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Macintosh Basics Mac os 9: Getting Started 9 Things You Should Know Before You Actually Get Started

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Macintosh Basics

Mac OS 9:

Getting Started
9 Things You Should Know Before You Actually Get Started
1. Your inexperience with the Macintosh is not an indication of your intelligence.

2. You don’t have to know a lot about Macs to use one and have fun with it.

3. There are no keys you can press that will destroy the Mac or your files.

4. The mouse is tough: you don’t need to treat it as if it were fragile.

5. It helps to know how to type, but it’s not necessary.

6. Know how to take care of your Mac and diskettes - and do it.

7. Learn in your spare time, not just before a deadline.

8. Master the basics before trying the fancy stuff.

9. Like with all software RTFM counts (RTFM = Read That Fucking Manual).

What Do I Need to Know to Use a Computer?
Very little, actually. If you've put off learning to use a computer because you were afraid of having to learn a strange set of complex commands, or if you've put it off because you thought you needed to be an engineer to understand all the inner workings of a computer, relax. Now is the time to start learning. Modern personal computers, including both Macintoshes and PCs, are exceedingly easy to use. In very little time, you can acquire the skills you need to use many popular programs and to be confident in front of the computer.

How Does a Graphical User Interface Work?
To use a computer, the user used to issue commands or instructions by typing them in. These commands were long, arcane, and confusing, especially for the non-specialist. To alleviate this difficulty, a Graphical User Interface (often known as a GUI, pronounced "gooey") was developed, and it replaced the command interface with one in which the user chooses commands by selecting them from menus of available commands or pressing "buttons" (we'll explain these later) on the screen. Basically, the GUI eliminates the need to remember the complicated syntax of command line interfaces such as MS-DOS or UNIX.

What Is the Macintosh?
Apple Computer's ( Macintosh was originally designed to be the computer "for the rest of us." Back when the Macintosh first came out, it was the first popular personal computer to use a graphics-based interface rather than a command-based one (e.g. DOS). In the past few years Apple has revitalized its image and its hardware line by introducing such stylish and powerful machines as the G3, the G4, the G4 multiprocessor cube, and the iSeries (the iMac and iBook). The Mac operates on the principle that your computer should act essentially as a metaphor for your desktop, a place where you can easily manipulate, store and retrieve information, just as you would at your desk at home or at the office.

What Is OS 9?
OS 9 is the latest “classic” version of the Macintosh Operating System. It is an entirely GUI environment. OS 9 offers a number of improvements over earlier versions of the Mac OS, but it looks and feels much like OS 8.5 and 8.6. In this document we will concentrate primarily on acquainting ourselves with the Mac environment and its components. So let’s get started! What follows are explanations of the heart of the Mac OS, which is contained in three “places”: the System, the Finder, and the Desktop.
The System File
The System is the brains of the operating system: it contains the instructions for communicating between the various elements of the computer, among other things. The average user will probably never to need to work directly with the system.
The Finder

When a computer processes operations, it does so using strings of zeroes and ones. Unfortunately, these strings of zeroes and ones are completely incomprehensible to most people. For this reason, when the Macintosh boots up it automatically loads one application into memory and runs it: the Finder. The Finder is the program responsible for drawing most of the features you see on the Mac screen, such as the cursor and the picture of the trash can in the lower right. The Finder is running at all times, even when you are working within another application (such as Microsoft Word). Among the Finder's many responsibilities is acting as an interpreter between the user and the system: when the user gives a command, the Finder translates the command into the zeroes and ones that the system understands. Likewise, when the system sends a message to the user, the Finder translates it into something comprehensible.
The Desktop

