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Basic OS X Applications for Productivity and Recreation

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Mac OS X includes a number of utilities and applications that enable you to start working as soon as your Mac is up and running. The included software ranges from games to simple desk accessories. This lesson looks at many of those applications.
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Mac OS X includes a number of utilities and applications that enable you to start working as soon as your Mac is up and running. The included software ranges from games to simple desk accessories. This hour looks at many of those applications. Because they require no installation or additional setup, we recommend giving each of the following applications a try as a way to familiarize yourself with the Mac OS X desktop. In this hour, you look at

  • Calculator, Clock, and Stickies

  • Preview and TextEdit

  • Ink

  • Chess

Desk Accessories

Desk accessories used to be a special type of application located under the Apple menu. In Mac OS X, a number of included applications, such as Calculator, Clock, and Stickies, fill the roles previously played by the now-extinct desk accessories.


The Mac's system Calculator, shown in Figure 3.1, is located in the Applications folder (path: /Applications/Calculator). You can toggle between basic mode and advanced mode, which supports trigonometry functions and exponents.

Figure 3.1 The Calculator in default mode offers basic arithmetic functions.

You can operate the Calculator by clicking the buttons in the window or by using your numeric keypad. The number keys on your keypad map directly to their Calculator counterparts, and the Enter key is equivalent to clicking the equal button. The Paper Tape button opens and closes a tray to display inputs. You can print the tape by choosing Print Tape from the File menu.

Another useful, if unexpected, feature is the Calculator's Conversion function. It enables you to easily perform conversions of currency, temperature, weight, and a variety of other measurement units. Simply enter a value in the Calculator, and then choose the desired conversion type from the Convert menu. In the sheet that appears from the top of the Calculator, choose the units to convert from and those to convert to and click OK. A currency conversion is depicted in Figure 3.2.


The Clock (path: /Applications/Clock) is a digital/analog timepiece designed to fit into the Mac OS X Dock or float on the desktop as a windoid (a floating, non-editable window). By default, starting the Clock application places a clock face in the Dock.

Figure 3.2 You can update currency rates when choosing monetary units in the currency conversion sheet.

To configure the Clock application's time display, choose Preferences from the application menu. The Clock Preferences dialog box is displayed in Figure 3.3.

Figure 3.3 Configure the Clock application's display.

Choose your Clock settings based on a combination of analog, digital, and window types:

  • Analog—The default view of the Clock is the analog wall-clock style. If you like, click the Show Second Hand check box to display the Clock's second hand in addition to the minute and hour hands.

  • Digital—The digital Clock display resembles a tear-off calendar page. Both the date and time can be seen in this view. The digital display offers the options of flashing the time separators (:) each second and displaying the time in 24-hour mode.

  • Display—Finally, the Clock can be shown as an icon contained in the Dock (its default mode) or in a windoid with variable transparency, as shown in Figure 3.4. If you choose the floating window option, drag the transparency slider from left to right to change the window's transparency.

Figure 3.4 When on the desktop, the Clock floats on top of everything else.

After you make your choices, the changes take effect immediately. To automatically launch the Clock at startup, use the Login Preferences dialog (see Chapter 18 for details).


Stickies (path: /Applications/Stickies) is a digital version of a Post-it notepad. You can store quick notes, graphics, or anything you might want to access later. Stickies offer several formatting features, such as multiple fonts, colors, and embedded images. The screen displayed in Figure 3.5 is covered with sticky notes.

Stickies does not use the standard Mac OS X window. Instead, each window appears as a colored, borderless rectangle when it isn't selected. When a window is active, three controls appear:

  • Close box—The close box in the upper-left corner of the sticky note closes the active note. Closing a note erases it.

  • Maximize/Minimize—In the upper-right corner is a second box that changes the shape of the current note to best fit the text. Clicking the box toggles between two sizes for the current note.

  • Grow box—Dragging the grow box, located in the lower-right corner, dynamically shrinks or expands the window.

Figure 3.5 Sticky notes can contain any information you want.

In addition to the three visible controls, Mac OS X Stickies also supports windowshading. Double-clicking the title bar of an active window shrinks it to the size of the title bar. Double-clicking the title bar a second time returns the window to its previous size. When in windowshaded mode, the sticky note displays the top line of text from its contents in the title bar of the collapsed window.


Strangely enough, you cannot minimize Stickies into the Dock. Choosing Miniaturize Window from the Window menu will windowshade the active note.

The Stickies application has very few configuration options—using the Preferences located under the application menu, you can enable or disable confirmation of window closing. The rest of the menus enable you to customize the sticky notes that you currently have open.

Sticky notes are not, as you might think, individual documents. All the notes are contained in a single file that's written to your Library folder. The File menu in Stickies enables you to create new notes, export individual notes to text files, and print the contents of notes:

  • New Note (Command+N)—Creates a new blank note.

  • Close (Command+W)—Closes the active sticky note.

  • Save All (Command+S)—Saves changes to all notes.

  • Import Classic Stickies—Imports note files from Mac OS 8/9.

  • Import Text—Imports a text file into a new note. Text can be in plain text or rich text format (RTF). Font style information is retained if you use rich text format.

  • Export Text—Exports the active note to a text file.

  • Page Setup—Configures printer page setup.

  • Print Active Note (Command+P)—Prints the active note.

  • Print All Notes—Prints all notes.

In addition to the normal Edit menu items are two components you might not expect in a simple Post-it application: Find and Spell Checking.


Stickies also installs a service that's accessible from the Stickies application menu's Services item (Shift+Command+Y). Using the Stickies service, you can quickly store selected text from any application in a sticky note.

The Note menu offers control over the text formatting in each note, including font and text formatting and colors. Copy Font is an unusual selection that copies the font style from the current text selection (size, font face, color, and so on) so that you can easily apply it elsewhere by using the Paste Font command. Floating Window enables you to set the chosen note to float in front of all other windows, even when other applications are active. Translucent Window makes the selected note transparent so that whatever is behind it will show through. The Use as Default option enables you to apply the current color, location, and font setting as the default for new notes. Use the Note Info option to display the creation and modification dates for the active note.

What would a sticky note be without a bright-colored background? The Color menu contains the common Post-it colors for your enjoyment (yellow, blue, green, pink, purple, and gray).

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