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Chapter 3: Mac OS X Basics

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Chapter 3: Mac OS X Basics

After installing Mac OS X and completing the included installer assistant, you'll be transported to the Mac OS X desktop. Unfortunately, many users will find themselves staring at a completely unfamiliar desktop. This chapter will approach Mac OS X from the perspective of a user who has just logged in, and will look at some of the features that make Mac OS X a powerful system and unique user experience. The more complex components shown here will be discussed in depth elsewhere, so don't worry if all your questions aren't answered immediately.

Welcome to Mac OS X

The Mac OS X desktop, seen in Figure 3.1, looks simple enough. Many of the visual cues that Mac users have come to rely on are present, along with a few new elements.

Figure 3.1 The Mac OS X desktop looks familiar.

Let's take a look at many of the Mac OS X system components and how they compare to their Mac OS 9.x counterparts.

  • The file system layout—Where did everything go? Mac OS X imposes a strict structure on the file system. Learn where you can find your files and applications.

  • The Apple menu—The Apple menu provides access to recent applications and common system-wide function. Gone are desk accessories and access to individual control panels.

  • Windows—The new Mac OS X look extends to the windows themselves, which sport new features as well.

  • The Application menu—Previous versions of the Mac operating system started program-specific menus with File. In Mac OS X, each application has its own self-named menu that contains functions common to any program.

  • The desktop and Finder—The primary playground of many a Mac user, the desktop and Finder still operate in much the same way as under earlier versions of Mac OS.

  • The Dock—Taking the place of the task menu located on the right of the Mac menu bar in earlier versions of the operating system, the Dock also includes components from the traditional Mac desktop and Apple menu.

  • Menu Extras—Mac OS X 10.1 introduces Menu Extras—replacing much of the functionality lost when the Control Strip was removed. Many of the system preference panels (Sound, Date and Time, Network, and so on) offer the capability of adding a menu extra to the menu bar for quick access to settings.

Let's take a look at each of these elements of the OS X environment, its basic use, and what problems/differences you might encounter as you work with it.

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