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Introduction to Mac OS X

Introduction to Mac OS X


Mac OS X 10.2 (Figure 1) is the latest version of the computer operating system that put the phrase graphic user interface in everyone’s vocabulary. With the slick look and feel of the Aqua interface and Unix under the hood, Mac OS X is sure to please users at any level.

Figure 1. The About This Mac window for Mac OS X 10.2.

This Visual QuickPro Guide picks up where the Mac OS X 10.2: Visual QuickStart Guide leaves off. Written for intermediate to advanced Mac OS users, it goes beyond the basics to cover more advanced topics, such as Unix, networking, multiple users, security, AppleScript, system preferences, fonts, utilities, speech and handwriting recognition, and .Mac. The first two chapters should be especially helpful for experienced Mac OS users just getting started with Mac OS X; they explain many of the differences between Mac OS X and Mac OS 9.x. They also tell you how you can take advantage of the Classic environment to work with application software that wasn’t built for Mac OS X.

Like the Visual QuickStart Guide, this book provides step-by-step instructions, plenty of illustrations, and a generous helping of tips. It was designed for page flipping—use the thumb tabs, index, or table of contents to find the topics you want to learn more about.

If you’re interested in information about new Mac OS X features, be sure to browse through this Introduction. It’ll give you a good idea of what you’ll see on your computer.


  • The “X” in “Mac OS X” is pronounced ”ten.”

  • If you’re brand new to Mac OS and need more basic information about using Mac OS X, check out Mac OS X 10.2: Visual QuickStart Guide, the prequel to this book.

New Features in Mac OS X

Mac OS X is a major revision to the Macintosh operating system. Not only does it add and update features, but in many cases, it completely changes the way tasks are done. With a slick new look called “Aqua” (Figure 2) and with preemptive multitasking and protected memory that make the computer work more quickly and reliably, Mac OS X is like a breath of fresh air for Macintosh users.

Figure 2. A look at the Aqua interface. This screenshot shows Mac OS X 10.2.

Here’s a look at some of the new and revised features you can expect to find in Mac OS X.


  • Most of these features are covered in either this book or its prequel, Mac OS X Advanced: Visual QuickPro Guide.

  • This section discusses the new features in the original release of Mac OS X. New features in Mac OS X 10.1 and Mac OS X 10.2 are covered later in this Introduction.

Installer changes

  • The Mac OS X installer automatically launches when you start from the Mac OS X install CD.

  • The installer offers fewer customization options for installation than installers for previous versions of Mac OS.

  • The Mac OS X Setup Assistant, which runs automatically after the installer restarts the computer, has a new look and offers several new options.

System changes

  • System extensions and control panels no longer exist.

  • By default, Mac OS X is set up for multiple users, making it possible for several people to set up personalized work environments on the same computer without the danger of accessing, changing, or deleting another user’s files.

  • A new Log Out command enables you to end your work session without shutting down the computer.

  • A new System Preferences application (Figure 3) enables you to set options for the way the computer works.

    Figure 3. The System Preferences application. In Mac OS X 10.1 and Mac OS X 10.2, preferences are organized logically by function. This is how System Preferences looks in Mac OS X 10.2.

  • The default system font has been changed to Lucida Grande.

  • Finder icons have a new “photo-illustrative” look (Figure 2).

  • A new, customizable Dock (Figure 2) enables you to launch and switch applications.

Window changes

  • Finder windows offer a new column view (Figure 4). Button view is no longer available.

    Figure 4. A window in column view. In Mac OS X 10.2, a Search box was added to the toolbar, as shown here.

  • Pop-up windows and spring-loaded folders are no longer supported. (Support for spring-loaded folders was added again in Mac OS X 10.2.)

  • Window controls have been changed (Figure 4). The left end of a window’s title bar now includes Close, Minimize, and Zoom buttons.

  • Drawers (Figure 5) are subwindows that slide out from the side of a window to offer more options.

    Figure 5. The Mail application utilizes the drawer interface. Mail was revised for Mac OS X 10.2, shown here.

