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Mac Basics


OS X Mountain Lion Edition

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Get Started with OS X

Set Up Your Mac 8

Meet Your Mac 20

Transfer Other Files 25

Get to Know Your Desktop

Gestures, Gestures, Gestures 29

Welcome to the Finder 40

The Dock, Launchpad, and Dashboard 59

Mission Control 72

Notification Center 74

Customize Your Mac

System Preferences Basics 79

Change Your Personal Settings 81

Change Your Hardware Settings 89

Change Your Internet & Wireless Settings 97

Change Your System Settings 102

Add Third-Party Utilities 115

Work with Apps

Application Basics 119

OS X’s Built-in Apps 129

Explore the Mac App Store 157

Venture beyond the Mac App Store 161

Connect Your Mac

Print Documents 165

Share Your Files (and Your Screen) 176

Work with Accessories 182


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Secure Your Mac

Lock Up Your Mac 190

Protect Your Computer from Wayward Apps 198

What Are Sandboxed Apps? 200

Back Up Your Mac 202

Troubleshooting Tips

Your Mac’s Troubleshooting Tools 214

Recover from Crashes 216

Treat Kernel Panic Attacks 222

Cure Startup Woes 223

How to Make OS X Less Like iOS 226

Seek Outside Help 228


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It’s a special moment, getting your first computer. I’ve been using

Macs since I was old enough to double-click, but I didn’t get one that

was truly mine until 1998—a Bondi blue iMac with a silly-looking

mouse and a carrying handle built into the case.

Like buying your first house, getting your first Mac is both exciting

and terrifying: For the first time, you have something that’s entirely

yours to customize, tweak—and occasionally screw up. And as easy

as Macs are to learn and set up, dealing with a new computer can be

daunting if you’ve never done so before.

That’s why we offer the Mac Basics Superguide, which is dedicated to

helping you get started with all things Mac. There are plenty of manuals

and guides that explain every single system feature and setup detail; this book is instead designed to

actively get you up and running on your Mac without making you feel like you’re studying a textbook.

Our superguide has you covered from the first time you turn on your Mac: We walk you through the process

of setting up your Mac and transferring any old files you might have, and we introduce you to the menus,

windows, and places you need to know about to get going. From there, we help you customize Multi-Touch

gestures, organize your files, and tweak your preferences. We’ll get your Mac suited up with third-party apps

and accessories. And we offer troubleshooting tips and security suggestions to keep your computer safe

and sound.

You won’t find everything you need to know about the Mac in this book. (That’s what Macworld magazine

and are for.) But we hope we can give you the tools to begin, and get you excited to learn


—Serenity Caldwell

Boston, November 2012


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Mac Basics


Mountain Lion



EDITOR: Dan Miller



MANAGING EDITOR: Kimberly Brinson


ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Serenity Caldwell


COPY EDITOR: Gail Nelson-Bonebrake

DESIGNER: Liz Fiorentino

PRODUCTION: Tamara Gargus, Nancy Jonathans

Macworld is a publication of IDG Consumer & SMB, Inc., and International Data Group, Inc. Macworld is an independent

journal not affiliated with Apple. Copyright © 2012, IDG Consumer & SMB, Inc. All rights reserved. Macworld, the

Macworld logo, Macworld Lab, the mouse-ratings logo,, PriceGrabber, and Mac Developer Journal are

registered trademarks of International Data Group, Inc., and used under license by IDG Consumer & SMB, Inc. Apple,

the Apple logo, Mac, and Macintosh are registered trademarks of Apple. Printed in the United States of America.

ISBN: 978-1-937821-12-8

Have comments or suggestions? Email us at


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Senior Editor Christopher Breen (@BodyofBreen) offers advice for new Mac users in Macworld’s Mac 101 blog

and troubleshooting advice in Mac 911.

Associate Editor Serenity Caldwell (@settern) helps run the Superguide program. She cut her teeth teaching

Mac basics to workshop attendees at the Apple Store.

Senior Contributor Glenn Fleishman (@GlennF) writes about Wi-Fi and networking, and is the author of Take

Control of Your 802.11n AirPort Network, third edition (TidBits Publishing, 2012).

Senior Editor Dan Frakes (@danfrakes) covers the iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Mac—and everything that connects

to, works with, or installs on them—for Macworld.

Senior Writer Lex Friedman (@lexfri) has used and loved Apple products since Ronald Reagan was president.

He’s the author of several books, most recently the Dr. Seuss parody The Kid in the Crib (Lyons Press, 2012).

Former Macworld and Mac OS X Hints editor Rob Griffiths (@rgriff) is now the Master of Ceremonies at Many

Tricks, which makes many a helpful OS X app.

