In designing Mac OS X, one of Apple’s key goals was to address the window-proliferation problem. As you create more files, stash them in more folders, and launch more programs, it’s easy to wind up paralyzed before a screen awash with cluttered, overlapping rectangles.
That’s the problem addressed by Exposé, an innovative and useful feature that’s probably worth at least $34 of Mac OS X’s $130 price. It’s described in detail in Exposé: Death to Window Clutter.
The Sidebar is the pane at the left side of every Finder window, unless you’ve hidden it (and, by the way, also at the left side of every full-sized Save and Open dialog box). It lists places where you might look for files and folders—that is, disks, folders, and network disks. Above the horizontal divider, you get the icons for your hard drives, iPods, memory cards, CDs, flash drives, and other removable goodies. Below the divider, you can stick the icons of anything else: files, programs, folders, or whatever.
Each icon is a shortcut. For example, click the Applications icon to view the contents of your Applications folder in the main part of the window (Figure 1-3). And if you click the icon of a file or program, it opens.
Figure 1-3. The Sidebar makes navigation very quick, because you can jump back and forth between distant corners of your Mac with a single click. In column view, the Sidebar is especially handy because it eliminates all of the columns to the left of the one you want, all the way back to your hard-drive level. You’ve just folded up your desktop! Good things to put here: Favorite programs; disks on the network to which you often connect; a document you’re working on every day; and so on. Folder and disk icons here work just like normal ones. You can drag a document onto a folder icon to file it there, drag a downloaded .sit file onto the StuffIt Expander icon there, and so on. In fact, the disks and folders here are even spring-loaded (Making Spring-Loaded Folders Work).
Remove an icon by dragging it out of the window entirely. It vanishes with a puff of smoke (and even a little whoof sound effect). You haven’t actually removed anything from your Mac; you’ve just unhitched its alias from the Sidebar.
Rearrange the icons by dragging them up or down in the list.
Install a new icon by dragging it off of your desktop (or out of a window) into any spot in the appropriate half of the Sidebar. Disks go above the divider bar, everything else goes below.
Adjust the width of the Sidebar by dragging the vertical divider bar (marked by the dot in its center) right or left. You’ll “feel” a snap when the divider hits the spot where you’re seeing all of the icon names but not wasting any extra white space to their right.
Hide the Sidebar by double-clicking the vertical divider—or by pressing Control-Option--T, if you can remember all that. The main file-icons part of the window expands to exploit the freed-up space. (To bring the Sidebar back, double-click the left edge of the window; the telltale dot is still there to remind you.)
It’s also OK to hide the Sidebar by dragging its divider bar all the way to the left edge of the window, and bring it back by dragging the left edge of the window to the right—but these are slower, fussier, and less satisfying than a good old double-click.
Then again, why would you ever want to hide the Sidebar? It’s one of the handiest navigation aids since the invention of the steering wheel. For example:
It takes a lot of pressure off the Dock. Instead of filling up your Dock with folder icons (all of which are frustratingly alike and unlabeled anyway), use the Sidebar to store them. You leave the Dock that much more room for programs and documents.
It’s better than the Dock. In some ways, the Sidebar is a lot like the Dock, in that you can stash favorite icons there of any sort. But the Sidebar reveals the names of these icons, and the Dock doesn’t.
It makes disk-ejecting easy. Just click the button next to any removable disk to make it pop out. (You can “eject” network disks the same way.) After 20 years, the Mac finally beats the “It’s illogical to eject a disk by dragging it to the Trash!” problem. (For other ways to eject disks, see Figure 11-1.)
It makes disc-burning easy. When you’ve inserted a blank CD or DVD and loaded it up with stuff you want to copy, click the radioactive-looking Burn button next to its name to begin burning that disc. (Details on burning discs in Chapter 10.)
You can drag onto its folders and disks. That is, you can drag icons onto Sidebar icons, exactly as though they were the real disks, folders, and programs that they represent.
Figure 1-4. Top: How are you supposed to drag the Sir Knight file (in your Home→Pictures folder) into a folder that’s not visible at the moment—a folder that requires navigating down a totally different path? You could use spring-loaded folder-dragging (Making Spring-Loaded Folders Work), but if the two folders are distant, the following trick is faster. Middle: Start by dragging the destination folder into the Sidebar (in this case, the Public→Drop Box folder in Robin’s home folder). Bottom: Drag the Sir Knight file onto the folder to complete the transition. Drag the Drop Box folder out of the Sidebar to get rid of it, if you wish.
It simplifies connecting to networked disks. Park your other computers’ hard drive icons here, as described in Chapter 12, and you shave several steps off the usual connecting-via-network ritual.
