Mac Basics - An Introduction to your Mac

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How to Start Up Your Mac  

Before you can use your Mac, you obviously have to start it up. Here’s the simple way to start up your Mac — the way you’ll probably do it 99 percent of the time: Press the power button.

As soon as you press the power button, your Mac plays a musical chime to let you know that it’s starting up. Your computer displays a big gray Apple logo on the screen to let you know that the computer is working.

When you unpack your Mac and turn it on for the very first time, it will ask that you type your name and make up a password to create an account for using your Mac. To guide you through the process of setting up a Mac for the first time, a special program called the Setup Assistant runs: it asks for information, such as the current time zone, the current date, and whether you want to transfer files and programs from another Mac to your newer one. You also have to go through this procedure if you reinstall your operating system. Normally, you need to run through this initial procedure only once. The most important part of this initial procedure is remembering the password you chose because you’ll need this password to log into your account or install new software. After the operating system loads, you can start using your computer. 


Restart, Sleep and Shut Down Your Macbook Pro  

Sleep, Restart, and Shut Down are the macOS commands that you use when you need to take care of business away from your computer. Each of these options produces a different reaction from your Mac. All three appear on the friendly Apple menu at the top-left corner of your Desktop.

Sleep: Sleep is a power-saving mode that allows you to quickly return to your work later. (Waking your laptop up from Sleep mode is much faster than booting or restarting it, and Sleep mode can conserve battery power on your MacBook.) Depending on the settings that you choose in System Preferences, your MacBook can power-down the monitor and spin-down the hard drives to save wear and tear on your hardware. You can set macOS to automatically enter Sleep mode after a certain amount of trackpad and keyboard inactivity.

To awaken your slumbering supercomputer, just poke the trackpad or press any key on the keyboard. And talk about convenience: Savvy MacBook owners like you can put their laptops to sleep by simply closing the computer, and wake the beast by opening it back up again.

Restart: Use Restart if your MacBook has suddenly decided to work “outside the box” and begins acting strangely — for instance, if your Universal Serial Bus (USB) ports suddenly lock up or your FireWire drive no longer responds. Naturally, you first need to save any work that’s open (unless your computer has locked up altogether).

You also elect to restart macOS when you switch start-up volumes, or switch a MacBook to a Windows partition using Boot Camp. (Some applications and Apple software updates require a restart after you install them.)

Shut Down: When you’re done with your MacBook for the time being, use the Shut Down option. Well-behaved Mac applications automatically prompt you to save any changes that you’ve made to open documents before the computer actually turns itself off.
If you’ve configured your MacBook to disable automatic login, you can shut down macOS from the login screen as well.

Besides the Apple menu command, all MacBooks have a Power key on the keyboard that you can press to display a dialog with Sleep, Restart, and Shut Down buttons. If you change your mind and decide to tie up loose ends before you leave, click the Cancel button to return to macOS.

The new Resume feature comes into play when you log out, restart, or shut down your Mac. Click the Reopen Windows When Logging Back In check box to enable it, and macOS automatically restores the state of your desktop the next time you turn on your Mac, including all your open windows and selections!

Resume also works with individual applications; for example, when you quit Preview, macOS saves the current state of that application’s workspace. When you launch Preview again, it displays the windows you were viewing, documents and all. (Note that an application has to be written specifically for Lion to support Resume.)


How to Use Your Mac’s Trackpad 

To control your Mac, you need to use the trackpad and the keyboard on your Macbook pro. You can use the mouse (trackpad) to choose commands, manipulate items on the screen, or create data, such as text or pictures. The main purpose of the mouse is to move a pointer on the screen, which tells the computer, “See what I’m pointing at right now? That’s what I want to select.”

A mouse typically has one button on the left and one on the right. To select an item on the screen, you must move the mouse to point at that item and then press and release (click) the left mouse button.

If you know how to point and click, double-click, and point and drag the mouse, you’ve mastered the basics of controlling your Mac with a mouse.

  • Clicking (also called single-clicking): Move the mouse and press the left mouse button. Clicking is the most common activity with a mouse.
  • Double-clicking: If you point at something and click the left mouse button twice in rapid succession (that is, you double-click it), you can often select an item and open it at the same time.
  • Dragging: When you drag, you use your mouse to point at an item on the screen, hold down the left mouse button, move the mouse, and then release the left mouse button. Dragging is often used to move items on the screen.