  • Document windows for different applications each reside on their own layer, making it possible for them to be inter-mingled. (This differs from previous versions of Mac OS which required all document windows for an application to be grouped together.)

  • You can often activate items on an inactive window or dialog with a single click rather than clicking first to activate the window, then clicking again to activate the item.

Menu changes

  • Menus are now translucent so you can see underlying windows right through them.

  • Sticky menus no longer disappear after a certain amount of time. When you click a menu’s title, the menu appears and stays visible until you either click a command or click elsewhere onscreen.

  • The Apple menu, which is no longer customizable, includes commands that work in all applications (Figure 6).

    Figure 6. The revised Apple menu.

  • A number of commands have been moved to the revised Apple menu (Figure 6) and new Finder menu (Figure 7). There are also new commands and new keyboard equivalents throughout the Finder.

    Figure 7. The Finder menu.

  • A new Go menu (Figure 8) makes it quick and easy to open windows for specific locations, including favorite and recent folders.

    Figure 8. The Go menu, which was revised for Mac OS X 10.2, shown here.

Dialog changes

  • Dialogs can now appear as sheets that slide down from a window’s title bar and remain part of the window (Figure 9). You can switch to another document or application when a dialog sheet is displayed.

    Figure 9. A dialog sheet is attached to a window.

  • The Open and Save Location dialogs have been revised.

  • The Save Location dialog can appear either collapsed (Figure 10) or expanded (Figure 11).

    Figure 10. The Save Location dialog box collapsed to show only the bare essentials...

    Figure 11. ...and expanded to show everything you need to save a file.

Application changes

  • Applications that are not Mac OS X compatible run in the Classic environment, which utilizes Mac OS 9.1 or 9.2.

  • The list of applications and utilities that come with Mac OS has undergone extensive changes to add and remove many programs.

Help changes

  • Balloon Help has been replaced with Help Tags (Figure 12).

    Figure 12. Help Tags replace Balloon Help.

  • The Help Viewer offers more options for searching and following links.

  • Guide Help is no longer available.

New Features in Mac OS X 10.1

Mac OS X 10.1, the first major Mac OS X revision, which was released in Autumn of 2001, improves performance and features. Here’s a quick summary of some of the changes.


  • Subsequent “maintenance” updates to Mac OS X 10.1 have been released. (Mac OS X 10.1.5 was the last version of Mac OS X 10.1.) These updates improve the performance, reliability, and compatibility of Mac OS, but generally do not change the way Mac OS looks or works. If you have a connection to the Internet, you can install Mac OS X updates using Software Update; I explain how in Chapter 7

Performance improvements

  • Apple programmers tweaked Mac OS X to make it faster and more responsive. Improved performance is most noticeable when launching applications, resizing or moving windows, displaying menus, and choosing menu commands.

  • OpenGL, which is responsible for 3D graphics, is 20 percent faster. It also has full support for the nViDIA GeForce 3 graphics card.

Finder & Aqua enhancements

  • The columns in the Finder’s list views can be resized by dragging the column border (Figure 13).

    Figure 13. You can now change a column’s width by dragging its border. This example shows a Mac OS X 10.2 window.

  • Long file names in the Finder’s icon view wrap to a second line (Figure 14).

    Figure 14. In icon view, long document names wrap to a second line.

  • Arrows now appear to the right of folder names in the Finder’s column view (Figure 4). This makes it easy to distinguish between folders and files in column view.

  • File name extensions are turned off by default. You can display the extension for a file by setting an option in its Info window (Figure 15) or in the Finder Preferences window (Figure 16).

    Figure 15. The Name & Extension options in a document’s Info window. This is a Mac OS X 10.2 version of the Info window.

    Figure 16. You can use Finder Preferences to specify whether extensions should show. This is Finder Preferences in Mac OS X 10.2.

  • You can now customize the Dock to display it on the left, right, or bottom of the screen.

