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Introduction > The Very Basics

The Very Basics

To use this book, and indeed to use a Macintosh computer, you need to know a few basics. This book assumes that you're familiar with a few terms and concepts:

  • Clicking. This book gives you three kinds of instructions that require you to use the mouse that's attached to your Mac. To click means to point the arrow cursor at something on the screen and then—without moving the cursor at all—press and release the clicker button on the mouse (or your laptop trackpad). To doubleclick, of course, means to click twice in rapid succession, again without moving the cursor at all. And to drag means to move the cursor while holding down the button.

    When you're told to -click something, you click while pressing the key (which is next to the Space bar). Such related procedures as Shift-clicking, Option-clicking, and Control-clicking work the same way—just click while pressing the corresponding key at the bottom of your keyboard.

  • Menus. The menus are the words at the top of your screen: File, Edit, and so on. (The at the top left corner of your screen is a menu, too.) Click one to make a list of commands appear, as though they're written on a window shade you've just pulled down.

    Some people click and release the mouse button to open a menu and then, after reading the menu command choices, click again on the one they want. Other people like to press the mouse button continuously after the initial click on the menu title, drag down the list to the desired command, and only then release the mouse button. Either method works fine.

  • Keyboard shortcuts. If you're typing along in a burst of creative energy, it's sometimes disruptive to have to take your hand off the keyboard, grab the mouse, and then use a menu (for example, to use the Bold command). That's why many experienced Mac fans prefer to trigger menu commands by pressing certain combinations on the keyboard. For example, in most word processors, you can press -B to produce a boldface word. When you read an instruction like "press -B," start by pressing the key, then, while it's down, type the letter B, and finally release both keys.

  • Icons. The colorful inch-tall pictures that appear in your various desktop folders are the graphic symbols that represent each program, disk, and document on your computer. If you click an icon one time, it darkens indicating that you've just highlighted or selected. Now you're ready to manipulate it by using, for example, a menu command.

Figure I-2. Mastering Mac OS X involves knowing what things are called, especially the kinds of controls you find in dialog boxes.

Note, by the way, that as part of Panther's visual redesign, the dialog-box subdivisions called tabs are still called tabs, even though they now resemble adjacent buttons.

  • Checkboxes, radio buttons, tabs. See Figure I-2 for a quick visual reference to the onscreen controls you're most often asked to use.

If you've mastered this much information, you have all the technical background you need to enjoy Mac OS X: The Missing Manual.

Version 10.3.1 and Beyond

Only a few weeks after the debut of Mac OS X 10.3, Apple began its traditional flood of system updates. These multimegabyte installers patch holes, fix bugs, improve compatibility with external gadgets, and make the whole system work more smoothly.

Version 10.3.1, for example, introduced a long list of bug fixes in several broad categories, most notably a serious problem with FileVault that could corrupt your files. There were also fixes in printing and connecting to external FireWire 800 drives.

Only a few weeks later, 10.3.2 came out, offering faster and more refined file sharing, font management, USB, and text and graphics display, with even more attention to fixing FileVault problems.

You don't have to go out of your way to get these updates: One day you'll be online with your Mac, and a Software Update dialog box will appear before you, offering you the chance to download and install the patch. Almost always, doing so is a good idea.

As for the differences between the "first decimal point" versions of Mac OS X: You'll find this book useful no matter which version you have, but it describes and illustrates version 10.3 and later. If you're still working with 10.1 or 10.2, you'll probably feel most comfortable if you seek out the first or second edition of this book.

Or, better yet, upgrade to Panther.

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