The Desktop actually has two basic meanings for the Mac user. The usual meaning is the work area outside of all the windows, containing the icons for the hard drive, the trash can and whatever other folders and files have ended up there. When someone says that a particular file is "on the desktop," they mean that rather than storing it within a separate folder on the hard drive, they have simply left the icon situated on the desktop work area.
The second meaning for "desktop" is, although the less common, probably the more important of the two meanings. If you work with a Macintosh, you will soon notice that the computer always seems to know which application created a particular document, even if the application is located in an entirely different folder than the document.
Another example might be the use of something called an alias, which functions as a shortcut to a file. Even when the original file is moved, the finder still knows where it is located when you click on an alias. How does the Macintosh accomplish this? OS 9 (much like earlier incarnations of OS 7.x and 8.x) makes use of a file (actually a pair of files, but for our purposes that isn't important) called the desktop database. Within the desktop database, the Macintosh keeps track of every application on the system, along with their associated files. That way, if you were to (for example) copy a word-processing document onto your hard disk, the finder would know immediately if the application used to open the file were also on the hard disk.
Starting the Macintosh
Press the power button on the upper right sight of the keyboard. The computer starts automatically and loads its operating system.
First you will hear the computer playing a sound. This signalizes that it’s powered on. Now follows the start up process. For a very short time a smiling Macintosh will appear on a gray background.
If this symbol stays and shows instead of a smiling Macintosh a sad one, the computer has problems with the startup. Leave the computer as it is and ask for help!
If the symbol is a diskette with a blinking question mark, than the computer does not find its operating system. Leave the computer as it is and ask for help!
Wait with any operation till the desktop appears full and the mouse shows the pointer.
Shuting down the Macintosh

Working within OS 9
Although you will need to use your keyboard at times, most of the basic tasks involved with working on a Mac can be accomplished solely using the mouse. The mouse is your primary input device. To use the mouse, position it on the desk to the right of your keyboard (to the left if you are left-handed). The cord should be facing out the back, directly away from the edge of the desk. Place your hand over the mouse, holding it between your thumb and ring finger. Let the heel of your hand rest gently on the desk itself, and let your index and middle fingers rest lightly on the mouse button. You should try to move the mouse around on the mouse pad using only the wrist and fingers, not by moving your arm. This will give you more precise control and help lessen fatigue.
Basic Mouse Skills
Most of the tasks you do on the Macintosh are performed using just three basic mouse skills, either alone or in combination. These skills are clicking, dragging, and double-clicking.
The mouse controls the Macintosh's cursor, often referred to as the pointer. To move the pointer, move the mouse; the quicker you move the mouse, the quicker the pointer moves across the screen. In general, pressing the mouse button initiates an action, such as pulling down a menu and selecting a command; releasing it confirms the action (e.g., executes that command). The completed action of pressing and releasing is called a click. There are three things you can do with your mouse:
· Click: a single click of the mouse button, to select.

· Double-click: two distinct clicks of the mouse button in rapid succession, to open.

· Click and drag: click in front of or behind text to be edited; hold down the mouse button while dragging to highlight a letter, word, paragraph, or more; or to move an icon.
Elements of the Macintosh Screen
There are many elements to the Macintosh screen. Some let you perform various commands, while others let you choose from the programs installed on your computer.


Along the top of the screen is a white or grayish bar, called the menu bar. Within the menu bar are several words and icons. Each of these words and icons represents an individual menu, a list of commands pertaining to a single topic.

The File menu, for instance, contains commands for manipulating files, while the View menu contains commands allowing you to adjust the format for viewing file lists.


The area below the menu bar, in which most of your work is actually done, is known as the desktop. You can save files directly onto the desktop or into a folder on your hard drive.

At various locations around your desktop are located small pictorial representations of different computer files, known as icons. Each icon represents a different file. By moving these icons, you can move and manipulate the actual file they represent. You'll notice that at the bottom right corner is an icon of a trash can, and at the top right is an icon for your hard drive. You may or may not have other icons on your desktop.

Windows are the primary way of accessing and displaying information on the Macintosh. When you open a folder or application, you will usually be presented with a window displaying information about the contents of the folder, document, or application. We will deal with windows in more detail later.

