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Computing With Bifocals
by Nancy Carroll Gravley

A column for people who remember what
the world was like before there was color.....

Getting Started With Mac OS X
April 18th, 2003

I was shocked recently to realize that OS X has been out more than two years. It sure hasn't seemed like it has been that long. I stopped to check this out after attending Macworld San Francisco in January. In a number of the sessions I attended, the speakers asked how many audience members had switched from OS 9 to some version of OS X. Usually a little more than half the audience would indicate they had changed. When the audience is a couple of thousand people, that is a lot of people who haven't changed. I know I didn't jump on the bandwagon at the beginning. In fact, I wrote a column about it.

Certainly some people can't upgrade their operating system because their computers won't handle it; but for the rest of us, it really is time to take the big plunge. I can honestly say that once I became confident about using OS X, I found that having to use OS 9 to run some specific application actually was starting to irritate me because OS X is so much more intuitive. Another reason I like it so much is the ability to make use of all the new software that only works with X.

HINT: New computer users may be unfamiliar with some of the terms used in this column. If you come across something you are unfamiliar with you may go to the Computing With Bifocals Index [Link Corrected] for help. A definition of terms displayed in the examples will be provided for new users at the end of this column.

Getting Started With OS X

New users may be intimidated by the differences in the appearance of the display screen. To help eliminate that problem I have created some OS X screen shot cheat sheets. If you want to print these, you can do so by downloading them to your own desktop. (Place your cursor on the image you want to download and hold down the button if you only have one button, or hold down the right button if you have two or more buttons. A dialogue box will appear and one of the choices will be to download or save the image. Move your cursor to that choice and release the button. The image will download to your desktop and you can then open it and print it.)

The Mac OS X Desktop

OS X Desktop Example
(Click on the image for a full sized version)

Those familiar with previous versions of Mac OS will recognize that much of this desktop is familiar. The menubar at the top of the screen looks about the same. Exceptions are further discussed below. The primary difference in the new Mac OS X desktop is the Dock, which is located to the left in the sample screen shots, but is usually located at the bottom. The Dock is a wonderful addition to the Mac. The user may drag and drop any frequently used application to the Dock, and subsequently access that application by clicking on it there. You can also put folders and files in the Dock, again making them accessible with just a click.

The Mac OS X Apple Menu

OS X Desktop Example Showing the Apple Menu
(Click on the image for a full sized version)

The Apple Menu in OS X differs from that of previous versions of the Mac OS in both looks and function. For one thing, the Apple logo is blue rather than the older multi-color design. Further, there are some distinct new additions. The user can get on the Internet and get new or updated OS X software using this menu. The Dock options included allows the user to place the Dock in a preferred location, either left, right, or at the bottom of the screen.

You can also access the Force Quit option from the Apple Menu. In previous versions of the Mac OS, a frozen application usually meant the whole system was locked up. In OS X, only the affected application is locked up, and by choosing Force Quit from the Apple Menu, the user can quit that single application without affecting the rest of the operations.

Log Out is also a new option. In OS X each user has a protected part of the hard drive that only the authorized user can access, with a password, when signing on. Only the administrator of the computer can add or delete users.

The Mac OS X Dock

OS X Desktop Example Showing the Magnification Options of The Dock
(Click on the image for a full sized version)

In this example, when I moved my cursor to the AppleWorks icon in the Dock, the item and those around it were automatically magnified. I find this is a big help when I have lots of applications stored on my Dock as noted in the example. Magnification can be turned on and off and the percent of magnification can be determined. To do so, choose Dock from the Apple Menu and then Dock Preferences where the choices are indicated.

Mac OS X Applications

OS X Desktop Example Showing an Open Application
(Click on the image for a full sized version)

This example has an AppleWorks window open. Again, the window design will look familiar to OS 9 users although the overall look is much sleeker. The red button in the top left corner of the window closes the document. The yellow button next to it will remove the document to the bottom of the dock where the user can simply click on it to work on it again. The green button will enlarge or reduce the size of the work window. The same attributes are attached to the button set that controls any open application.

New Menubar Options

OS X Desktop Example Showing Additional Menubar Examples
(Click on the image for a full sized version)

Icons on the top right side of the OS X desktop menubar give the user immediate access to other elements available on their individual computer. I can open my preferences, tell whether I am online using a modem connection, or connected to Airport using my cable hookup, or tell if my iChat capabilities are turned on. I can adjust the sound without stopping to open my preferences (I love this feature).

I hope this brief is of help and will encourage readers to take the plunge and try OS X.


For the benefit of very new users, here are a few definitions of the terms used in this column.

OS 8 or OS 9 Macintosh operating systems in use prior to the introduction of OS X
OS X Operating System X is based on a whole new concept using Unix technology.
Application A program designed for the user of the computer. AppleWorks, Photoshop, and Keynote are examples of applications.
Display The display part of a monitor, similar to a TV screen.
Toolbar A set of selectable buttons that give the user quick access to various aspects of an application.
Hard drive The storage port for all the applications on the computer and for the operating system.
Dock A utility on a Macintosh computer that stores application aliases for quick retrieval.
Folder An object that can contain multiple documents.
Pointer A small arrow or other symbol on the display screen that moves as the user moves the mouse. It allows the user to give commands by placing he tip of the arrow over the desired choice and clicking a mouse button.
Icon A graphic image that can be stored on a computer, used to represent files, folders, and applications.
AppleWorks A word processing application made specifically for Macintosh computers.
Window An enclosed, rectangular area on a display screen wherein a user can display, add, delete, or change text or graphics in a specific application..

Copies of Nancy's book Tips, Hints, and Solutions for Seasoned Beginners Using Apple Macintosh Computers With OS X are available in PDF download versions  for US$9.57 and in print version for $18.15 plus $4.00 shipping.   To view sample pages and get ordering information visit the September 14, 2004 column.

Post your comments below.
Check out Nancy's complete index of all her columns for the most complete list of tips anywhere. The list is categorized and is a great reference when you are looking for help!

A Capacious Catalog Of Computer Tips

Talking to a generation that remembers what the world was like before there was color, covers issues for people who don't care how their computer works, but rather what their computer and the internet can do for them.

Nancy has a Master's degree in Human Services Administration and prior to her retirement she worked for almost 30 years in field of mental health and mental retardation. She has been a Mac user for 11 years, and has recently developed an avocation of teaching basic computer skills in both group and one-to-one settings.

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