Some older mice (as well as some older laptop Mac computers) do not have a right mouse button. To simulate a right-click, hold down the Control key and click the lone mouse button (or hold down the Control key and click the single trackpad button on laptop Mac computers).



How to use Multi-Touch gestures 

Tap, scroll, pinch, and swipe your way through your Mac with Multi-Touch gestures, directly controlling what’s on your screen in a more fluid, natural, and intuitive way.

Tip: The Trackpad or Mouse panes of System Preferences contains preview movie clips for each gesture.

Learn about the Multi-Touch gestures: These gestures can be performed on a portable Mac's Multi-Touch trackpad, on a Magic Trackpad, or on a Magic Mouse.

MacOS offers more fluid and realistic gesture responses, including rubber-band scrolling, page and image zoom, and full-screen swiping. And with the new animations, gestures look and feel more responsive and natural.


Note: Scroll bars will only appear when you are scrolling. When not scrolling, they disappear to not get in the way of your content. You can change this behavior in the General pane of System Preferences, if desired.

  • Magic Trackpad – Two finger swipe in the direction you want to move your content.  For example, a two finger swipe up will make your content move up. Two finger swipe left will make your content move to the left.

Tip: Flick your fingers at the end of the swipe to generate momentum with your scroll.

Note: Rubber-banding animations will spring back content to let you know that you are at the end of your content.

Smart Zoom

  • Magic Trackpad – Double-tap with two fingers.  Double-tap again to return. For example, Double-tap on the column of a web page and Safari will zoom in on that column. Double-tap again to zoom out.

Pinch to zoom

Tip: Rubber-banding animations will spring back content to indicate that you are at your zoom limit.

  • Pinch out to zoom in. For example, put your thumb and index finger together and have them touch the surface of your trackpad. Glide them apart with continuous contact on the surface of your Trackpad.

  • Pinch in to zoom out. For example, put your thumb and index finger apart while touching the surface of your trackpad. Glide them toward each other with continuous contact on the surface of your Trackpad.

Swipe to navigate

Web pages in Safari, documents in Preview and more, just like thumbing a page in a book. Note: If there is horizontal content to scroll, this gesture will first scrolls to the end of content and then it will move to the next page.

  • Trackpad – A horizontal two finger swipe will show the next or previous page. 

Tip: Once you pass the rubber-band threshold, lift your fingers to change page.  Also you can flick your fingers at the end of the swipe for momentum.

Mission Control

Three finger swipe up on your Trackpad, or two finger double-tap on your Magic Mouse.


While viewing Mission Control you will have these additional gestures:

Spread a cluster of Application windows or enlarge a single window  

  • Magic Trackpad – Two finger swipe up.

Tip: Press the spacebar to Quick Look a highlighted window.

Move to the space on your left or right, including applications in full-screen view mode:

  • Magic Trackpad – Three finger swipe to the right or left.

Exit Mission Control:

  • Magic Trackpad – Three finger swipe down.

Swipe between full screen apps and spaces

Three finger horizontal swipe on your Trackpad, or two finger horizontal swipe on your Magic Mouse.

To move to the full screen app or space on the left:

  • Magic Trackpad – Three finger swipe to the right.

To move to the full screen app or space on the right:

  • Magic Trackpad – Three finger swipe to the left.

View Launchpad

Thumb and three finger pinch in your Trackpad, or click the Launchpad icon on the Dock.

While viewing Launchpad, you can use these additional gestures:

  • Swipe to the next Launchpad (if present)
  • Magic Trackpad – Two finger horizontal swipe.
  • Exit Launchpad – Thumb and three finger pinch in on your Trackpad.

App Exposé

Three finger swipe down on your Trackpad will bring the app you are in into App Exposé.

Previews of all windows of your app will be presented, regardless of the space they reside on.

Note: App windows minimized on the Dock will be shown as smaller previews below a thin line on the lower third of your screen.

  • Click on the window you would like to bring to the front.

Tip: Press the spacebar to Quick Look a highlighted window. Press the spacebar again to exit Quick Look.

Note: If you click on a window that resides on another space, you will be moved to that space when you click on it.

  • Exit App Exposé – Three finger swipe up.

Show Desktop

Thumb and three fingers pinch out on your Trackpad to instantly show your desktop.



Three finger tap on your Trackpad will do a lookup on the word you have under your cursor or highlighted.

