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Mac OS X Basics

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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Other OS Components

There are a few other OS components that don't quite fit into the categories we've looked at. To provide a simple point of reference, they'll be included here:

    Open/Save Dialogs—Choosing a document to open, and where to save a file, have changed drastically in Mac OS X.

    Color Picker—The Mac OS X Color Picker is intuitive, simple, and available globally. Unfortunately, it has a clone that offers slightly different functionality in different applications.

    Font Panel—Applications can now take advantage of a global Mac OS X font panel. This eliminates the myriad of font-choosing devices (menus, windows, and so on) previously employed in the OS.

    Volume and Brightness—Although available to portable users under Mac OS 8/9 for several years, Mac OS X 10.1 now extends global display controls to all Macintosh systems.

Apple's embracement of OS-wide component technologies bodes well for the operating system from the perspective of both a user and a developer.

Open/Save Dialog Boxes

Open and Save dialog boxes now feature the Mac OS X column display, which is also used in one of the Finder's new window views. In addition, these dialogs also make much better use of the Favorites feature that was introduced and never really promoted in earlier versions of the Mac OS.

Favorites are preferred folders that are added to quick navigation menus in the Finder and in the Open/Save dialog boxes. You'll learn more about how to add to your Favorites in Chapter 4.

Open

When opening a document from within an application, you'll see a window similar to the one in Figure 3.20.

Figure 3.20 The default Open dialog box is shown here.

At the top of the window is a pop-up menu labeled From. This menu lists all your Favorite folders, recently visited folders, as well as the Desktop, Home directory, and iDisk folders. If you choose something from your iDisk, your system might pause briefly while the iDisk is automatically mounted.

The center of the window contains the column file navigation view. Clicking on a folder or disk in one of the columns will reveal the contents of that object in the column to the right. If the folder you're choosing is in the rightmost column already, it will be shifted to the left. A scrollbar at the bottom of the window lets you quickly move back through the path you chose to reach your file. If your folders or disks have custom icons, you can easily differentiate between them and normal files by the right-pointing arrow following each object you can move into.

Alternatively, you can type a path to locate your file into the Go to: field. Common pathnames are covered in Table 4.1. Another convenient shortcut is to drag a file from a finder window into the Open dialog box. The file will immediately be highlighted in the window. To open the selected file, click Open or double-click the filename in the window.

When navigating the file system, you can add the current folder to your favorite folder list by clicking the Add To Favorites button.

TIP

The Open and Save dialog boxes are now resizable. When resized, additional columns will be added to the column navigation view, making navigation even easier.

Save

The new style of file system navigation also carries over to the Save dialog box, which, as seen in Figure 3.21, has changed even more.

Figure 3.21 The default save window is teensy.

In its default minimal state, the Save dialog sheet contains only a Save as field for a filename and a Where pop-up menu that shows common folders (the same as the pop-up list in the Open dialog box). If you want to save the document in one of your recently visited or favorite folders, you're saved the task of navigating your drive.

If the location to which you want to save your files isn't in the pop-up menu, you can click the disclosure push button to the right of the pop-up menu. The dialog box will expand to a full-sized save box, shown in Figure 3.22.

Figure 3.22 The Save dialog has an expanded view as well.

The file navigation within the Save dialog box works identically to the Open dialog. You can add the current folder to your Favorites list by clicking the Add to Favorites button. Clicking New Folder creates a new folder in the current folder.

When you've located the folder in which you want to save your file and entered a name in the Save as field, click the Save button to save the file.

One interesting new feature here is the Hide Extension check box. Clicking this will display the file without an added file extension. In the case of Figure 3.22, it would remove the.rtf from the end of the filename. This is the way Macintosh users are used to seeing files, and might make some people more comfortable in the new operating system. If you prefer to see the entire filename, including the extension, leave this box unchecked.

