scroll up and down, one screen at a time, without having to take your hands off the keyboard to grab the mouse. The Home and End keys, meanwhile, are generally useful for jumping directly to the top or bottom of your document (or Finder window). And if you bought a non-Apple mouse that has a scroll wheel on the top, you can use it to scroll windows, too, without pressing any keys at all.

Position your mouse inside a Finder window (list views not included) or even an Internet Explorer window. While pressing and Option, you can drag—and scroll—in any direction. As you drag, the cursor changes shape, becoming a white-gloved butler’s hand. Where can you get that kind of service these days?

Figure 1-9. Position your mouse inside a Finder window (list views not included) or even an Internet Explorer window. While pressing Position your mouse inside a Finder window (list views not included) or even an Internet Explorer window. While pressing and Option, you can drag—and scroll—in any direction. As you drag, the cursor changes shape, becoming a white-gloved butler’s hand. Where can you get that kind of service these days? and Option, you can drag—and scroll—in any direction. As you drag, the cursor changes shape, becoming a white-gloved butler’s hand. Where can you get that kind of service these days?

At first glance, you might assume that scroll bars are an extremely inefficient mechanism when you want to scroll a window diagonally—and you’d be right. Fortunately, Mac OS X includes an alternate scrolling system for such situations. Position your mouse inside a Finder window; while pressing

Position your mouse inside a Finder window (list views not included) or even an Internet Explorer window. While pressing and Option, you can drag—and scroll—in any direction. As you drag, the cursor changes shape, becoming a white-gloved butler’s hand. Where can you get that kind of service these days?

and Option, you can drag—and scroll—in any direction, as shown in Figure 1-9.

Resize Box

The lower-right corner of every standard Mac OS X window is ribbed, a design that’s meant to imply that you can grip it by dragging. Doing so lets you resize and reshape the window (see Figure 1-4).

Status Bar

In the days of Mac OS 9, an information strip appeared in every Finder window, just beneath the title bar. It told you how many icons were in the window (“14 items,” for example) and the amount of free space remaining on the disk.

When you first run Mac OS X, this information strip is missing. If you long for it, choose ViewShow Status Bar. This strip now appears in every Finder window (see Figure 1-4)—at least until you hide it again by choosing ViewHide Status Bar.

Note

If the window is very narrow, the status bar shows only the number of icons in the window (such as “1 item”). To see how much free space is on the disk, click the “1 item” text; Mac OS X changes it to show you the remaining free-space statistic. Click again to return to the item count.

With Safari, you learn the way you learn best. Get unlimited access to videos, live online training, learning paths, books, interactive tutorials, and more.

Start Free Trial

No credit card required