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Mac OS X Leopard: The Missing Manual by David Pogue

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The Very Basics

To use this book, and indeed to use a Macintosh computer, you need to know a few basics. This book assumes that you're familiar with a few terms and concepts:

  • Clicking. This book gives you three kinds of instructions that require you to use the Mac's mouse. To click means to point the arrow cursor at something on the screen and then—without moving the cursor—press and release the clicker button on the mouse (or your laptop trackpad). To double-click, of course, means to click twice in rapid succession, again without moving the cursor at all. And to drag means to move the cursor while holding down the button.

    When you're told to ⌘-click something, you click while pressing the ⌘ key (which is next to the Space bar). Shift-clicking, Option-clicking, and Control-clicking work the same way—just click while pressing the corresponding key.

  • Menus. The menus. are the words at the top of your screen: , File, Edit, and so on. Click one to make a list of commands appear.

    Some people click and release to open a menu and then, after reading the choices, click again on the one they want. Other people like to press the mouse button continuously after the initial click on the menu title, drag down the list to the desired command, and only then release the mouse button. Either method works fine.

  • Keyboard shortcuts.If you're typing along in a burst of creative energy, it's disruptive to have to grab the mouse to use a menu. That's why many Mac fans prefer to trigger menu commands by pressing certain combinations on the keyboard. For example, in word processors, you can press ⌘-B to produce a boldface word. When you read an instruction like "press ⌘-B," start by pressing the ⌘ key, then, while it's down, type the letter B, and finally release both keys.

    Tip

    You know what's really nice? The keystroke to open the Preferences dialog box in every Apple program— Mail, Safari, iMovie, iPhoto, TextEdit, Preview, and on and on—is always the same: ⌘-comma. Better yet, that standard is catching on with other software companies, too; Word, Excel, Entourage, and PowerPoint use the same keystroke, for example.

  • Icons. The colorful inch-tall pictures that appear in your various desktop folders are the graphic symbols that represent each program, disk, and document on your computer. If you click an icon one time, it darkens, indicating that you've just highlighted or selected it. Now you're ready to manipulate it by using, for example, a menu command.

  • Checkboxes, radio buttons, tabs. See Figure 1 for a quick visual reference to the onscreen controls you're most often asked to use.

Notes on the Keyboard

All through this book, you'll find references to certain keys on Apple's keyboards. "Hold down the key," you might read, or "Press Control-F2." If you' re coming from Mac OS 9, from Windows, or even from a typewriter, you might be a bit befuddled. (The reader email from previous editions of this book make that quite clear. "The alphabet has 26 letters," one went. "Why do I need 101 keys?")

To make any attempt at an explanation even more complicated, Apple's keyboards keep changing. The one you're using right now is probably one of four models:

  • The standard white desktop keyboard, made of plastic.

  • The new, superthin aluminum keyboard that comes with the iMac (Figure 2).

  • The new, superthin aluminum wireless Bluetooth keyboard that you can buy as an option. It has no separate block of number keys, so it's almost exactly like the Apple laptop keyboard. In the following discussion, in fact, any references to the Mac laptop keyboards also include this Bluetooth wireless one.

  • The Apple laptop keyboard, which has no numeric keypad, either.

    Mastering Mac OS X involves knowing what things are called, especially the kinds of controls you find in dialog boxes.Note, by the way, that the dialog-box subdivisions once called tabs are still called tabs, even though they no longer resemble file-folder tabs.

    Figure 1. Mastering Mac OS X involves knowing what things are called, especially the kinds of controls you find in dialog boxes. Note, by the way, that the dialog-box subdivisions once called tabs are still called tabs, even though they no longer resemble file-folder tabs.

Here, then, is a guided tour of the non-typewriter keys on modern Mac keyboard.

  • Fn. How are you supposed to pronounce Fn? Not "function," certainly; after all, the F-keys on the top row are already known as function keys. And not "fun"; goodness knows, the Fn key isn't particularly hilarious to press.