Color Picker

Mac OS X has two different color choosing devices: one that works with Cocoa applications and another that works with Carbon. Presumably these will merge over time, but for now, they represent two vastly different methods of picking colors.

Cocoa Colors

The Cocoa color picker is shown in Figure 3.23. This appears in applications such as TextEdit and Stickies—both written using the Cocoa API.

Figure 3.23 The Cocoa color chooser is shown here.

Along the top of the window are various color selection methods. These range from RGB sliders to a spectrum selection window. There are three features common to all the color selection methods:

  • Color Well—At the bottom left of the window is a color well. Some applications support dragging colors directly from this rectangle to the object that should take on the color.

  • Magnifying Glass—The magnifying glass can be used to choose a color from any window or location on the screen, even the menu bar.

  • Favorite Colors—To the right of the magnifying glass is a favorite colors palette that you can use to store commonly used colors. Drag them from the color well into any of the palette squares to store them.

After choosing the color you want to use, click the Apply button. The color chooser will not close after applying—you will need to click the window's close button.

Carbon Colors

The Carbon application color chooser functions similarly to the Cocoa version, but has a vastly different appearance. A sample of the Carbon color picker is displayed in Figure 3.24.

Figure 3.24 The Carbon color chooser is similar, but is laid out differently from the Cocoa version.

Instead of placing the selection methods along the top, the available selectors are shown down the left side of the window. Each selector includes two color wells: one that displays the original color before changes were made, and the new color, showing your current color choice. You can quickly revert to the original color by clicking in the original color well.

To choose a color from anywhere on the screen, hold down Option while moving your cursor across the screen. The mouse pointer will change to an eyedropper and function much like the magnifying glass in the Cocoa chooser.

Click Okay after you have found the color you want to use.

TIP

Try using the eyedropper within the Crayon color picker. If you position the eyedropper near the edges of the crayons, the system will show you "-ish" versions of the colors. Not terrifically useful, but definitely amusing.

Font Panel

The Mac OS X Font panel is a new method of choosing and organizing fonts on your system. Gone is the need for third-party utilities such as Suitcase. Unfortunately, just because the font panel exists, that doesn't mean that applications use it.

The font panel will be covered in detail in Chapter 10. For now, let's take a look a few of its modes of operation. By default, the Font Panel appears looking similar to that of Figure 3.25.

Figure 3.25 The font panel displays available font families, typefaces, and sizes in a single floating window.

You can easily see the available font families, the typefaces, and sizes. Much like the Finder's column navigation, you start at the left and work your way to the right. Each choice in a column limits the choices in the next column, and so on. If you want more control over the fonts, just drag the bottom-right color of the window to expand it. A new column, Collections, will appear. Collections are user-customizable font sets that help you keep track of the hundreds of available system fonts.

If, on the other hand, the font panel is too bulky for your tastes, resize the window into its smallest possible form. It will take on a new look, seen in Figure 3.26. Each of the columns is reduced to a single pop-up menu, conveying a maximum amount of information in a minimum amount of space.

Figure 3.26 When resized, the font panel adjusts its appearance accordingly.

Again, there are many other new features of the font panel. If you're interested in learning more now, turn to Chapter 11, "Additional System Components."

Volume and Brightness

Finally, those volume controls on your Apple keyboard are useful! Mac OS X 10.1 includes support for adjusting screen brightness and system volume. Although this is not overly exciting in and of itself, Apple's implementation is beyond elegant.

Pushing the sound keys on your keyboard will display a transparent overlay of the current sound level on your screen, as seen in Figure 3.27.

Figure 3.27 Users can now adjust volume and brightness from their keyboard.

The keyboard brightness controls work in much the same way—providing instant access to your screen settings. Although these keys are not labeled on desktop keyboards, the dim/brighten controls are accessible by pressing F14 and F15, respectively.

This is an excellent example of the attention to detail given to Mac OS X 10.1. Even though the operating system is still in its infancy, Apple is now adding features above and beyond what we've ever had in Mac OS before.

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