It lets you drag between distant folders. See Figure 1-4 for details on this sneaky, yet highly efficient trick.
The title bar (Figure 1-5) has several functions. First, when several windows are open, the darkened window name, mini-icon, and left-corner buttons tell you which window is active (in front); in background windows, these elements appear dimmed. Second, the title bar acts as a handle that lets you move the window around on the screen.
Of course, you can also move Finder windows by dragging any “brushed-metal” edge. Still, it’s good to know about the title bar as a handle, because not all windows are brushed metal. (The Preferences window, for example, still bears the old, faintly pinstriped “Aqua” look—and therefore you can’t drag it by its edges.)
Here’s a nifty keyboard shortcut: You can cycle through the different open windows in one program without using the mouse. Just press -~ (that is, the tilde key, to the left of the number 1 key). With each press, you bring a different window forward within the current program. It works both in the Finder and in your everyday programs, and it beats the pants off using the mouse to choose a name from the Window menu.
After you’ve opened one folder that’s inside another, the title bar’s secret folder hierarchy menu is an efficient way to backtrack—to return to the enclosing window. Get in the habit of pressing the key as you click the name of the window to access the menu shown in Figure 1-5. (You can release the key immediately after clicking.)
By choosing the name of a folder from this menu, you open the corresponding window. When browsing the contents of the Users folder, for example, you can return to the main hard drive window by -clicking the folder name Users and choosing Macintosh HD from the menu.
Figure 1-5. Press and click a window’s title bar (top) to summon the hidden folder hierarchy menu (bottom). The Finder isn’t the only program that offers this trick, by the way. It also works in most other Mac OS X–compatible programs, and even many Mac OS 9 programs. For example, you can -click a document window’s title to find out where the document is actually saved on your hard drive.
Once you’ve mastered dragging, you’re ready for these three terrific title bar tips:
Pressing the key lets you drag the title bar of an inactive window—one that’s partly covered by a window in front—without bringing it to the front. (Drag any empty part of the title bar—not the title itself.)
As a matter of fact, depending on the program you’re clicking into, you can operate any control—resize boxes, buttons, pop-up menus, and even scroll bars—in a background window without bringing it to the front. In fact, you can even drag through text without bringing a window forward. In every case, just keeping pressed as you click or drag is the secret.
Only Cocoa programs, described in The Cocoa Difference, offer the full range of -clickable controls. In general, programs that have simply been Carbonized respond only to -clicking title-bar elements.
By the way, you can always close, minimize, or zoom a background window without the help of the key. Just click its title bar buttons normally. Mac OS X does its thing without taking you out of your current window or program.
One more title bar trick: By double-clicking the title bar, you minimize the window, making it collapse into the Dock exactly as though you had clicked the minimize button (assuming you haven’t turned off this feature in System Preferences, of course).
The Option key means “apply this action to all windows” (in the current program). For example, Option-double-clicking any title bar minimizes all desktop windows, sending them flying to the Dock.
As the tip of your cursor crosses the three buttons at the upper-left corner of a window, tiny symbols appear inside them: x, -, and +. Ignore the gossip that these symbols were added to help color-blind people who can’t distinguish the colors red, yellow, and green. Color-blind people are perfectly capable of distinguishing the buttons by their positions, just as they do with traffic lights.
Instead, these cues appear to distinguish the buttons when all three are identical shades of gray, as they are when you use Graphite mode (.Mac). They also signal you when it’s time to click. For example, as described in the previous section, you can use these three buttons even when the window is not frontmost. You know the buttons are ripe for the clicking when you see the little symbols appear under your cursor.
The most important window gadget is the close button, the red, droplet-like button in the upper-left corner (see Figure 1-6). Clicking it closes the window, which collapses back into the icon from which it came.
Figure 1-6. When Steve Jobs unveiled Mac OS X at a Macworld Expo in 1999, he said that his goal was to oversee the creation of an interface so attractive, “you just want to lick it.” Desktop windows, with their juicy, fruit-flavored controls, are a good starting point.
If, while working on a document, you see a tiny dot in the center of the close button, Mac OS X is trying to tell you that you haven’t yet saved your work. The dot goes away when you save the document.
The universal keyboard equivalent of the close button is -W (for window)—a keystroke well worth memorizing. If you get into the habit of dismissing windows with that deft flex of your left hand, you’ll find it far easier to close several windows in a row, because you don’t have to aim for successive close buttons.