The lookup will be a pop-up overlay that will show these details:

  • Dictionary – It will show a snippet of the definition of the word.

Tip: Click "Dictionary" to open the app Dictionary to see the full definition.

  • Thesaurus – If present, it will show a snippet of the synonyms to the word highlighted.

Tip: Click "Thesaurus" to open the Thesaurus section of the Dictionary app.

  • Apple – If present, it will show the Apple glossary term for the word highlighted.

Tip: Click "Apple" to open the Apple section of the Dictionary app.

  • Wikipedia – If present it will show a snippet of Wikipedia articles pertaining to the highlighted word.

Tip: Click "Wikipedia" to open the Wikipedia section of the Dictionary app.

Notification Center

Two finger swipe to the left from the right edge of the trackpad.

  • Place two fingers on the right edge of the trackpad and drag them toward the center to reveal Notification center.
  • To hide Notification center, drag two fingers from the center of the trackpad to the right edge.

Show Safari tabs

When Safari has multiple tabs open and content is being view at Actual Size (-0), a two finger pinch in will show Safari tabs with live content.


When showing Safari tabs, two-fingered swipes to the left or right will scroll through the Safari tabs.

Two finger pinch out will open the centered Safari tab or you can single finger click a Safari tab to open it.


The Dock: Your favorite apps, documents, and more 

The Dock is the bar of icons that sits at the bottom or side of your screen. It provides easy access to many of the apps that come with your Mac (like Mail, Safari, and Messages). You can add your own apps, documents and folders to the Dock, too. 


To use an item in the Dock, click its icon. If you want to listen to some music, click the iTunes icon (the icon with music notes) to open iTunes. To check your email, click the Mail icon (it looks like a stamp).

When an application is open, the Dock displays an illuminated dash beneath the application's icon. To make any currently running application the active one, click its icon in the Dock.  

Organizing the Dock

The Dock keeps apps on its left side. Folders, documents, and minimized windows are kept on the right side of the Dock. If you look closely, you can see a vertical separator line that separates these two sides.

If you want to rearrange where an icon appears on the Dock, just drag it to another location in the Dock. The Trash and the Finder are special items, so they are always present at each end of the Dock. 

Adding and removing Dock items

If you want to add an application to the Dock, click the Launchpad icon in the Dock. Then, drag an app icon from the Launchpad to the Dock. The icons in the Dock move aside to make room for the new item. If you want to add a file or folder to the Dock, just drag its icon from any Finder window (or the desktop) and drop it on the Dock.

To remove an item from the Dock, drag its icon an inch or more off the Dock and wait a couple seconds. Then release the icon and it disappears in a poof of smoke. 

Removing an item from the Dock doesn't permanently remove it from your computer. If you want that item back in the Dock, locate the app, file, or folder in the Finder or Launchpad, and simply drag it back into the Dock. 

Minimizing Windows

If you minimize a window (click the round, yellow button in the upper-left corner of any window), the window is pulled down into the Dock. It's held there until you click its icon to bring up the window again.



You can also choose how to display folders in the Dock. You can either view them as a folder icon, or as a stack.

Stacks display a folder's contents as a fan or grid when you click them in the Dock. Learn more about Stacks here. 

The Trash

The Dock includes the Trash (its icon looks like a waste basket). Drag any documents you no longer want to the Trash to get rid of them. 

When you move items to the Trash, you haven't completely deleted them. You can click the Trash icon in the Dock to see what it contains. When you're ready to permanently delete files or folders that you've dragged to the Trash, click and hold the Trash icon in the Dock and choose Empty Trash.


If you drag a disk or other mounted volume to the Trash, it changes to an eject icon to let you know that this action ejects or removes the item rather than erasing or deleting it. 


If you don't see the Dock

You can also set the Dock so that it isn't visible until you need it. If you don't see the dock, try moving your pointer to the bottom or side of your screen to see if it appears. To turn Dock hiding on or off, choose Dock > Turn Hiding On or Turn Hiding Off from the Apple () menu.


Your Mac Desktop 

The desktop is the space where you see file, folder, and application windows. Learn about your desktop and how to customize it.