    What it does, though, is quite clear: It changes the purpose of certain keys. That's a big deal on laptops, which don't have nearly as many keys as desktop keyboards. So for some of the less commonly used functions, you're supposed to press Fn and a regular key. (For example, Fn turns the ↑ key into a Home key, which scrolls to the top of a window or a list.)

    You'll find many more Fn examples in the following paragraphs.

    The aluminum Mac keyboards turn the F-keys on the top row into completely different buttons—according to a scheme that's different from most Mac laptops.Here, you can see that tapping the F1 through F4 keys correspond to Screen Dimmer, Screen Brighter, Exposé, and Dashboard.(The Exposé key works three different ways, depending on what modifier key you're pressing. See .)

    Figure 2. The aluminum Mac keyboards turn the F-keys on the top row into completely different buttons—according to a scheme that's different from most Mac laptops. Here, you can see that tapping the F1 through F4 keys correspond to Screen Dimmer, Screen Brighter, Exposé, and Dashboard. (The Exposé key works three different ways, depending on what modifier key you're pressing. See More Ways to Exposé.)

  • Numeric keypad. The number-pad keys do exactly the same thing as the numbers at the top of the keyboard. But with practice, typing things like phone numbers and prices is much faster with the number pad, since you don't have to look down at what you're doing.

    Now, at first glance, only desktop keyboards appear to have these blocks of number keys. But if you look at a Mac laptop closely, you'll see that the numbers 0 through 9 have actually been painted onto a block of letter keys near the right side. (1, 2, and 3 are J, K, and L, for example.)

You can turn those letter keys into their numeric alter egos in either of two ways. First, you can press the NumLock key at the top of the keyboard, which turns on the numbers and keeps them on until you press NumLock again. Or, for just a couple of quick numbers, you can hold down the Fn key with your left hand.

  • , ,and ). These three buttons control your speaker volume. The key represents the Mute button; tap it once to cut off the sound completely, and again to bring it back to its previous level. Tap the repeatedly to make the sound level lower, the key to make it louder.

    With each tap, you see a big white version of each key's symbol on your screen, your Mac's little nod to let you know that it understands your efforts.

  • . This is the Eject key. When there's a CD or DVD in your Mac, tap this key to make the computer spit it out. If your Mac has a sliding CD/DVD tray (rather than just a slot), hold down this button for about a second to make the tray slide open.

  • Home, End."Home" and "End" mean "jump to the top or bottom of the window." If you're looking at a list of files, the Home and End keys jump to the top or bottom of the list. In iPhoto, they jump to the first or last photo in your collection. In iMovie, the Home key rewinds your movie to the very beginning. In Safari, it's the top or bottom of the Web page.

    (In Word, they jump to the beginning or end of the line. But then again, Microsoft has always had its own ways of doing things.

    On laptops, you get these functions by holding down Fn as you tap the ← and →keys.

  • Pg Up, Pg Down. These keys scroll up or down by one screenful. The idea is to let you scroll through word processing documents, Web pages, and lists without having to use the mouse.

    On laptops, you get these functions by holding down Fn as you tap the ↑ and ↓ keys.

  • Clear. Clear gets rid of the you've highlighted, but without putting a copy on the invisible Clipboard, as the Cut command would do.

  • Esc. Esc stands for Escape, and it means "Cancel." It's fantastically useful. It closes dialog boxes, closes menus, and exits special modes like Quick Look, Front Row, slideshows, screen savers, and so on. Get to know it.

  • Delete. The backspace key.

  • . Many a Mac fan goes for years without discovering the handiness of this delightful little key: the Forward Delete key.

    Whereas Delete backspaces over whatever letter is just before the insertion point, this one (labeled Del on some keyboards) deletes whatever is just to the right of the insertion point. It really comes in handy when, for example, you've clicked into some text to make an edit—but wound up planting your cursor in just the wrong place.

    On laptops, you get this function by holding down Fn as you tap the regular Delete key.

  • Return and Enter.In almost all programs, these keys do the same thing: wrap your typing to the next line. When a dialog box is on the screen, tapping the Return or Enter key is the same as clicking the confirmation button (like OK or Done).

