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Chapter 4. Programs and Documents > Launching Mac OS X Programs

4.1. Launching Mac OS X Programs

Many of the techniques for launching (opening) a program work just as they do in Windows. For example:

  • Double-click an application's icon (in the Applications folder, for example).

  • Click a program's icon on the Dock, Finder toolbar, or Sidebar (Chapter 3).

  • If a program's icon is already highlighted, press -O (short for File → Open) or -down arrow.

  • Use the menu's Recent Items → Applications listing.

  • Open a document icon in any of these ways, or drag a document onto the icon of a program that can open it (whether in the Dock, the Finder toolbar, or in a folder window).

As the program opens, its icon jumps up and down eagerly in your Dock (unless you've turned off the "Animate Opening Applications" checkbox in the System Preferences → Dock pane).

What happens next depends on the program you're using. Most present you with a new, blank, untitled document, just like most programs in Windows. Some, like iMovie and iDVD, automatically open the last file you worked on. And a few oddball programs don't open any window at all when first launched.

4.1.1. The Application Menu

Once a program is open, you'll notice a few changes to the menu bar at the top of the screen. The first menu appears with bold lettering and identifies the program you're using. It might say Safari, Word, or Mail, for example.

This Application menu (Figure 4-1) offers a number of commands pertaining to the entire program and its windows, including About, Quit, and Hide.

Figure 4-1. The first menu in every program lets you know, at a glance, which program you're in.

4.1.2. Quitting Programs

In Macintosh lingo, you don't "exit" a program when you're finished with it, you "quit" it. And the command to do so isn't in the File menu—it's at the bottom of the Application menu.

But Mac OS X offers three much more fun ways to quit a program.

  • Press -Q, which is the keyboard shortcut for the Quit command.

  • Control-click a program's Dock icon and choose Quit from the pop-up menu.

  • When you've pressed -Tab to summon Mac OS X's "heads-up display" of open programs (Section 4.2.7), type the letter Q without releasing thekey. The highlighted program quits after a short pause.

4.1.3. Force Quitting Programs

Mac OS X is a rock-solid operating system, but that doesn't mean that programs never screw up. Individual programs are just as likely to freeze or lock up as they are in, say, Windows.

In such cases, you have no choice but to force quit the program—or, in Windows lingo, to terminate it or "end its task." Fortunately, doing so doesn't destabilize your Mac, meaning you don't have to restart it. In fact, you can almost always reopen the very same program and get on with your life.

You can force-quit a stuck program in any of several ways. First, you can Control-click its Dock icon (or just hold your mouse down on it). Once the pop-up menu appears, press Option so that the Quit command now says Force Quit (see Figure 4-2). Bingo: That program is outta here.

Figure 4-2. Top: You can force quit a program from the Dock thanks to the Option key.
Bottom: When you press Option--Esc or choose Force Quit from the menu, a tidy box listing all open programs appears. (This is the equivalent of the Windows Task Manager.) Just click the one you want to abort, click Force Quit, and click Force Quit again in the confirmation box.

Second, you can press Option--Esc, the Mac's version of the Windows Control-Alt-Delete "three-fingered salute." Third, you can chooseForce Quit. Either way, proceed as shown in Figure 4-2.


The only downside to force-quitting is that you lose any unsaved changes in the program you just killed.

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