Clicking. To click means to point the arrow cursor at something on the screen and then—without moving the cursor—press and release the clicker button on the mouse or trackpad. To double-click, 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). Shift-clicking, Option-clicking, and Control-clicking work the same way—just click while pressing the corresponding key.
(There’s also right-clicking. That very important topic is described in depth on The Complicated Story of the Function Keys.)
Some people click and release to open a menu and then, after reading the 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 disruptive to have to grab the mouse to use a menu. That’s why many Mac fans prefer to trigger menu commands by pressing key combinations. For example, in word processors, you can press ⌘-B to produce a boldface word. When you read an instruction like “Press ⌘-B,” start by pressing the ⌘ key, and then, while it’s down, type the letter B, and finally release both keys.
Gestures. A gesture is a swipe across your trackpad (on your laptop, or on an external Apple trackpad) or across the top surface of the Apple Magic Mouse. Gestures have been given huge importance in OS X. Trackpad Gestures contains a handy list of these gestures.
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 it. Now you’re ready to manipulate it by using, for example, a menu command.
Dialog boxes. See Figure 2 for a tour of the onscreen elements you’ll frequently be asked to use, like checkboxes, radio buttons, tabs, and so on.
A few more tips on using the Mac keyboard appear at the beginning of Chapter 6. Otherwise, if you’ve mastered this much information, you have all the technical background you need to enjoy OS X El Capitan: The Missing Manual.
Figure 2. Knowing what you’re doing on the Mac often requires knowing what things are called. Here are some of the most common onscreen elements. They include checkboxes (turn on as many as you like) and radio buttons (only one can be turned on in each grouping). Pressing Return is usually the same as clicking the default button—the lower-right button that almost always means “OK, I’m done here.”