From the day Apple first announced Mac OS X, the company made clear that Mac OS X offered a lot of advantages, particularly in stability—but that you would need all-new versions of your programs to realize these benefits. Most software companies announced that they would get to work Mac OS X-izing their programs, but Mac fans still kept reading the same advice: Don’t switch to Mac OS X until most or all of the programs you use every day have been adapted to run on it.
For most people, that time is here. One by one, the Mac OS X versions of big-name programs became ready: QuarkXPress, AppleWorks, iMovie, iTunes, Illustrator, Freehand, Quicken, FileMaker, Internet Explorer, America Online, and thousands of others. In fact, many of the latest Mac versions run only in Mac OS X (Microsoft Office, InDesign 3, iMovie 3, Photoshop CS, and so on).
The time has also come, therefore, to grow accustomed to the way programs and documents relate in Mac OS X.
There are two chief kinds of Mac OS X-compatible programs, known by the geeks as Carbon and Cocoa programs (see Section 4.8). This chapter describes how Carbon and Cocoa programs work.
You can also run older, Mac OS 9-compatible programs that haven’t yet been updated for Mac OS X—but when you launch one of these, your Mac automatically opens a Mac OS 9 simulator called Classic. For details on running the older, Mac OS 9-specific programs in this way, see Chapter 5.
You can launch (open) a program in any of several ways.
Double-click an application’s icon in the Finder.
Click a program’s icon on the Dock, Sidebar, or the Finder toolbar.
If you’ve added the Applications folder to your Dock (and you should!), hold the mouse button down on it until the list of its contents springs open. Then click the program you want (or even type the first couple letters of its name and then press Return).
Use the submenus of the menu’s Recent Items→Applications command. (You control how many programs this feature tracks using the System Preferences panel described in Section 8.4.3.)
Mac OS X stores a list of your recently used programs in a text file called com.apple.recentitems.plist,located in your Home folder→Library→Preferences folder. And with about $1.00, that information will buy you a cup of coffee in most restaurants.
Open a document icon in any of these ways, or drag a document onto the icon of a program that can open it (whether in the Dock, the Finder toolbar, the Sidebar, or in a folder window).
If you press Option as you open an application (or anything else) in the Finder, you automatically close the window that contains its icon. Later, when you return to the Finder, you’ll find a neat, clean desktop—no loitering windows.
When you launch a program, the Mac reads its computer code, which lies on your hard drive’s surface, and feeds it quickly into RAM (memory). During this brief interval, the icon of the opening program jumps up and down eagerly in your Dock. (You can turn off this bouncing in Finder→Preferences.)
Want to see multithreading in action? Launch a program that takes a long time to open—that is, whose icon on the Dock does a lot of bouncing.
You don’t have to wait for the application to finish bouncing—you’re wasting perfectly good computing time. Just switch to another program and get to work; the newly opened program keeps right on launching in the background. Multithreading simply means that Mac OS X can crunch more than one process at a time.
What happens next depends on the program you’re using. Most present you with a new, blank, untitled document. Some, like iMovie and iDVD, automatically open the last file you worked on. Some, like FileMaker and PowerPoint, ask you: Do you want to open an existing document or create a new one? And a few oddball programs don’t open any window at all when first launched.
This Application menu (Figure 4-1) offers a number of commands pertaining to the entire program and its windows, including About, Quit, and Hide.
You quit a program in Mac OS X by pressing -Q, which is the keyboard equivalent of the Quit command. For Macintosh and Windows veterans, the only tricky part here is that the Quit command is no longer in the File menu—it’s now at the bottom of the Application menu.
But Mac OS X offers two much more fun ways to quit a program:
Control-click a program’s Dock icon and choose Quit from the pop-up menu.
When you’ve pressed -Tab to summon Panther’s “heads-up display” of open programs (Section 4.2), type the letter Q without releasing the key. The highlighted program quits instantly.
Everybody knows that Mac OS X is a rock-solid operating system, but that doesn’t mean that programs never screw up. Individual programs are as likely as ever to freeze—or, rather, to hang (to lock up and display the “spinning beach ball of death” cursor). In such cases, you have no choice but to force quit the program—the computer equivalent of terminating it with a blunt instrument.
The big Mac OS X difference is that doing so doesn’t destabilize your Mac, meaning you don’t have to restart it. In fact, you can usually reopen the very same program and get on with your life.
You can force quit a stuck program in any of several ways:
Control-click its Dock icon (or just hold your mouse down on it). Once the popup menu appears, press Option so that the Quit command now says Force Quit (see Figure 4-2). Bingo—that program is outta here.
Either way, proceed as shown in Figure 4-2.
Again, force quitting is not bad for your Mac. Dire warnings don’t appear. The only downside to force quitting a program is that you lose any unsaved changes to your open documents, along with any preference settings you may have changed while the program was open.
Figure 4-2. Top: You can force quit a program from the Dock, thanks to the Option key. Bottom: When you press Option--Esc or choose Force Quit from the menu, a tidy box listing all open programs appears. Just click the one you want to abort, click Force Quit, and click Force Quit again in the confirmation box. (Using more technical tools like the Unix kill command, there are other ways to jettison programs. But this is often the most convenient.)