  • The new Burn Disc command makes it quick and easy to create data CDs from within the Finder (Figure 17).

    Figure 17. The Finder’s File menu includes additional commands. This is the File menu in Mac OS X 10.2.

System Preferences improvements

  • The System Preferences pane’s icons are now organized logically by use (Figure 3).

  • The Desktop preferences pane, which was new in Mac OS X 10.1, enables you to set a desktop picture (Figure 18). (This functionality was moved from Finder Preferences.)

    Figure 18. You can use the Desktop preferences pane to choose a background image. This is the Desktop preferences pane in Mac OS X 10.2.

  • The General preferences pane now enables you to set how many recent items should appear on the Apple menu. It also enables you to set a font size threshold for the font smoothing feature (Figure 19).

    Figure 19. The General preferences pane in Mac OS X 10.2.

  • The Sound preferences pane enables you to select different settings for each output device.

  • The Date & Time preferences pane enables you to display the menu bar clock as an analog clock.

  • You can now display controls for a variety of System Preferences right in the menu bar (Figure 20). You specify whether you want to show or hide the controls in the applicable preferences pane.

    Figure 20. You can add menus for controlling various preferences. This example shows Modem, Displays, Sound, and Date & Time (the menu bar clock) options.

Printing improvements

  • Mac OS X 10.1 shiped with over 200 PostScript printer description files, including files from Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark, and Xerox.

  • In most cases, the driver for a USB printer will automatically be selected when the printer is added to the Print Center.

Networking improvements

  • Mac OS X is now more compatible with network systems, including AppleShare, Windows NT, Windows 2000, and SAMBA.

  • Mac OS X 10.1 now fully supports AirPort, with the AirPort Admin Utility and the AirPort Setup Assistant.

Application improvements

  • Mac OS X 10.1 includes Java 2 for up-to-date Java compatibility.

  • Internet Explorer 5.1 fully supports Java within the Web browser.

  • iTunes now includes CD burning capabilities so you can create music CDs from your iTunes libraries.

  • The new DVD Player application enables you to watch DVD movies on computers with DVD-ROM drives or SuperDrives.

  • iDVD 2 includes many enhancements for creating your own DVD discs on Super-Drive-equipped Macs, including background encoding.

  • AppleScript is now fully supported by Mac OS X. In fact, the Mac OS X 10.1 Finder is more scriptable than ever.

New Features in Mac OS X 10.2

Mac OS X 10.2, which was released in August 2002, was a major upgrade to Mac OS X. It added many new features and applications and revised some of the applications already available in previous versions of Mac OS X.

Performance enhancements

  • Mac OS X 10.2 incorporates the features of FreeBSD 4.4 and GCC 3.1 into Mac OS X’s Darwin base to enhance performance, compatibility, and usability.

  • Quartz Extreme, the graphics processor underlying Mac OS X 10.2, increases the speed of window redraws and scrolling.

  • The Classic environment now starts up more quickly.

Installer changes

  • The Mac OS X 10.2 installer now comes on 2 disks, along with a third disk for installing Mac OS X 9.2.x.

  • The Mac OS X 10.2 installer now includes a clean install option.

System improvements

  • A user with administrator privileges now has complete control over file permissions via the Info window for a file (Figure 21).

    Figure 21. Any user with administrator privileges can now set ownership and permission options for a file in the file’s Info window.

  • More information now appears in the About This Mac window (Figure 1).

Finder & Aqua enhancements

  • Simple Finder (Figure 22), when enabled for a user, makes the Finder easier to use, limits access, and prevents important files from being accidentally deleted.

    Figure 22. Simple Finder is back in Mac OS X 10.2.

  • There are new alert sounds and sounds that play at certain events—for example, dragging a file to the trash.

  • There are new system cursors, including a spinning ball that replaces the old wristwatch. (That wristwatch was getting pretty old anyway. But at least it was more modern than an hourglass.)

  • Some folder icons are now animated.

  • The toolbar in Finder windows now includes a Search box (Figures 2, 4, and 13), which you can use to search the window for a file by name.

