Launching an Application
Okay, so you know what an application is. That part is easy enough. How do you get started with one?
The most obvious way is something you’re probably already familiar with—you can double-click the application’s icon in the Finder (see Chapter 2, "The Finder and Your Files"). Just as with documents and folders, double-clicking an icon launches it, which, in this case, means activating the application and its menu items so that you can use it to accomplish something. Generally you’ll see a splash screen of some kind, which might tell you the name of the application and a little about it while it’s loading. (It’s loading information from your Mac’s hard disk into its random access memory—RAM—so that you can begin working with the application’s tools.)
Once loaded, you’ll see the application’s menu bar across the top of the display. This bar includes the application menu in the top left corner—the menu named for that particular application. You may also see a new document window, if that’s the sort of application you’re working with. In the case of an email program, you might see the email viewer; in a Web browser, you’ll see a browser window. In other words, things will get started up.
Double-clicking an application isn’t the only way to launch it. Some other options include
Click the application’s icon in the Dock. If you have an icon for that application already on the Dock (which is true of many of Apple’s built-in applications, although you can also add your own) then you simply click it once to launch it. You’ll see the icon bounce up and down (unless you’ve turned off that preference) and, once the application is started up, a small arrow will appear underneath the icon.
Choose the application in the Recent Items menu, which is accessed via the Apple menu. If the application is one of the most recent that you’ve launched, it should be accessible there in the Recent Items menu. That’s handy when you think about it, since many of us use the same applications over and over again.
And, for the sake of completeness, it’s worth saying that you can launch an application by highlighting it in the Finder (by clicking it once or by pressing the arrow keys on your keyboard while the Finder or a Finder window is active) and either pressing Command+O, Control+clicking the application icon and choosing Open from the contextual menu, or selecting File, Open in the Finder.
Once you’re done working with an application, you can quit it, which frees up RAM for other programs while forcing you to save changes to any documents that you’ve been working on. To quit an application, open its application menu (the one named Word or Safari or whatever the name of the application is) and choose Quit from that menu. In most applications, you can also press Command+Q. If you have open windows in that application, you may be asked to save your documents. Otherwise the application’s commands should disappear from the toolbar and there will no longer be a triangle under that application’s icon in the Dock. (In fact, if the application’s icon wasn’t in the Dock in the first place, it may disappear again altogether.)