Desktop & Finder OSX 10.3 - 10.5

Your first look of your Mac will be the Desktop and will look similar to mine below. At the very top of the screen is the Menu Bar and at the bottom is the Dock. Yours will not be as full as mine are at first but as you use and get familiar with OSX you will likely add to yours also. I will describe them in following pages.

The gray portion of the screen is the Desktop, it has files, folders, aliases and, at the top-right, is your hard drive, named Macintosh HD. You can essentially put anything on your desktop but it isn't necessarily the best place to store things (I will go into the storage issue later).

By double-clicking on the Hard Drive icon, you open a Finder window to look into your hard drive. At the very top is the Title Bar, below it is the Tool Bar, at the bottom is theStatus Bar and on the left is the Side Bar.

At the left end of the Title Bar are 3 buttons. The red button closes the window but does not close the program. The yellow button minimizes the window to the Dock, getting it out of the way but still giving you immediate access to it just as you left it, simply by clicking on it in the Dock. (I have 3 finder windows minimized next to the trash in the desktop snapshot above). The green button expands the window large enough to show all that will fit on the screen, clicking on it again will return the window to it's previous size

In the center of the Title Bar is what is called the Folder Proxy Icon. If you click on it while holding the command key (Apple key), you will see the Path to that folder. Choosing any of the enclosing folders will be open that folder in the current window.

The oval button on the right toggles on and off the Tool Bar giving you a bit more real estate for viewing the contents of the folder.

You can customize your Tool Bar to have the shortcuts which are of most use to you. Choose Customize Toolbar from the View menu and you will see a window similar to this. You add or remove items by dragging them to and from the Tool Bar.

You are not limited to the items shown, you can place any item you want in the Tool Bar or Side Bar by navigating to the item in the Finder and dragging the icon to the Tool Bar or Side Bar. You may have to move your cursor around to get the other icons to move and give you room.

If there isn't enough space to show all the icons, you can access those not shown by clicking on the 2 arrows at the left edge of the Tool Bar.

By default the Finder is in Icon View. You have two other ways to view Finder windows, selectable with the View buttons (highlighted by the red arrow below) or from the View menu. Below is the same folder in List View. I like the list view for viewing file and folder details like Date Modified and Size. To see what is inside a folder click on the triangle to make it point downward and the contents are revealed. You can also double click on the folder's icon and the folder will open in the window. You can also sort the contents by any visible column by simply clicking on the column header, a second click will reverse the sort. The view below is sorted by name (blue highlight) and from top to bottom (A-Z) as indicated by the triangle to the right of "Name".
It is easy to retrace your steps and return to a previous view or place by using the Back button.

Here is the same folder in Column View. The column view is similar to the list view but with folder contents being shown on the right instead of below and can be quite useful for quickly navigating your hard drive without opening new windows.

Each view has it's own View Options that are available from the view menu when a particular finder view is frontmost (active).

Here are the options available for the Icon View. You can...

•size the icons

•size and position the text

•keep the icons in a neat grid

•show the item info, which varies with the type of item

•show icon preview, mainly good for graphic thumbnails

•keep the icons sorted

•and even add a background to the window

Play around with the options to get things to appear just the way you would like them. You can make the changes universal to all windows set to Icon View, that haven't been otherwise set.


Here are the options for the List View. You can...

•size the icons

•size the text

•choose which columns to view

•use relative dates, today, yesterday and maybe even tomorrow (is there a psychic in the house?)

•calculate the sizes of folders and volumes. This can take some time to achieve but can be quite informative and is of great value.




Here are the options for the Column View. You can...

•size the text

•choose to show icons

•show the preview column, again quite valuable for previewing graphics


You do have some other universal Finder options/preferences which you access when you choose Preferences from the Finder Menu. You can choose...

•which volumes to show on the desktop. If you choose not to show some or all on the desktop they will be available in the Finder windows.

•where a new Finder window opens to when you choose to open a new one from the File Menu

•to open a new window when you double click on a folder. Normally it will replace the what is in the window

•to open all windows in column view

•to activate Spring-loaded folders and windows. This means that if you drag an item over another folder that folder will open up, revealing any enclosed items, so you can drop the item into a folder that is not otherwise viewable

•to rename the default names for labels. Labels allow you to mark folders and files with colored labels to both make them easier to see and to be able to be searched by. I have marked the orange label to "Back Up" so I can do a search for them and easily find all the folders spread around my hard drive with this label. In OS 10.4 you can even make a smart folder that will do the same






•which default items you would like to appear in your Sidebar. Remember that you can add any items to the bottom part of the Sidebar by dragging it there










•show the file extension, i.e. .jpg, .doc, .mpeg in all filenames

•to warn you before really emptying the trash

• In OS10.5 (Leopard) there are a few changes and additions to these options.


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2005-2009 Jeff Overton -

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