In many programs, something special happens if you’re pressing the Option key when using the close button or its -W equivalent: You close all open windows. This trick is especially useful in the Finder, where a quest for a particular document may have left your screen plastered with open windows for which you have no further use. Option-clicking the close button of any one window (or pressing Option--W) closes all of them.
On the other hand, the Option-key trick doesn’t close all windows in every program—only those in the current program. Option-closing an AppleWorks document closes all AppleWorks windows, but your Finder windows remain open.
Moreover, Option-closing works only in enlightened applications, such as AppleWorks, Quicken, and the Finder. (In this department, Microsoft is not yet enlightened.)
Click this yellow drop of gel to minimize any Mac window, sending it shrinking, with a genie-like animated effect, into the right end of the Dock, where it then appears as an icon. The window isn’t gone, and it hasn’t even closed. It’s just out of your way for the moment, as though you’ve set it down on a shelf. To bring it back, click the newly created Dock icon (see Figure 1-7, as well as Chapter 4 for more on the Dock).
Minimizing a window in this way is a great window-management tool. In the Finder, minimizing a window lets you see whatever icons were hiding behind it. In a word processor, this technique lets you type a memo that requires frequent consultation of a spreadsheet behind it.
If you enjoy the ability to roll up your windows in this way, remember that you actually have a bigger target than the tiny minimize button. The entire title bar becomes a giant minimize button when you double-click anywhere on it. (That’s an option in the Appearance panel of System Preferences, described in Chapter 8.)
Figure 1-7. Clicking the minimize button sends a window scurrying down to the Dock, collapsing in on itself as though being forced through a tiny, invisible funnel. A tiny icon appears on the lower-right corner of its minimized image to identify the program it’s running in.
The minimize button harbors only one hidden feature, but it’s very entertaining. If you Option-click it, all windows in the current program shrink away simultaneously—great when you’ve got several Web browser windows open, for example, or an abundance of word processor documents.
You might expect that Option-clicking one minimized window on the Dock would un-minimize all of a program’s windows—and indeed, that’s true for Cocoa programs (The Cocoa Difference). But if it’s a Carbon program, you have to click the windows one at a time on the Dock to bring them back.
Mac OS X can even change menu commands as you press modifier keys. For example, open a couple of Finder windows and then click the Window menu. Focus your eyes on the Minimize Window command. Now press Option and watch both the wording and the listed keyboard equivalent change instantly to Minimize All (Option--M).
A click on this green geltab (see Figure 1-6) makes a desktop window just large enough to reveal all of the icons inside it. If your monitor isn’t big enough to show all the icons in a window, the zoom box resizes the window to show as many as possible. In either case, a second click on the zoom button restores the window to its previous size. (The Window→Zoom command does the same thing.)
Each Finder-window title bar features a small icon next to the window’s name (Figure 1-8), representing the open window’s actual folder or disk icon. It’s a stand-in—a proxy—for the folder itself.
By dragging this tiny icon, you can move or copy the folder into a different folder or disk, into the Trash, or into the Dock without having to first close the window. (If this feature strikes you as unimpressive, you probably never witnessed a hapless Mac novice repeatedly attempting to drag an open window into the Trash in, say, System 7.5.)
You have to hold down the mouse button on the folder proxy icon until the icon darkens before dragging. (It darkens in a fraction of a second.)
Figure 1-8. When you find yourself confronting a Finder window that contains useful stuff, consider dragging its proxy icon to the Dock. You wind up installing its folder or disk icon there for future use. That’s not the same as minimizing the window, which puts the window icon into the Dock, and only temporarily at that. (Note: Most Mac OS X document windows also offer a proxy-icon feature, but produce only an alias when you drag it to a different folder or disk.)
When dragging this proxy icon to a different place on the same disk, the usual folder-dragging rules apply: Hold down the Option key if you want to copy the original disk or folder; ignore the Option key to move the original folder. (You’ll find details on moving and copying icons in the next chapter.)
Chapter 4 describes this fascinating desktop-window element in great detail.
In Mac OS X, double-clicking a folder in a window doesn’t leave you with two open windows. Instead, double-clicking a folder makes the original window disappear (Figure 1-9).
If you Option-double-click a folder, you don’t simply replace the contents of a fixed window that remains onscreen; you actually switch windows, as evidenced by their changing sizes and shapes.
Figure 1-9. In an effort to help you avoid window clutter, Apple has designed Mac OS X windows so that double-clicking a folder in a window (top) doesn’t actually open another window (bottom). Every time you double-click a folder in an open window, its contents replace whatever was previously in the window. If you double-click three folders in succession, you still wind up with just one open window.