  • ⌘. This key triggers keyboard shortcuts for menu items, as described above.

  • Control. The Control key triggers shortcut menus, as described above.

  • Option. The Option key (labeled Alt on keyboards in some countries) is sort of a "miscellaneous" key. It's the equivalent of the Alt key in Windows.

    It lets you access secret features—you'll find them described all through this book— and type special symbols. For example, you press Option-4 to get the ¢ symbol, and Option-y to get the ¥ yen symbol.

  • Help. In the Finder, Microsoft programs, and a few other places, this key opens up the electronic help screens. But you guessed that.

  • F1, F2, F3… OK, here's where things start to get really complicated.

    In the beginning, the F1, F2, F3, and F4 keys corresponded to the Undo, Cut, Copy, and Paste menu commands. And on Apple's traditional plastic keyboards, they still do. But Apple discovered that not many people were using them for anything. So today, modern Mac keyboards come with those keys reassigned to other functions.

    On laptops, F1 through F4 govern screen brightness (and ) and speaker volume (, , and ).

    On the aluminum desktop-Mac keyboards, F1 and F2 govern screen brightness, F3 triggers Exposé (More Ways to Exposé), and F4 opens Dashboard (Dashboard), as shown in Figure 2. The , , and volume keys have been moved to F10 through F12.

    So the question is: What if you don't want to trigger the hardware features of these keys? What if you want pressing F1 to mean "F1" (which opens the Help window in most programs)?

    For that purpose, you're supposed to press the Fn key. The Fn key (lower-right on laptops and Bluetooth keyboards, center block of keys on the big aluminum one) switches the function of the function keys.

    Tip

    You can reverse the logic, too, so that pressing the F-keys usually triggers software functions, and governs brightness and audio only when you're pressing Fn. See Notes on the Keyboard.

    The aluminum keyboards also have playback controls (, , and )painted on the F7 through F9 keys. They work in QuickTime Player, DVD Player, iTunes,and other programs's handy to have Rewind, Play / Pause, and Fast Forward buttons.

Notes on Right-Clicking

Apple isn't too proud to steal good ideas from Microsoft; goodness knows, Microsoft has stolen enough from Apple. So in Leopard, shortcut menus are more important than ever (Figure 3).

Shortcut menus are more important than ever in Leopard. They bring up useful commands in exactly the spots where they're most useful, in menus that are relevant only to what you're clicking.

Figure 3. Shortcut menus are more important than ever in Leopard. They bring up useful commands in exactly the spots where they're most useful, in menus that are relevant only to what you're clicking.

For years, you could open the shortcut menu of something on the Mac screen by Control-clicking it—and you can still do that. But experienced computer fans have always preferred the one-handed method: right-clicking. That is, clicking something by pressing the right mouse button on a two-button mouse.

"Ah, but that' s what's always driven me nuts about Apple," goes the common refrain. "Their refusal to get rid of their stupid one-button mouse!"

Well, not so fast.

First of all, you can attach any old $6 USB two-button mouse to the Mac, and it'll work flawlessly.

Furthermore, if you bought a desktop Mac since late 2005, you probably already have a two-button mouse—but you might not realize it. Take a look: Is it a white shiny plastic capsule with tiny, gray, scrolling track-pea on the far end? Then you have a Mighty Mouse, and it has a secret right mouse button. It doesn't work until you ask for it.

To do that, choose →System Preferences. Click Keyboard & Mouse. Click the Mouse tab. There, in all its splendor, is a diagram of the Mighty Mouse. (There's a picture on Trackpad Tab.)

Your job is to choose Secondary Button from the pop-up menu that identifies the right side of the mouse. (The reason it's not called "right button" is because left-handers might prefer to reverse the right and left functions.)

From now on, even though there aren't two visible mouse buttons, your Mighty Mouse does, in fact, register a left-click or a right-click depending on which side of the mouse you push down. It works a lot more easily than it sounds like it would.

Tip

You can right-click using a Mac laptop's trackpad, too. See Trackpad options.

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