Files on the Macintosh
A file is a set of instructions or information saved as a single item by a computer. There are three main types of files on the Macintosh with which you need to be familiar at this point.
An application is what is traditionally meant by "program", i.e. a set of instructions which, when loaded into the computer's memory, causes it to perform some action or set of actions. This could be opening a file, drawing a picture, or playing a game. Examples of applications are Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop.
When you write a letter in a word-processing program and then save it to a file, that file is known as a document. Any information produced by an application and then saved as a file is usually a document.
Examples of documents could be a research paper, a picture, or a database file. The default icon for a document is a page with the top right corner turned down, but usually your documents will have an icon that points to the program that produced them, such as the one to the right for a Microsoft Word document.
Folders are different from other files, in that they serve primarily as ways to organize the files on a disk. Think of a folder as analogous to a file folder in your office, as a way to group related files together and keep your workspace neat. Folders can contain both applications and documents in addition to other folders. By putting folders into other folders, you can organize files into categories and then subcategories. The default icon for a folder is a file folder.

What's in a name?
You can easily change the names of your files and folders by clicking on their icon once. You'll see that the name below the icon is now highlighted. To completely erase the name of the file and start over, simply press the delete key. You can also position the mouse pointer over a part of the file (or folder) name and click once more. The pointer turns into a cursor, and you can now move within the file name to change all of it, or only part of it. Unlike in that other window-based operating system, the Macintosh OS has always supported file and folder names that are longer than 7 or 8 characters. You don't ever have to worry about truncating file names into unintelligible gibberish.
Where did my file (or folder) go?
There are times when even the most experienced computer user just can’t remember where she/he saved an important file or folder. The Mac makes it easy for you to find those “missing” files and folders. Just go to the File menu and click on Find (or press z-F – command-F). If you are using an older version of the Mac OS, such as OS 8.6, a small “Sherlock” dialog box will pop up. Sherlock is a find utility program recently developed by Apple. There you can enter the word or words from the title of the file or folder that you wish to find.

Working with Windows—the Basics
Windows are the most basic and most important way to access the Macintosh. Almost every piece of information presented appears in a window. It is important to know the elements of a Macintosh window and what their purposes are. Most windows will share at least some elements, but there are different basic windows that may be used for specific purposes.

Window Elements
Most windows will have the following basic parts: a title bar, a size box, a zoom box, a close box, and scroll bars. These should be present regardless of whether the window is a folder window or one within an application (although this not always the case).

Title Bar

Zoom Box

Scroll Bars

Size Box

Close Box

Title Bar
The title bar is the horizontal bar across the top of a window containing the window's title. In most cases it will have lines running from one end to the other. Aside from telling you the name of the window (usually the name of folder or application/document represented), the title bar provides a way to change the window's location within your screen. To move a window, move the mouse over the title bar and drag to a new location, then release the mouse button.
Size Box
The size box is used to change the size of a window. To change the window's size, first click on the size box. Do not release. Drag the mouse until a shadow outline appears around the window. When this outline is the size you want for the window, release the mouse button. The window will then be resized.
Zoom Box
The zoom box actually has two uses. Which function it performs depends on whether or not you have already resized the window using the size box. If you have not, then clicking on the zoom box will automatically adjust the window dimensions to exactly the right size to just contain everything within it. If you have resized the window manually, then clicking on the zoom box will toggle between the window's current size and its former size.
Close Box
You can actually close a window both by choosing a command from a menu and by using a keyboard shortcut, but often the fastest way is to use the close box. If you click directly on the close box, the window will close.
One tip: if you have a multitude of windows open, and you want to close all of them at once, hold down the option key while clicking on the close box - all your windows will automatically close.
Scroll Bars
Often a folder will contain too many items to display at one time in a window, or the document you are working on will be too long to fit on the screen. In both of these cases you may need to use a scroll bar to see the part of the window you need to. If the entire scroll bar is one color, i.e. the arrows at either end are the same color as the background around them, then the window is large enough along that dimension (there are both horizontal and vertical scroll bars) to show all the available information. But if the scroll bar has a small square within it, and the arrows appear as a darker color than the space around them, then there are areas of the window not displayable within its frame.

To move within the window, there are two basic methods. One is to decide in which direction you need to move to see what you want to see. Then click and hold on the arrow pointing in that direction—so if there is information at the bottom of a list which you are unable to see, click on the down arrow on the vertical scroll bar. The window will then scroll in that direction. If this is two slow, you can actually click and drag the square button (called the thumb, believe it or not) in whichever direction you want to travel. This is faster but less precise than using the arrows.

