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Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard Pocket Guide: Applications and the Dock

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This chapter covers how to run applications, as well as how to install and update them. And we can't talk about applications without looking at the Dock, Apple's go-to place for accessing applications (and more).
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Whenever you're doing something in Mac OS X, you're doing it in an application. Writing in Microsoft Word or BBEdit; correcting photos in iPhoto or Adobe Photoshop; crunching numbers in Numbers; editing video in iMovie...each application is the difference between interacting with your Mac and having a box of plastic that props up your television.

This chapter covers how to run applications, as well as how to install and update them (a more complicated topic than one might expect). And we can't talk about applications without looking at the Dock, Apple's go-to place for accessing applications (and more).

Launch Applications

Starting an application is known as launching, no doubt because in the early days of computers, "launching" sounded more exciting than "wait several minutes while the machine copies data to its memory." Technology has advanced, thank goodness, so now most applications start up in a few seconds. Use any of the following methods to launch applications.

  • In the Finder, select an application and double-click its icon. Programs are stored in the Applications folder (choose Go > Applications, or select the Applications item in a window's sidebar).
  • If an application resides in the Dock, click its icon there (see "Using the Dock," later in this chapter).
  • Click the Spotlight icon in the menu bar (or press Command-space) and start typing an application's name (Figure 4.1). Click it to launch.
    Figure 4.1

    Figure 4.1 Find and launch applications using Spotlight.

  • In the Finder, double-click a file to open it; the application associated with that file launches if it's not already running.
  • With an application or file selected, press Command-down arrow or choose File > Open (Command-O).

Open files using a different application

When you double-click a file in the Finder, which application will open it? The answer depends on the filename extension. Some formats are specific to one application; others, such as those ending in .pdf or .doc, can be read by many programs.

  • Drag a document onto an application's icon to open it in that program.
  • Select the file and choose File > Open With, and then choose an application. (If the program you have in mind isn't listed, click Other and locate it.) The Open With option appears on the contextual menu, too (Control-click or right-click a file to view the menu).

Change a file's default application

If you double-click a file and an unintended application launches, do the following to change which program is assigned to that file type.

  1. Select a file in the Finder and choose File > Get Info (Command-I) to bring up the Get Info dialog.
  2. Under Open with, choose an application from the pop-up menu to use for opening that file (Figure 4.2). If the program you have in mind isn't listed, click Other and locate it.
    Figure 4.2

    Figure 4.2 Choose an application to open the file.

  3. To associate all files of that type to one application, click the Change All button in that pane.
  4. In the dialog that appears, click Continue to apply the change.
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