Elements of the Desktop

  1. Apple menu () - Access Software Update, System Preferences, Sleep, Shut Down, and more.
  2. Application menu - Contains menus for the application you're currently using. The name of the application appears in bold next to the Apple menu.
  3. Menu bar - Contains the Apple menu, active application menu, status menus, menu bar extras, Spotlight icon, and Notification Center.
  4. Status menu - Shows the date and time, status of your computer, or gives you quick access to certain features—for example, you can quickly turn on Wi-Fi, turn off Bluetooth, or mute your computer's volume.
  5. Spotlight icon - Click it to bring up the Spotlight search field, where you can search for anything on your Mac.
  6. Notification Center icon - Click it to view Notification Center, which consolidates your notifications from Messages, Calendar, Mail, Reminders, and third-party apps.
  7. Desktop - This is where your applications' windows will appear. You can add more desktops using Mission Control.
  8. The Dock - Quick access to your most frequently used applications, folders, and files. With a single click the application, folder, or file opens. 

Organize your desktop files and folder

If you download and create files on your desktop, it may become cluttered after some time. You can organize your desktop files by grouping them into folders on your desktop. Just select the items you want to group, Control-click one of the selected items, and then choose "New Folder with Selection" from the shortcut menu. Then enter a name for the folder. All of the selected files will be grouped in the new folder. 

Customize your desktop


You can change the size of icons, arrange them in a grid, and set other preferences for items on your desktop by changing the view options on your desktop. To change your desktop view options, click the desktop, and then choose View > Show View Options from menu bar. You can try the different settings to see which ones you like—you will immediately see the effects of your changes. 

Change your background

You can change the picture that's displayed on your Mac's desktop. You can choose one of the desktop pictures that comes with your Mac, a solid color, or one of your own pictures.

  1. Click the System Preferences icon in the Dock.
  2. Click Desktop & Screen Saver, and then click Desktop.
  3. To select the kind of desktop picture you want to use, do one of the following:
    • To use an image that come with your Mac, select a folder under the Apple section.
    • To use a solid color, select "Solid Colors" under the Apple section.
    • To use your own picture, select the Picture folder under "Folders," if the picture you want is stored in your Pictures folder. If your image is in another folder, click the Add button (+), then find and select the folder that your picture is in. Then, click Choose.
  4. Select the picture you want in the box on the right.

Decide what's displayed on your Desktop

You use Finder preferences to choose what type of items appear on your desktop.

  1. Click the Desktop.
  2. Choose Finder > Preferences, then click General.
  3. In the "Show these items on the desktop" section, select the items you want to appear on your desktop, such as hard disks and external disks. 


Finder Windows 

Windows are a ubiquitous part of using a Mac. When you open a folder, you see a window. When you write a letter, the document that you’re working on appears in a window. When you browse the Internet, web pages appear in a window . . . and so on.

For the most part, windows are windows from program to program. You’ll probably notice that some programs (Adobe Photoshop or Microsoft Word, for example) take liberties with windows by adding features such as custom toolbars or textual information (such as zoom percentage or file size) that may appear around the edges of the document window.

Don’t let it bug you; that extra fluff is just window dressing (pun intended). Maintaining the window metaphor, many information windows display different kinds of information in different panes, or discrete sections within the window.

The following list gives you a look at the main features of a typical Finder window.


If your windows don’t look exactly like the one shown, don’t be concerned. You can make your windows look and feel any way you like. Moving and resizing windows are easy tasks.

Meanwhile, here’s what you see on the toolbar: (clockwise from top left):

