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Chapter 2. Windows and Icons > What's in Your Home Folder

2.6. What's in Your Home Folder

As noted in Chapter 1, your Home folder (choose Go → Home) will be your primary activity center on the Mac. It stores not only your documents, music files, photos, and so on, but also all of your preference settings for the programs you use. Because you'll be spending so much time here, it's worth learning about the folders that Apple puts inside here. As a convenience, Mac OS X creates the following folders:

  • Desktop folder. When you drag an icon out of a window and onto your Mac OS X desktop, it may appear to show up on the desktop, but that's just an optical illusion. In truth, nothing in Mac OS X is ever really on the desktop. It's actually in this Desktop folder, and mirrored on the desktop area.

    You can entertain yourself for hours by proving this to yourself. If you drag something out of your Desktop folder, it also disappears from the actual desktop. And vice versa. (You're not allowed to delete or rename the Desktop folder.)

  • Documents. Apple suggests that you keep your actual work files in this folder. Sure enough, whenever you save a new document (when you're working in AppleWorks or Word, for example), the Save As dialog box proposes storing the new file in this folder, as described in Chapter 4.

    Your programs may also create folders of their own here. For example, if Microsoft Entourage is your email program, you'll find a Microsoft User Data folder here (which contains your actual mail files). If you use a Palm organizer, you'll find a Palm folder here for your palmtop's calendar and phone book data. And so on.

  • Library. The main Library folder (the one in your main hard drive window) contains folders for fonts, preferences, help files, and other files essential to the operation of Mac OS X.

    But you have your own Library folder, too, right there in your Home folder. It stores exactly the same kinds of things, but they're your fonts, your preferences, and so on.

    This setup may seem redundant if you're the only person who uses your Mac. But it makes perfect sense in the context of families, schools, or offices where numerous people share a single machine. Because you have your own Library folder, you can have a font collection, sounds, and other preference settings that are in effect only when you're using the Mac. (Because this folder is so important, you shouldn't move or rename it.)

  • Movies, Music, Pictures. These folders, of course, are the precise equivalents of the Windows folders called My Movies, My Music, and My Pictures. The Mac OS X programs that deal with movies, music, and pictures will propose these specialized folders as storage locations. For example, when you plug a digital camera into a Mac OS X computer, the iPhoto program automatically begins to download the photos from it—and iPhoto stores them in the Pictures folder. Similarly, iMovie is programmed to look for the Movies folder when saving its files, and iTunes stores its MP3 files in the Music folder. (More on these programs in Chapter 14.)

  • Public. If you're on a network, or if others use the same Mac when you're not around, this folder can be handy: It's the "Any of you guys can look at these files" folder. Other people on your network, as well as other people who sit down at your machine, are allowed to see whatever you've put in here, even if they don't have your password. (If your Mac isn't on an office network and isn't shared, you can safely throw away this folder.) Details on sharing the Mac are in Chapter 12, and those on networking are in Chapter 9.

  • Sites. Mac OS X has a built-in Web server—software that turns your Mac into an Internet Web site that people all over the world can connect to. (This feature is practical only if your Mac has a full-time Internet connection.) This Mac OS X feature relies on a program called the Apache Web server, which is so highly regarded in the Unix community that programmers lower their voices when they mention it.

    This is the folder where you put the actual Web pages you want available to the Internet at large.



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