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Opening Apps & Docs in OS X

📄 Contents

  1. What is an Application?
  2. What is a Document?
  3. Quiz
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Mac expert Robin Williams provides a basic introduction to Mac OS X concepts for new users.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

A f i le is a generic term referring to just about any icon on your computer. A file might be an application, which is the program you use to create things, or a document, which is the thing you created in your application, or a "font," which is a typeface, or a number of other sorts of digitized pieces of information. The files you will work with the most are applications and documents. This chapter gives you some basic guidelines so you can understand and work with them.

What is an Application?

The terms applications and programs are often used synonymously (although an application is only one form of programming).Application refers to the software package you use to create your documents, such as AppleWorks, PageMaker, FreeHand, Quicken, Photoshop, Internet Explorer, Mail, etc. They all do something different; they each have a particular function. For instance, you can keep track of your finances in Quicken, but you can't open photographs in Quicken. You can open and edit photographs in Photoshop, but Photoshop will not help you with your finances. Sometimes it takes a little research to discover which software applications meet your specific needs.

Figure 1These are application icons. They are stored in various folders on the Mac, but the same application will always have the same icon, although the icon might be larger or smaller, depending on where you see it. not an application to find the application icon.

AppleWorks 6

This is not an application icon —it is the folder that stores the application. Open this folder to find the application icon.

Application versions

Every application has a version number that tells you how up-to-date it is. For instance, you might have AppleWorks 6 and your friend has AppleWorks 5. Version 6 is newer and has more features (does more stuff)than version 5.

Sometimes the company adds just a few new features and fixes a few old problems instead of revising the entire program. In that case, they usually don't jump to a whole new number, like from 6 to 7;instead,they might say this is version 7.2 (minor updates)or 7.5 (fairly serious update when it's a half number),or 7.5.2 (very minor fixes when it's the third number).

The period in these version numbers is pronounced "point". So version 7.5 is pronounced "seven point five." And 7.5.2 Is "seven point five point two." Sometimes, of course, we shorten it to say, "Oh, this is version seven five."

Opening an Application

These examples use AppleWorks, which might or might not be on your Mac. You can follow along with TextEdit, found in the Applications folder.

To open an application, or software program, you need to find its icon or file name on your hard disk. Application icons, as noted in Chapter 7, typically look "fancier" than most other kinds of files.

  • If an application's icon is in the Dock, single -click on it.

    Figure 2
  • If an application's name, icon, or alias is in a Finder window or sitting on the Desktop, double-click on it.

    Figure 3

Find the Application

Some applications have very busy folders and it can be difficult to find the actual application icon to double-click. If you use the List View, you can sort your window by "Kind", as shown below, which forces the applications towards the top of the list. Simply click on the heading "Kind" to change the organization of the columns.

Figure 4All the files in this folder belong to PageMaker. The window is organized by "Name," as you can see by the colored column header, circled above. You really have to look to find the actual PageMaker application. Do you see it?

Figure 5This is the same folder, but now the items are organized by "Kind." ((Just click in a column header to organize by that column.)Do you see that the application is now listed first?


Find and open the application Text Edit:

Open any Finder window.

Click the "Applications" icon..

Type the letter "T" to select the TextEdit icon (or scroll to find it).

Double-click the TextEdit application icon to open it.

Figure 6

Your application opens

When your application opens, one of the following things will happen:

  1. A blank page will open for you, as shown to the right, ready for you to create a new document. Go ahead and start working.

    Figure 7Many applications will automatically open to a blank page, waiting for you to create something. Shown above is a new page in TextEdit.

  2. You will get a dialog box asking what sort of document you want, as shown below, or how you want your pages set up.

    Figure 8Because AppleWorks has several different modules, when you first open the application it asks you which module you want to create a new document in. Click the icon of your choice.

  3. You'll get a commercial that will go away when you click on it. Then, see the following note.

  4. It appears that nothing happened. It did —look carefully at your menu bar and you'll see the name of your application on the left, next to the Apple. You need to go to the File menu and choose "New" to create a new, blank page, or "Open" to find a document you previously created that you want to open again.

    Figure 9There are times when you might open Internet Connect and nothing will appear on your screen. But Internet Connect is actually open, as you can see by the menu bar.


TextEdit automatically opens a clean, blank page for you to type on.

Read as much as you can take of the rest of this chapter, or skip right now to the

next chapter and learn word processing techniques. Just leave this new window open

and use it for the practice exercises in the next chapter.

Application icons in the Dock

You'll notice, after you open an application, that its icon then appears in the Dock and has a triangle beneath it, which indicates it is open, as shown below. If you are opening an application in Classic (see Chapter 40),it may take a few minutes; be patient. You can tell an application is trying to open because the icon bobbles up and down (depending on how you have set your Dock preferences).


See Chapter 8 if you want to add icons to the Dock, and see Chapter 22 if you want to know how to use aliases to access your applications without having them clutter up the Dock.

Figure 10You can see that AppleWorks is open.

Tip on switching applications

Advanced tip: When there are several applications open, you can switch between them with this keyboard shortcut: Command Tab. For instance, let's say you 're using your word processor to work on a report and you want to pop over to your web browser to check some information on the Internet (assuming you have a full-time connection).The web browser is already open because you used it this morning. Just hold down the Command key and tap the Tab key —you'll see the application icons in the Dock highlight with each Tab tap. When you have selected the application you want to switch to, let go of the Command key and it will appear in front of you. The Tab order moves from left to right and then back to the beginning again. If you want to go in the reverse order, hold down the Shift key along with the Command key, then tap the Tab key. Try it.

New vs. Open

Once an application is up and running, in the File menu you see two choices: New and Open. This confused me at first because I thought, "Well, I want to open a new one." The difference is this:

  • New creates a clean, blank page on which you can begin a new document from scratch.

  • Open takes you to a dialog box (shown and explained on pages 190 –193) where you can choose to open a document that was previously created and saved.

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