  • Close, Minimize, and Zoom buttons: Shut ’em, shrink ’em, and grow ’em.
  • View buttons: Choose among four exciting views of your window: Icon, List, Column, and Cover Flow.
  • Arrange menu: Click this little doohickey to arrange this window’s icons by Name, Kind, Application, Date Modified, Date Created, Date Last Opened, Date Added, Size, or Tags. Or, of course, by None, which is the default.
  • Action menu: This button is really a pop-up menu of commands you can apply to currently selected items in the Finder window or on the Desktop. (These are generally the same commands you’d see in the Contextual menu if you right-clicked or Control-clicked the same items.)
  • Window title: Shows the name of the window.
    Command-click the name of the window to see a pop-up menu with the complete path to this folder (try it). This tip applies to most windows you’ll encounter, not just Finder windows. So Command-click a window’s title, and you’ll usually see the path to its enclosing folder on your disk.
    You can also have the path displayed at the bottom of every Finder window by choosing View→Show Path Bar, as shown in the active window (Bob).
  • Share menu: Another button that’s actually a menu; click it to share selected files or folders via email, Messages, or AirDrop.
  • Tags menu: Yet another button/menu; click it to assign a tag to the selected files or folders.
  • Search field: Type a string of characters here, and macOS digs into your system to find items that match by filename or document contents (yes, words within documents).
  • Scroll bars: Use the scroll bars for moving around a window.
  • Sidebar: Frequently used items live here.
  • Window Resizer: This helpful little visual cue appears when you hover over an edge or corner of a window, or over the dividing line between two panes in the same window (the Sidebar and main area of Finder windows, for example). If you click a Resizer, you can then drag the edge, corner, or dividing line to resize the window or pane.
  • Forward and Back buttons: These buttons take you to the next or previous folder displayed in this particular window.
    If you’re familiar with web browsers, the Forward and Back buttons in the Finder work the same way. The first time you open a window, neither button is active. But as you navigate from folder to folder, these buttons remember your breadcrumb trail so you can quickly traverse backward or forward, window by window. You can even navigate this way from the keyboard by using the shortcuts Command+[ for Back and Command+] for Forward.
    The Forward and Back buttons remember only the other folders you’ve visited that appear in that open window. If you’ve set a Finder Preference so that a folder always opens in a new window — or if you forced a folder to open in a new window, which I describe in a bit — the Forward and Back buttons won’t work.
    You have to use the modern, macOS–style window option, which uses a single window, or the buttons are useless.


Searching your Mac with Spotlight 

Spotlight helps you quickly find anything on your Mac, including documents, emails, apps, songs, contacts, and more. It also provides Spotlight Suggestions from sources like Wikipedia, Bing, Maps, news, and iTunes so you can get more information right in Spotlight. Search results have rich, interactive previews so you can play song previews, get directions, send email, make phone calls, and more from results.

Note:   Spotlight Suggestions may not be available in all regions.

  1. Click the Spotlight icon  in the menu bar, or Press Command (⌘)-Space bar.
  2. Enter your search. Results appear as you type; you don’t need to press Return.
    Here are some of the items you can search for:
    • Items on your Mac, such as documents, emails, apps, songs, movies, contacts, events, and reminders.
    • Items in the iTunes Store, iBooks Store, or App Store, such as songs, albums, movies, TV shows, books, and apps.
    • Locations near you, such as stores, restaurants, parks, and landmarks.
    • Wikipedia entries for people, places, and more.
    • Movies playing in theaters near you.
    • News for current events.
  3. Note:   If you turn off Spotlight Suggestions and Bing Web Searches, Spotlight searches only for items on your Mac.

  4. Click a search result to preview it in Spotlight. You can also use the arrow keys to scroll through the results.
    • Perform actions in result previews: Click items or links in the previews.
      For example, to preview a song from an album on iTunes, click the Play button next to the song. Or, to get tickets for a movie playing near you, click the movie times.
    • Open a result: Double-click the result, or select it, then press Return.
    • See all results from your Mac in the Finder: Scroll down to the bottom of the results list, then double-click Show all in Finder.

With Spotlight, you can also get unit and currency conversions, quickly open apps, and get calculations and definitions.

  • Get currency and unit conversions: Convert dollars to euros, feet to meters, pounds to kilograms, even hectares to acres. Enter the units or currency you want to convert, such as 100 dollars. The top result shows the conversions.
  • Open an app: Enter the app’s name in Spotlight, then press Return.
    Spotlight learns from your searches, so if you enter “s” and open Safari, the next time you enter “s,” Safari is the top result.
  • Get a calculation: Enter a mathematical expression in Spotlight, such as 956*23.94.
  • Get a definition: Enter a word or phrase, then click the result below Definition.

Note:   If you deselected categories in the Search Results pane of Spotlight preferences, you won’t see those results from those categories in Spotlight. If you used the Privacy pane of Spotlight preferences to exclude any folders or disks from searches, Spotlight results won’t include items in those folders and disks


Connecting your Mac to the Internet 

There are several ways to get connected to the Internet so that you can browse the web, download updates, or play online games.


Getting Connected

How you connect to the Internet depends on where you are. For example, your work may offer an ethernet connection for your computer. When you're using your notebook computer at a café, you might use a Wi-Fi (wireless) connection.

Using Ethernet 

If your Internet Service Provider (ISP) provides an Ethernet connection (wired) to the Internet, you can connect this to the Ethernet port on your Mac. Look for a port on your Mac labeled with this symbol: If your Mac doesn't include a built-in Ethernet port, you can use an adapter to connect the Ethernet cable to the USB or Thunderbolt port on your computer.