  • In icon view, you can display media-specific information for files (Figure 23).

    Figure 23. In icon view, you can show information about certain files along with the file name.

  • There are more view options in list and column views (Figures 24 & 25).

    Figure 24 & 25. The View Options window for list (left) and column (right) views offer additional options.

  • There are additional fonts, including Roman Cochin and several Japanese and Chinese fonts.

  • There is better support for long file names.

  • The Info window has been modified so it can display more information at once (Figures 15 and 21).

System Preferences improvements

  • The Desktop preferences pane (Figure 18) now enables you to change the desktop picture automatically at an interval you set.

  • The General preferences pane (Figure 19) now offers additional options for font smoothing.

  • A new My Account preferences pane (Figure 26) enables you to change settings for your user account.

    Figure 26. The new My Account preferences pane enables you to set options for your Mac OS X account.

  • The Screen Saver preferences pane has been renamed Screen Effects. It now offers additional screen effect modules, including one that can retrieve images from a .Mac account. (Talk about a frivolous use of bandwidth!)

  • A New CDs & DVDs preferences pane (Figure 27) enables you to set options for what should happen when you insert a CD or DVD.

    Figure 27. The new CDs & DVDs preferences pane enables you to set options for what should happen when you insert a CD or DVD disc.

  • The Sharing preferences pane (Figure 28) offers additional networking options not available in previous versions of Mac OS.

    Figure 28. The Sharing Preferences pane offers additional options for sharing.

  • You can now set more user capability options in the Accounts preferences pane, which replaces the Users pane (Figure 29).

    Figure 29. You can use this dialog in the Accounts preferences pane to set options for what a user can see and work with.

  • The Classic preferences pane now offers more options for working with the Classic environment.

  • Software Update has been revised and is now easier to use.

  • The Startup Disk preferences pane now enables you to start from a network disk, if one is available.

  • News settings have been removed from the Internet preferences pane (Figure 30).

    Figure 30. The Internet preferences pane enables you to monitor and set options for iDisk.

Printing improvements

  • You can now save multiple custom printer settings.

  • Mac OS X 10.2 includes new drivers for printers, including Epson and LexMark.

Device compatibility improvements

  • Mac OS X 10.2 now supports TWAIN, Smart Card, and BlueTooth.

  • Mac OS X 10.2 includes new drivers for Epson scanners, PC card modems, and FireWire audio.

  • Mac OS X 10.2 includes InkWell, which enables you to use a graphics tablet with most Mac OS X applications.

Networking improvements

  • Mac OS X 10.2 includes Rendezvous, a new technology for sharing files on a network.

  • Administrators now have additional control over user access to applications and preferences (Figure 29).

  • You can now boot from a server with NetBoot and install Mac OS over a network from Mac OS X Server.

  • AirPort has been improved to include AirPort Network Selection and AirPort Software Base Station.

  • You can now monitor status and set options for iDisk (Figure 30).

Application improvements

  • Mac OS X now includes Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.

  • Address Book has been revised with a new interface and features, including better integration with Mail and iChat.

  • Calculator (Figure 31) now offers many more calculation functions and a “paper tape” feature.

    Figure 31. The Calculator got a major upgrade!

  • Mac OS X 10.2 includes iChat, which enables you to chat with AOL and .Mac users via the AOL Instant Messaging (AIM) system.

  • Image Capture now supports scanning.

  • iTunes, which has been upgraded to version 3.0, includes many new features, such as smart playlists and more iPod configuration options (Figure 32).

    Figure 32. You can access iPod Preferences from within iTunes when an iPod is connected to your Mac.

  • Mail’s interface was improved to make it easier to use.

  • Preview has been revised with a modified interface and new features.

  • QuickTime Player, which has been upgraded to version 6.0, offers a new interface for accessing Web content (Figure 33).

    Figure 33. QuickTime TV is gone, replaced with buttons to access content on the Web.

  • TextEdit now includes a ruler and other more advanced text formatting features.

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