So what if you’ve now opened inner folder B, and you want to backtrack to outer folder A? In that case, just click the tiny left-arrow button—the Back button—in the upper-left corner of the window (shown in Figure 1-9), or use one of these alternatives:
None of that helps you, however, if you want to move a file from one folder into another or compare the contents of two windows. In that case, you probably want to see both windows open at the same time.
You can open a second window using any of these techniques:
What “new” window appears when you use this command? On a fresh Mac OS X installation, it’s likely to be your Home folder. (That’s a welcome change; in previous versions, you wound up at the relatively useless Computer window.)
But you can choose any window you want. To make the change, choose Finder→Preferences. Click the General icon. Change the “New Finder windows open” pop-up menu to whatever folder you’d like to use as the starting point for your computing life. Your Home folder is a good choice, but you’re also free to choose your Documents folder, your iDisk, or any folder at all. Now every new Finder window shows you that specified folder, which is a much more useful arrangement.
Double-click a folder or disk icon on your desktop.
Choose Finder→Preferences and turn on “Always open folders in a new window.” Now when double-clicked, all folders open into their own new windows. (This is the option for veteran Mac fans who don’t care for the new behavior.)
“Old Finder Mode,” of course, isn’t the technical Apple term, but it should be. Here’s how it works.
The upper-right corner of every Finder window contains a little button that looks like a half-inch squirt of Crest toothpaste. When you click it, you enter Old Finder Mode.
This mode was designed for people who come to Mac OS X from an earlier version of the Mac OS, like Mac OS 9, and lose half their hair when they discover how different things are in Mac OS X.
In this mode, three of the biggest behavioral differences between Mac OS X and its predecessor disappear:
The Sidebar and the Finder-window toolbar (Figure 1-6) slide out of sight.
Double-clicking a folder now works like it used to. Every time you double-click a folder, you open a new corresponding window.
You can add a Mac OS 9–style information strip at the top of the window, which tells you how many icons are in it (“14 items,” for example) and the amount of free space remaining on the disk. Just choose View→Show Status Bar—a command that’s dimmed at all times except when you’re in Old Finder Mode.
(In Mac OS X 10.4, this information strip appears at the bottom of every Finder window, as shown in Figure 1-6.)
When you’ve had enough of Old Finder Mode, you can return to regular Mac OS X mode either by clicking the Toolbar Disclosure button again, by pressing Option--T again, or by choosing View→Show Toolbar.
Scroll bars appear automatically in any window that isn’t big enough to show all of its contents. Without scroll bars in word processors, for example, you’d never be able to write a letter that’s longer than your screen is tall. You can manipulate a scroll bar in three ways, as shown in Figure 1-10.
Mac OS X offers an intriguing scroll bar option called “Jump to here.” Ordinarily, when you click in the scroll bar track above or below the gelatinous handle, the window scrolls by one screenful. But your other option is to turn on “Scroll to here” mode in the Appearance panel of System Preferences (.Mac). Now when you click in the scroll bar track, the Mac considers the entire scroll bar a proportional map of the document, and jumps precisely to the spot you clicked. That is, if you click at the very bottom of the scroll bar track, you see the very last page.
No matter which scrolling option you choose in the Appearance panel, you can always override your decision on a case-by-case basis by Option-clicking in the scroll bar track. In other words, if you’ve selected the “Jump to here” option, you can produce a “Jump to the next page” scroll by Option-clicking in the scroll bar track.
Figure 1-10. Three ways to control a scroll. The scroll bar arrows (lower right) appear nestled together when you first install Mac OS X, as shown here. If you, an old-time Windows or Mac OS 9 fan, prefer these arrows to appear on opposite ends of the scroll bar, visit the Appearance panel of System Preferences, described in Tweaking the Scroll Bars.
It’s worth noting, however, that the true speed expert eschews scroll bars altogether. Your Page Up and Page Down keys let you scroll up and down, one screen at a time, without having to take your hands off the keyboard to grab the mouse. The Home and End keys, meanwhile, are generally useful for jumping directly to the top or bottom of your document (or Finder window). And if you’ve bought a mouse that has a scroll wheel on the top, you can use it to scroll windows, too, without pressing any keys at all.
Mac OS X includes an alternate scrolling system for list views, as shown in Figure 1-11.
The lower-right corner of every standard Mac OS X window is ribbed, a design that’s meant to imply that you can grip it by dragging. Doing so lets you resize and reshape the window (see Figure 1-6).
This information strip tells you how many icons are in the window (“14 items,” for example) and the amount of free space remaining on the disk. (If you miss seeing the status bar at the top of every window—what are you, some kind of radical?—see The Toolbar Disclosure button.)