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Learn More About Mac OS X

There are a number of ways to learn more about your Mac and how to use it, all available right from your Desktop. Keep these tips in mind as you spend time on your Mac—you will learn a lot from them.

Tool tips

Most applications and dialog boxes provide little tool tips that pop up when you “hover” your mouse over an item. They tell you what the items do. Just hold the mouse still over a button or icon for about three seconds and if there is a tool tip, it will appear, as shown in the examples below.

Visual clues

Keep a constant eye out for the visual clues that the Mac is always providing. Every little visual extra you see means something! When the pointer turns into a double-headed arrow, that's a clue. When you see a little dot in a divider bar, that's a clue. When you see a triangle anywhere, that's a clue.

You are probably already aware of visual clues such as the underline beneath text on a web page to indicate a link, or the little colored dots in your word processor that indicate a word is misspelled. Here are a few others that will help you start noticing what your Mac is telling you.

Sometimes our eyes glaze over because there is so much visual stimulation on the Mac screen. Just keep in mind that everything means something and slowly get to know the visual clues.

Below you see a typical title bar of a document. There are two visual clues in this title bar: the red button has a dark dot in it, and the tiny icon next to the title is gray. Both of these visual clues mean the same thing: this file has unsaved changes. Once you save the document, the dark dot goes away and the tiny icon is no longer gray.

You might see a dot next to a document name in an application's Window menu—that's another visual clue that the document has not been saved recently. The checkmark indicates the active document, or the one that is in front of all the others and that you're currently working on.

Everywhere on your Mac you will see buttons to save a document, not save, cancel a process, etc. One of these buttons is always blue. The blue is a visual clue that you can hit the Return or Enter key to activate that button instead of picking up the mouse to click on it.

Help files

No matter where you are on the Mac or what application you are working in, you'll always find Help just a click away. At the Finder, go to the Help menu to look up tips and techniques on just about anything.

Every application has a Help menu, and it's always at the far end of the menu choices, as shown below. Choose the Help option for that particular application, type in a word or two that you want to look up, then hit Return.

Support pages

The Apple web site has a huge number of support pages. Here you can find manuals that you can view on screen or download (copy) to your computer. There are discussion pages where users talk about different products and software packages on the Mac, ask questions, and answer questions. You can sign up for training at a local Apple store, read the product question-and-answer pages for hardware and software, and more. Go to

.Mac Learning Center

If you are a .Mac member, take advantage of the .Mac Learning Center where you'll find dozens of tutorials and movies to help you learn more about all sorts of features of your computer. Log in to your .Mac account and then find the link called “Learning Center.”

To be a .Mac member costs $99.95 a year and includes lots of perks. Please see Lesson 11 for more details.

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