Once you connect the Ethernet cable, macOS automatically configures your connection using DHCP. If your Internet connection doesn't work, check with your ISP or network provider to see if additional configuration is needed, such as for a PPoE connection.

If you have a wireless (Wi-Fi) router, such as an AirPort base station, you may want to connect the ISP Ethernet cable to your router instead. See the next section for information on connecting your Mac using Wi-Fi. 

Using Wi-Fi

If you have a Wi-Fi network available, use these steps to tell your Mac to join it:

  1. Click the Wi-Fi menu icon  and select your Wi-Fi network from the list of available networks.
  2. If prompted, enter the password for your Wi-Fi network.
  3. Check "Remember this network" to have your Mac automatically join your home network. 


Using Mission Control to switch between apps or spaces 

Mission Control zooms out beyond your desktop to give you an easy way to switch between apps, spaces, and windows.

Mission Control

Mission Control is the quick way to see everything that's currently open on your Mac. To use Mission Control, do one of the following:

  • Swipe up with three or four fingers on your Trackpad
  • Double-tap the surface of your Magic Mouse with two fingers
  • Click the Mission Control icon in the Dock or Launchpad
  • On an Apple keyboard, press the Mission Control key

In Mission Control, all of your open windows and spaces are visible, grouped by app.


Organize your workspace with Spaces

A space is the desktop area you normally see on your display. With the Spaces feature of Mission Control, you can create multiple desktop areas to keep things organized. When you enter Mission Control, all of your spaces appear along the top of your screen. The desktop you're currently using is shown below the row of spaces.


Assign apps and windows to spaces

To move an app window to another space, drag it from your current desktop to the space at the top of the screen. You can also drag an app icon to move all of its windows to that space. When you use an app window in Full Screen mode, it automatically becomes its own space.


Switch between spaces 

To switch between spaces do one of the following:

  • Enter Mission Control and click the space you want at the top of the Mission Control window
  • Swipe three or four fingers left or right across your trackpad to move to the previous or next space
  • Press Control-Right Arrow or Control-Left Arrow on your keyboard to move through your current spaces

When a window you're looking for resides in a specific space, click the related space at the top of the Mission Control window to switch spaces. Then click the window to bring it to the front of your view.

Add Spaces

To create additional spaces, open Mission Control and move your pointer to the upper-right corner of your screen. Click the Add Space (+) button that appears.


You can also drag an app's icon to the Add Space button to quickly create a space containing all of an app's windows.

Close Spaces

To remove a space you don't want anymore, move your pointer over that space at the top of the Mission Control window. Press the Option key on your keyboard, then click the close button (X) that appears next to any space you want to remove. Any windows currently in that space are automatically moved to another space that's still open.


Additional Information:

You can change the buttons and gestures used with Mission Control from the Trackpad and Mouse panes in System Preferences. You can also see movies that demonstrate how to use these gestures from these same panes.


How to Install Applications On a Mac: Everything You Need to Know 

Installing software on a Mac is  different from installing software on Windows. There isn’t just one way to install applications on a Mac, either — there are several different ways, depending on the application you want to install.

New Mac users will likely find themselves asking a number of questions: Why isn’t every application on the Mac App Store? What is a DMG file, and why do I have to drag-and-drop the app’s icon after opening it?

Mac App Store

Recent versions of macOS include the Mac App Store, inspired by the iPhone and iPad App Store. Just open the App Store application included with your Mac and you can search for and install apps. Apps automatically update through here, just as they do on iPhone and iPad. For example, Apple’s iWork apps and even new versions of macOS arrive through the Mac App Store. Any apps you purchase from here are also tied to your Apple ID, so you can install them on your other Macs.

The Mac App Store can be very convenient. However, not all the apps you want are available in the Mac App Store.

DMG Files

Visit a Mac application’s website to directly download the application from the developer and you’ll probably get a DMG file. This is how Mac applications have traditionally been distributed.

A DMG file is a disk image, which is sort of like an archive file. When you download one, you can double-click it to “mount” it, allowing you to extract the application from inside it.

For example, let’s say you wanted to install Google Chrome on your Mac. You’d visit Google’s Chrome download page and download the file — it would be a DMG file. You’d then double-click the DMG file and a window would appear with the Application and a link to your Applications folder.

