In my years of using and teaching about the Mac, I’ve run across people who are quite adept in some areas, like using a particular program, but lack some core knowledge about how the computer works. It’s as if they missed the first day of a “How to Use Your Mac” class and never caught up with their homework. Ask them to build a spreadsheet in Excel and it’s no problem; ask them to locate that Excel file and they’re utterly lost.
It’s not their fault. No one ever said, “Go learn how a hierarchical file-system works.” Instead, they learned how to accomplish a specific task—build a spreadsheet, enhance a photo, read email. Files are the foundation of working within Mac OS X, and you can make them work to your advantage.
Your Home Folder
Mac OS X is filled with files and folders, but you can ignore most of them. In fact, Apple recommends you not explore the System folder and other areas that contain crucial system files. Instead, Mac OS X gives every user account a Home folder for storing personal files (Figure 4.1).
Figure 4.1 Your Home folder in the Finder
Access the Home folder in the Finder by creating a new window (choose File > New Finder Window, or press Command-N) or by choosing Go > Home (Command-Shift-H). You can also click your account name in the sidebar of any Finder window.
While the Desktop, Documents, Movies, Music, and Pictures folders can hold any type of file, a few of the other folders have specific uses. Downloads is a convenient catch-all location for files downloaded from the Internet or transferred using AirDrop (see Chapter 8). Sites is designed for building and sharing Web sites.
Aside from those exceptions, the Home folder is yours to use. Feel free to create new folders (choose File > New Folder, or press Command-Shift-N) or stash other files here; it all depends on your level of organizational tolerance. (I like to stick to the basics and avoid clutter—a huge surprise considering the disheveled state of the physical desk in my office.)