Working with Multiple Windows

You will often have more than window open on your screen. There are a few things to remember when working with multiple windows. The first is that only one window can be "active" at a time. If you are working in a word processor and have multiple documents open, anything you type can only appear in one of the documents at a time. That document would be the "active" document. The same applies to folder windows. If you open up several folders at one time to see what they contain, and you then decide to create a new folder inside of one of them, the new folder will be created within the "active" window.
Making a Window "active"
To make a window active, simply click anywhere within its boundaries. You can tell if a window is active or inactive by the color of its parts—if all parts are the same color, and there are no lines in the title bar, then the window is inactive. The active window can never be covered up, not even partially, by another window. Inactive windows will always appear behind the active window. This is true of both application and folder windows.
Working with Menus
As we noted before, many of the Macintosh commands are available from the menus in the menu bar. There are certain menus specific to the finder, some which appear in almost every application, and some which only appear in a specific application. We will only cover the menus that are part of the finder here, but the techniques we use can be applied to the menus in any program.
Viewing the Contents of a Menu
Each menu contains several commands related to a particular topic. The topic is (usually) reflected in the menu title. To see the list of commands contained in a particular menu, move the pointer over the menu title, click, and hold the mouse button down. A "pop-up" or "drop-down" menu will appear (there are actually different types of menus, but the basic mechanics are all the same). The different commands are arrayed vertically within the menu.
Available vs. Unavailable Commands
At a given time you may or may not be able to access all the commands in the menu. This is primarily because some commands are only applicable under a given set of circumstances. For example, if there are no windows currently open, then there is no way to use the Close Window command, so it is unavailable. You do not actually need to memorize for each command what the necessary conditions for its use are—whenever a command is unavailable, it will appear as "grayed-out", rather than as black text. This is an easy way to tell which commands are available and which are unavailable.
Selecting a Command
To select a command from a menu, first open the menu by clicking and holding on its title. Then slide the cursor down the menu, still holding the mouse button down. As the cursor moves through the menu, a black bar will follow, highlighting each available (non-grayed-out) command in turn. To select a particular command, more the cursor over it, highlighting it with the selection bar. When you release the mouse, the highlighted command will be performed. Certain commands (such as Find...) end in three dots—selecting one of these commands will bring up a dialog box prompting you for further input.
Keyboard Shortcuts
When you bring up a menu, look next to the commands. Next to some of them are sets of characters, many of which begin with the symbol. This symbol refers to the command key on your keyboard (also known as the apple ( ) key). Pressing this key in combination with one or more others enables you to perform many commands just from the keyboard. This is especially useful within many applications, where you may do the majority of your work using the keyboard, and it can be easier and quicker to select commands via the keyboard than with the mouse.
The Finder Menus

The most commonly used, and most important for you to know, menus are those in the Finder. These contain all the basic commands for file and folder manipulation, as well as general disk management and system configuration. Here we will give a short overview of each menu and the types of commands it contains.


The file menu contains commands dealing with basic file and folder manipulation. Some of the more commonly used commands include Open, New Folder, Find, and Get Info.

The commands under the edit menu are actually much more commonly used within other applications than they are within the finder. As the title implies, they perform common editing functions, such as Cut, Copy, and Paste. One command useful for basic file management is Select All, which immediately selects all the icons/items either on the desktop or within the active window.


The commands here are actually more options than commands. When you open a folder window, you see the items contained within the folder. The view menu is a list of options for the format of these items.
For example, selecting As Icons presents the items as small icons (as we defined icons above), As Buttons will turn your icons into buttons that can be “pressed” by the mouse, and As List will present your files in an ordered list, typically by name. Selecting Sort List will allow you to sort files by size, kind, and date modified as well.

The special menu contains commands that perform a variety of housekeeping functions. From this menu you can empty the trash, restart your computer, or eject a disk.

The help menu allows you to turn “Balloon Help” on, which will explain the function of each item over which you move your mouse. You can also access the Help Center and Mac Help, two features you can use to find answers to specific questions about your machine. If you are running a program such as Microsoft Word, it will typically also have a help menu.