If you look closely, you’ll see that the DMG file is mounted under Devices in the finder. The window with the the application icon is basically just a Finder (file browser) window that contains several things — the application file (here, Google Chrome), a link to the Applications folder on your computer, and some sort of background image that tells you to drag and drop the icon.

Here, you’d simply drag the application icon to the Applications folder. This copies the application from inside the DMG file to the Applications folder on your computer. This doesn’t happen automatically because the DMG file is just a disk image; it doesn’t have permission to install an app on your computer. You must choose to do that yourself.


After the app is dragged to your Applications folder, you can run it normally — from the Finder, Launchpad, Spotlight, dock, or anything else. The first time you open a downloaded application, you’ll see a warning. Agree to open the file and you won’t see the warning again.

After the app is installed, you don’t need the DMG file anymore. You can “eject” the disk image by clicking the Eject button under Devices in the finder or Command-clicking its desktop icon and selecting Eject. You can then delete the DMG file by moving it to the Trash.

Application Files

Some developers may not use DMG files. You may end up downloading an Application file itself. In this case, you can drag-and-drop the application file from your Downloads folder to the Applications folder. It will then be installed just like an app that was distributed in a DMG file.

You don’t actually have to install apps to your Applications folder. In fact, you can just place an app in any folder and double-click the application to launch it. Applications are traditionally stored in the Applications folder so they’re organized and located in a single place.


Some applications, including Microsoft Office, have Windows-like installers. For example, if you want to install the Google Voice and Video plug-in so you can make calls from Gmail and participate in Google Hangouts, you’ll first need to open a DMG file and then double-click the installer, which is a PKG file.

The installer can do additional things that can’t be accomplished just with drag and drop, such as installing system services and placing files elsewhere on the system.



When downloading an app from outside the Mac App Store, the app must be signed by an “identified developer” before it will run — at least by default. This helps protect average users from running a potentially malicious application. This application-signing feature is known as Gatekeeper.

You may run a downloaded application and see a warning saying the application “is damaged and shouldn’t be opened.” Your Mac will say “you should move it to the trash.” This is likely because the application wasn’t signed by its developer, but could also be because a signed application file was tampered with or corrupted during a download process.

To disable Gatekeeper, open the System Preferences window — click the Apple icon at the top-left corner of your screen or click the System Preferences icon on your dock — and click the Security & Privacy icon. Click the lock icon, enter your password, and set the “Allow apps downloaded from” option to “Anywhere.” This will reduce your security as it allows unsigned apps to run, so be sure you know what you’re doing if you use this option.


How to Uninstall Mac Applications 

Uninstalling applications from your Mac is probably the easiest method of removing apps from any operating system, and it’s far easier on a Mac than anything you’ll encounter in the Windows world. First up we’ll cover the traditional method of just deleting the application. Then we’ll show you a new, easier way.

How to Uninstall Applications the Classic Way

This is the same classic method that has been around since the dawn of the Mac. All you need to do is select and delete the application:

  • Navigate to /Applications and select the app you want to uninstall
  • Either drag the application icon to the Trash, or right-click and select “Move to Trash”
  • Right-click on the Trash can and select “Empty Trash”

If you prefer keystrokes, you can also just select the app icon and then hit Command+Delete to move the app to Trash, then empty the Trash and the app will be removed. Now let’s move onto another method, which makes uninstalling apps as simple as the iPhone:

Uninstalling Apps from the Mac App Store through Launchpad

Despite the already incredibly simple app uninstall process on a Mac, Lion and Mountain Lion onward makes it even easier by taking the iOS method. This works on apps installed through the Mac App Store, but not for apps installed manually through third party developers

  • Open LaunchPad
  • Click and hold on the icon of the app you want to uninstall
  • When the app icon starts to jiggle, click on the black (X) icon that appears
  • Click on “Delete” to confirm the removal of the app

You can also use the the drag-to-Trash method in macOS, but LaunchPad is quickest for apps installed through the App Store.


How to take a screenshot on your Mac 

You can take screenshots of your whole screen or just part of it. Screenshots are saved automatically as .png files on your desktop. 

