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Mac OS X in a Nutshell by Chris Stone, Chuck Toporek, Jason McIntosh

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Opening and Saving Documents

Nearly all applications that let you create and edit documents, and that make use of Mac OS X’s Aqua interface, use the same dialogs for opening and editing files. They give you a variety of ways to navigate through the filesystem folder by folder until you find the place or object you’re seeking, or simply specify a known location in a single step.

This section will discuss the open and save dialogs, showing you how to navigate through the maze of disks, folders, and files on your Mac.

The Open Window

The centerpiece of every Open dialog window, as shown in Figure 1-31, is a columnar view of some place in your filesystem. In fact, it has the same function as the Finder’s Column View (see Section 2.2.3). Through it, you can select the file you’d like to open. Some applications might let you choose folders and disks to open as well.

Above that window floats a From pull-down menu. Its first (and default) option is always set to the right-most disk or folder selected in the window’s path of columns. Pulling down and selecting something else from the menu instantly zaps the columnar window to a folder elsewhere on your filesystem. Its selections are similar, but not identical, to those of the Finder’s Go menu:

Desktop (The Open Window-D)

Switches the location to your Desktop folder.

Home (Shift-The Open Window -H)

Switches the selected location to your Home directory.


This submenu points to the various top-level folders on your iDisk, if you have a .Mac account. The Open dialog knows what the default folders of your iDisk are, even if it isn’t mounted on your Desktop.


If your iDisk isn’t mounted and you select one of its folders, the iDisk will be mounted for you, using the settings you’ve specified in the Internet System Preferences panel.

To open a file on your iDisk, select one of the top-level folders (Backup, Documents, Movies, Music, Pictures, Public, Sites, or Software) and then select the file you wish to open.

Favorite Places

Beneath this grayed-out label is a list of all the folders and disks you’ve marked as favorites (see Section 2.7). Note that any files that you’ve similarly marked don’t show up here. Likewise, your Home directory, Desktop, or iDisk won’t show up in this list either if you’ve marked them as favorites.

Recent Places

Beneath this grayed-out label are the five most recent folders from which you’ve opened or saved files.

Near the bottom of the open dialog lies a text field labeled Go to:. Similar to the Finder’s Go Go to Folder... (Shift-

The Open Window

-G) command, you can type a Unix path here, and then hit the Return key (or click the window’s Go button) to be taken to that location in the filesystem. If you typed the name of a folder, the Column View will take you to that location. If you typed the name of a file the application is capable of opening, it will do so (closing the Open window in the process). If you type a filename that the application isn’t capable of opening, the open dialog will close as if you had clicked its Cancel button. If you type in a path to something that doesn’t exist, it’ll tell you so by playing the alert sound.

At the bottom of the open dialog, you typically get the following three buttons:

Add to Favorites

Adds an alias to the selected object (i.e., whatever’s highlighted in the next-to-last column) into your Favorites folder.


Dismisses the window without opening any files. You can also use

The Open Window

-. to invoke the Cancel button.


At first, this button is grayed out until you select a folder or file in the Column View. If you enter something into the “Go to” field, the Open button will change to Go. After you’ve selected something in the Column View to open, click this button (or hit Return) to open the file.

The Save Window

Because it’s usually attached to a document window, you’ll usually see the file-saving dialog as a sheet that rolls out from under the window’s titlebar. The Save window appears when you first try to save an unnamed document, or if you select File Save As... at any time.

The dialog’s interface looks and works a lot like that of an Open window, with some key differences: its purpose is not to get you to choose a file, but to get you to name the file and choose a location in the filesystem where the file will be saved.

Choosing a filename

Two controls at the top and bottom of the sheet help you indicate the name you’d like to give this file. Enter the filename you want to use in the Save as: text field at the top of the window.

If the window also features a Hide Extension checkbox at the bottom, leaving it unchecked will let the application choose and assign the file extension (e.g., .txt, .doc, .html, etc.). If you opt to use your own file extension, the application may refuse to accept your replacement or simply ignore you, tacking its own extension on the end anyway. (More polite applications will warn you with a dialog box.)

The default state of the Hide Extension checkbox depends on what you’ve specified in the Finder’s preferences via the “Always show file extensions” checkbox. If it’s unchecked, then Hide Extension is checked, and vice versa.

Choosing a location

The two “Where:” controls let you choose the disk or folder into which the application will write the file. The controls consist of a pull-down menu and a columnar file-navigation view that operate exactly like the From: menu and view found in the Open window, with a couple of differences.

First, the menu has an arrow button to its right, stamped with a black triangle. Clicking the arrow button toggles the navigation view between hiding and revealing itself. The view itself differs from its file-opening counterpart as it lets you choose only disks or folders on your filesystem; all files are grayed out and cannot be selected.

If you find that the folder you’d like to save this file to doesn’t exist yet, you can create a new one by clicking on the New Folder button. A window will pop up, prompting you to enter a name for the new folder. After naming the new folder, click the Create button and the sheet will disappear; the location to where the file will be saved is now set to the new folder you’ve just created.

Finally, hit the Cancel button to dismiss the dialog without writing anything to disk, or choose the default Save to create a new file with the name and location you’ve specified. If the filename matches the name of a file already in the selected folder, a dialog box will appear, asking whether you want to continue with the save and replace the like-named file with the file you’re saving, or whether you want to cancel the save and assign a different name to the file.

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