This menu, off to the far right on the menu bar, is used to cycle through the various applications when you have more than one open. Just like windows, only one of them can be "active", i.e. the one displayed in the foreground and ready for input, at a time. It has no "title", but it is represented instead by a small icon of the Macintosh OS logo.
Apple Menu

The apple menu is one of the most useful tools in the Mac OS. It provides access not only to commands, but to a range of utilities and applications for configuring and customizing your Macintosh. In addition, you can actually customize the apple menu to contain the programs you want for easy access. We will not deal in any detail with this here.
The apple menu, like the application menu, is represented by an icon, in this case an eye-catching multicolored apple.
Working with Disks
When you work on a Macintosh, as with any other computer, you will want to save your progress from time to time. You can do this by transferring data onto a disk. A disk is a physical medium that allows for permanent storage. By permanent, we mean that the data is not lost when the power is turned off, unlike what is stored in your computer's memory chips.

Types of Disks
There are different types of disks available, but we will only concern ourselves with two of these.
Floppy disks are small (usually 3.5" in diameter) circles of film, coated with oxide filings (think of a cassette tape).

This circle is encased in a square plastic shell to protect it. Floppies are small, light, and very cheap, so they are widely used. They have some drawbacks though. The life of a floppy, and thus the life of the data stored on it, is much shorter than that for other storage media. In addition, floppies are very easily damaged by heat, magnetic fields, and liquids. Floppies also have much lower storage capacities than other disks. However, the portability, low cost, and convenience (it's hard to carry your whole computer around all the time) make floppies very popular.

Hard disks are usually columns of metallic platters encased in a tightly sealed enclosure. These are often installed as internal devices, meaning that they are actually inside the computer case. All currently shipping desktop computers will come with at least one internal hard drive. Hard drives offer several significant advantages over floppies. Hard drives can have extremely high capacities - most currently available models will hold at least 300 megabytes of data, and capacities of more than one gigabyte (1000 megabytes) are becoming more and more common. Hard drives also have much better reliability rates than floppies, and they last longer, which means that your data is safer. But hard disks are not nearly as portable, and even a cheap hard drive will usually cost at least 100 dollars, so for the student working on a lab computer, floppies probably make more sense.
Removable disks such as Iomega™ Zip drives and Jaz drives are rapidly growing in popularity, since they combine many of the advantages of both hard and floppy disks. They are like hard disks, in that they offer high capacity and reliability, but like floppies, they are easily portable and allow for low-cost expansion. Typically, a user buys the drive mechanism and a cartridge. Expansion disks (of about 100 megabytes or even more) can also be purchased. However, if you are expanding a system and don't need the portability, you may find that the faster speeds and better reliability of hard drives worth the extra expense.
Using a Floppy Disk
Before you can use a floppy disk in your computer, there are a couple of steps to take. First, ensure that the floppy is of a capacity that your computer can use. Floppy disks are available in two different densities, Double Density (capacity 800 kilobytes) and High Density (1.4 Megabytes). Some older models of computers and disk drives can only handle the smaller capacity double density disks. This will not be a problem with any computer made within the last few years, however. The second thing to check is whether the floppy has been formatted for the type of computer you are using. Windows and Mac OS both use different formats to store information on disk, although Macintoshes are capable of reading either format.
Formatting a Floppy
Formatting a floppy disk creates a new, blank master directory of all the files stored on the disk. One consequence of formatting a disk is that all data previously saved on a floppy is lost during the formatting process. There are two main reasons you may want to format a floppy: one, the floppy is brand new and not yet formatted, and the Macintosh prompts you to format the floppy upon insertion; and two, the floppy is not the format you want or you just want to completely erase it, so you choose to format it after insertion.
To format a floppy, first insert it into the computer. If the floppy is not yet formatted for either Windows or Mac OS, you will see a dialog box prompting you to choose whether to format the disk or not; select OK. If the disk is formatted, but you wish to erase or reformat it, then you will need to select the Erase Disk... command from the Special menu. This will bring up dialog box prompting you to choose (a) what to name the newly formatted disk and (b) what format (either MS-DOS or Macintosh) to choose.

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