Take a screenshot of your whole screen

  1. Press Command ()-Shift-3.
  2. Find the screenshot as a .png file on your desktop.

Take a screenshot of part of your screen

  1. Press Command ()-Shift-4. You'll see that your cursor changes to a crosshair pointer.
  2. Move the crosshair pointer to where you want to start the screenshot.
  3. Drag to select an area. To adjust the area, hold Shift, Option, or the Space bar while you drag.
  4. When you've selected the area you want, release your mouse or trackpad button. Or to cancel, press Escape (esc).
  5. Find the screenshot as a .png file on your desktop.

Take a screenshot of a window

  1. Press Command ()-Shift-4. You'll see that your cursor changes to a camera pointer.
  2. Press the Space bar.
  3. Move the camera pointer over the window to highlight it.
  4. Click your mouse or trackpad. Or to cancel, press Escape (esc) before you click.
  5. Find the screenshot as a .png file on your desktop.

This works with open Finder windows and most application windows.

Take a screenshot of a menu

  1. Click the menu to reveal its contents.
  2. Press Command ()-Shift-4.
  3. Drag the crosshair pointer over the entire menu.
  4. Release your mouse or trackpad button. Or to cancel, press Escape (esc).
  5. Find the screenshot as a .png file on your desktop.

Take a screenshot of a menu without the title

  1. Click the menu to reveal its contents.
  2. Press Command ()-Shift-4.
  3. Press the Space bar. Or to cancel, press Escape (esc).
  4. Find the screenshot as a .png file on your desktop. 



Strange Looking Keys on the Mac 

If you're new to the Macintosh world, you might find the look of the Mac keyboard a bit mystifying. However, the modifier keys on a Mac keyboard allow you an even wider range of possible commands than you find on a PC keyboard, leading to greater efficiency in your applications.

To become a Mac power user, you need to know these keys at a glance. The following chart illustrates the modifier keys on both MacBook and Mac desktop keyboards. 



How to Use Your Mac’s Common Keyboard Shortcut 


If you prefer, you can use keyboard shortcuts instead of choosing menu commands to perform tasks on your Mac. To do so, you press down your keyboard’s Shift, Control, Option, and Command keys while pressing another key. Memorizing these popular Mac shortcuts save even more time.

Every program includes dozens of such keystroke shortcuts, but the following table lists the common Mac keystroke shortcuts that work in most programs.




Selects all items in the active window (icon view), all items in the column (column view), or all items in the list (list view and Cover Flow view)


Copies the selected items


Duplicates the selected item or items


Ejects the selected volume


Displays the Find controls in a new Finder window


Hides All Finder windows


Shows info for the selected item or items


Shows the view options for the active window


Displays the Connect to Server dialog


Creates an alias for the selected item


Minimizes the active window


Opens a new Finder window


Opens (or launches) the selected item


Shows the original for the selected alias


Opens a new Finder tab


Pastes items from the Clipboard


Closes the active window


Cuts the selected items


Undoes the last action (if possible)


Displays Finder Preferences dialog


Shows the active window in icon mode


Shows the active window in list mode


Shows the active window in column mode


Shows the active window in cover flow mode


Moves back to the previous Finder location


Moves forward to the next Finder location


Moves selected items to the Trash

Command+Up Arrow

Shows the enclosing folder


Cycles through windows


Shows/Hides Status bar


Displays macOS Help Viewer


Goes to your Applications folder


Goes to the top-level Computer location


Goes to the specified folder


Goes to your Home folder


Logs you out


Creates a new untitled folder in the active window


Shows/Hides Preview pane


Shows/Hides Tab bar


Goes to your Utilities folder


Deletes the contents of the Trash


Hides all windows (except Finder windows)


Opens the Inspector for the selected items


Creates a new smart folder


Shows/Hides the Finder window toolbar and sidebar


Displays the Spotlight search box

Control+Up Arrow

Displays the Mission Control screen

Control+Down Arrow

Shows all open windows for the current application using Mission Control


Hides all windows to display the Desktop using Mission Control


Displays your Dashboard widgets


Displays the contents of a file using Quick Look

Many programs display their keystroke shortcuts for different commands directly on their pull-down menus. Instead of describing the modifier keys to press by name (such as Shift), most keystroke shortcuts displayed on menus use cryptic graphics.

For example, if you hold down the Command key and then press the S key, the S key is modified to behave differently. In this case, holding down the Command key followed by the S key (abbreviated as Command+S) tells your Mac to issue its Save command.

Most shortcuts involve pressing two keys, such as Command+Q (the Quit command), but some shortcuts can involve pressing three or four keys, such as Shift+Command+3, which saves the current screen image as a file.


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