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Mac OS X Leopard: The Missing Manual by David Pogue

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Getting Help in Mac OS X

It's a good thing you've got a book about Mac OS X in your hands, because the only user manual you get with Mac OS X is the Help menu. You get a Web browser–like program that reads a set of help files that reside in your System→Library folder.

Tip

In fact, you may not even be that lucky. In Leopard, the general-information Help page about each topic is on your Mac, but thousands of more nichey or more technical pages actually reside online, and require an Internet connection to read.

You're expected to find the topic you want in one of these three ways:

  • Use the new Search box.When you click the Help menu , a tiny search box appears just beneath your cursor (Figure 1-28). You can type a few words here to specify what you want help on: "setting up printer," "disk space," whatever.

    Tip

    You can also hit ⌘-Shift-/ (that is, ⌘-?) to open the Help search box. And you can change that keystroke, if you like, in System Preferences→Keyboard & Mouse.

    In Leopard, you don't have to open the Help program to begin a search. No matter what program you're in, typing a search phrase into the box shown here produces an instantaneous list of help topics, ready to read.

    Figure 1-28. In Leopard, you don't have to open the Help program to begin a search. No matter what program you're in, typing a search phrase into the box shown here produces an instantaneous list of help topics, ready to read.

    The menu now becomes a list of Apple help topics pertaining to your search. Click one to open the Help browser described next; you've just saved some time and a couple of steps.

    Tip

    The results menu does not, however, show all of Help's results—only the ones Apple thinks are most relevant. If you choose Show All Results at the bottom of the menu, the Help browser opens (described below). It shows a more complete list of Help-search results.

  • Drill down. Alternatively, you can begin your quest for assistance the old-fashioned way:by opening the Help browser first.To do that,choose Help→MacHelp.(This works only in the Finder, and only when nothing is typed in the Search box. To empty the Search box, click the button at the right end.)

    After a moment, you arrive at the Help browser program shown in Figure 1-29. The starting screen offers several "quick click" topics that may interest you. If so, keep clicking text headings until you find a topic that you want to read.

    You can backtrack by clicking the button at the top of the window. And you can always return to the starting screen by clicking the little Home icon at the top.

    Tip

    Annoyingly, the Leopard Help window insists on floating in front of all other windows; you can't send it to the back like any normal program. Therefore, consider making the window tall and skinny, so you can put it beside the program you're working in. Drag the ribbed lower-right corner to change the window's shape.

  • Use the "Ask a Question"blank.Type the phrase you want, such as printing or switching applications, into the Search box at the top of the window, and then press Return. The Mac responds by showing you a list of help-screen topics that may pertain to what you need; see Figure 1-30 for details.

    The Mac OS X Help system no longer bunches together the help pages from every program on your Mac. When you're in the Finder, you get the general Macintosh help screens. When you're in iPhoto, you get only iPhoto help screens. And so on. But using the Home pop-up menu, you can switch to another program's Help system even if that program isn't open.

    Figure 1-29. The Mac OS X Help system no longer bunches together the help pages from every program on your Mac. When you're in the Finder, you get the general Macintosh help screens. When you're in iPhoto, you get only iPhoto help screens. And so on. But using the Home pop-up menu, you can switch to another program's Help system even if that program isn't open.

    This Search box usually gives you a more complete list of results than you'd have gotten by using the Search box in the Help menu, as described above.

Note

Actually, there's one more place where Help has cropped up in Leopard: in System Preferences dialog boxes. Click the blue, circled question-mark button in the lower-right corner of each System Preferences panel to open a Help page that identifies each control.

The bars indicate the Mac's "relevance" rating— how well it thinks each help page matches your search. Double-click a topic's name to open the help page. If it isn't as helpful as you hoped, click the button at the top of the window to return to the list of relevant topics. Click the little Home button to return to the Help Center's welcome screen.

Figure 1-30. The bars indicate the Mac's "relevance" rating— how well it thinks each help page matches your search. Double-click a topic's name to open the help page. If it isn't as helpful as you hoped, click the button at the top of the window to return to the list of relevant topics. Click the little Home button to return to the Help Center's welcome screen.

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