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Introduction to Mac OS X

Introduction to Mac OS X


Mac OS X 10.4 (Figure 1) is the latest version of the computer operating system that put the phrase graphic user interface in everyone’s vocabulary. With Mac OS, you can point, click, and drag to work with files, applications, and utilities. Because the same intuitive interface is utilized throughout the system-, you’ll find that a procedure that works in one program works in virtually all the others.

Figure 1. The About This Mac window for Mac OS X 10.4.

This Visual QuickStart Guide will help you learn Mac OS X 10.4 by providing step-by-step instructions, plenty of illustrations, and a generous helping of tips. On these pages, you’ll find everything you need to know to get up and running quickly with Mac OS X—and a lot more!

This book was designed for page flipping. Use the thumb tabs, index, or table of contents to find the topics for which you need help. If you’re brand new to Mac OS, however, I recommend that you begin by reading at least the first two chapters. In them, you’ll find basic information about techniques you’ll use every day with your computer.

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 can expect to see on your computer.

✓ Tips

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

  • Although this book is over 700 pages long, it doesn’t cover every single aspect of using Mac OS X. You can find additional material that didn’t make it into this book on the book’s companion Web site, www.langerbooks.com/macosquickstart/.

New Features in Mac OS X 10.4

Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) is a major revision to Mac OS X. Here’s a look at some of the new and revised features you can expect to find.

✓ Tip

  • This book covers many of these features.


  • Spotlight (Figure 2) is a new search feature that enables you to search available volumes from the Finder or while other applications are active. It even works within applications such as System Preferences to help you find what you’re looking for.

    Figure 2. One of Spotlight’s features is a search results menu you can access when any application is active.

  • Dashboard (Figure 3) introduces tiny applications called widgets, which appear onscreen with the push of a button. Mac OS X comes with a number of widgets you can use to perform simple tasks or get information.

    Figure 3. Dashboard puts tiny applications called widgets on your screen when you press

  • Automator (Figure 4) makes it easy to create workflows to automate repetitive tasks. Use actions that come with Mac OS X 10.4 applications or write your own with AppleScript.

    Figure 4. You can use Automator to create custom workflows to automate tasks.

  • Family Controls (Figure 5) enable you to set up user accounts to protect kids from interacting with strangers or visiting unapproved Web sites on the Internet.

    Figure 5. Parental Controls enable you to limit the use of certain applications.

  • VoiceOver is Mac OS X’s new built-in screen reader, which uses voice synthesis to read back whatever appears on screen, as well as what you type or click.


  • Smart folders work with Spotlight to create folders full of search results. Smart folders are constantly updated, thus automating the search process.

  • Burn folders (Figure 6) make it easy to organize files to be burned onto a CD. Because burn folders contain aliases of items, there’s no need to fill your hard disk with duplicate items. Best of all, when an item changes, the current version of the item is burned to CD.

    Figure 6. Burn folders make it easy to organize files before burning them to CD.


  • Dictionary puts the Oxford American Dictionaries inside your Macintosh. Use it to get word definitions, pronunciations, synonyms, and antonyms. This feature is available as an application or as a Dashboard widget.

  • Grapher (Figure 7), the first Mac OS X version of Graphing Calculator, graphs complex formulas.

    Figure 7. Grapher is the Mac OS X version of Apple’s old Graphing Calculator.

  • Address Book has several new features, including Smart Groups, which automatically group contacts by search criteria you specify, and Address Book Sharing, which enables you to share contacts with others over a network or the Internet.

  • iCal is better integrated with Address Book and Mail. You can now use iCal to send event invitations to Address Book contacts via Mail.


  • The Print dialog now includes a PDF menu (Figure 8), which offers options for creating or faxing document PDFs.

    Figure 8. The new PDF menu in Print dialogs lets you create or fax documents as PDFs.

  • The Finder now includes a Print command, which quickly prints documents selected in a Finder window.


  • Safari can now work as an RSS reader (Figure 9), so you can browse syndicated sites. A new View All RSS Articles command displays recent RSS articles from a variety of sources in your Safari window.

    Figure 9. Safari is now an RSS article reader as well as a standard Web browser.

  • Mail has a number of new features, including Spotlight searching, Smart Mailboxes, and the ability to synchronize accounts, mailboxes, and other Mail features with other computers via a .Mac account.

  • iChat now supports video conferencing with up to three other people or audio conferencing with up to nine other people.


  • A .Mac account now makes it possible to synchronize bookmarks, calendars, contacts, keychains, mail account, mail rules, mail signatures, and smart mailboxes.

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