Senior Contributor Joe Kissell is the senior editor of TidBits and the author of Take Control of Troubleshooting

Your Mac, second edition (TidBits Publishing, 2012).

Senior Contributor Ted Landau (@tedlandau) writes for Macworld’s Mac 911 column, where he continually finds

new ways to help you get out of trouble with your Mac.

Former PCWorld Editor Harry McCracken (@harrymccracken) is a semi-switcher: He uses both a MacBook Pro

and a Windows netbook every day. He is an editor at large at Time, where he runs the Technologizer blog.

Senior Editor Dan Moren (@dmoren) has been a Mac user since he was 12, before which he just spent a lot of

time at his friends’ houses using their Macs.

Editorial Director Jason Snell (@jsnell) is in charge of all editorial for IDG Consumer & SMB, the publishers of

Macworld, PCWorld, and TechHive.

Assistant Editor Leah Yamshon (@leahyamshon) covers iOS apps and cases for Macworld. She used several of

these Mac Basics tips herself when switching from a PC to a Mac seven years ago.


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Get Started with


Getting acquainted with any new operating system—even one as elegantly designed as Apple’s Mac OS X—

can be a challenge. Newcomers face strange terms, unfamiliar interface elements, and a host of seemingly

inexplicable features.

Wondering what Mac users mean when they refer to Notification Center or the Spotlight menu? Not sure

what to call the list of applications at the bottom of your screen? We’ll walk you through setting up a brandnew

Mac, as well as introduce you to some common OS X features—items we’ll refer to again and again in the

pages of this book.

We’ll also give you a primer for moving any files you might have left behind on an older Mac or PC.


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CHAPTER 1 Get Started with OS X

Set Up Your Mac

So you’ve just pulled a freshly minted Mac out of the box. Let’s fire it up and start the setup process.

Press the Mac’s power button, and you see a gray screen that eventually displays a black Apple logo and a spinning

gear icon. This is a signal that your Mac is getting its house in order so that it can start up properly. How

long you’ll wait depends on the Mac you have. If you have one with a flash-storage drive rather than a hard

drive, it will start up very quickly. A Mac that uses a hard drive to store its data will take a little longer.

When a new Mac runs for the very first time, it launches something called the Startup Assistant. This is a computer

program that helps you with all the little settings your Mac needs so that it can get on the Internet, create

a user account for you, properly set the time and date, connect your Mac to your Apple ID (or help you create

one), and register your computer with Apple.

Choose Your Location

The first thing you’ll be asked to tell your Mac is the country in which you live (or in which you’ll be using it). On

Macs configured for the United States, this list will contain the options United States, Canada, United Kingdom,

Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION Tell your Mac where you live.


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CHAPTER 1 Get Started with OS X

If you don’t see your country in the list, simply enable the Show All option and that list will expand to include more

countries than you can think of. Choose the correct one and click the Continue button (a right-facing arrow).

Note that if you wait a while before leaving this screen, your Mac will start speaking to you. This is for the benefit

of people with visual impairments. If you have difficulty seeing the screen, follow the spoken instructions.

You can hear those spoken instructions at any time while you’re on this screen by pressing the Escape key in

the top left corner of your Mac’s keyboard.

Choose Your Keyboard Layout

Keyboards around the world have different layouts. Your Mac wants to know which layout you use. In the

United States, you see two options—U.S. and Canadian English. If you don’t see your preferred keyboard arrangement,

click Show All and choose the most appropriate one. Click Continue when you’re done.

Choose Your Wi-Fi Network

As you go through the setup process, your Mac will want to connect to the Internet for a variety of purposes, so

it will look for any nearby Wi-Fi networks and ask you to choose one to connect to. If you see a lock icon next to

one, that means you need to know that network’s password to sign on to it. Just select a network, click Continue,

and (if it’s locked) enter the password in the field that appears.

WI-FI WONDERS Connecting your Mac to the Internet can make setup easier.


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CHAPTER 1 Get Started with OS X

If you’ve connected your Mac to an Ethernet network via a networking cable, there’s a very good chance you

won’t see this window at all—once the Mac understands that it can connect to your network via a wired connection,

it won’t bother asking you for a Wi-Fi alternative.

In this window, you’ll also see an Other Network Options button in the bottom left corner. Click it and you can

tell your Mac specifically what kind of network you wish to connect to (or let it know that you don’t have access

to a network at all). Your choices are Wi-Fi Network, Local Network (Ethernet), and My Computer Does Not

Connect To The Internet. You don’t have to have a network connection to complete setup, though it’s recommended.

Click Continue to move to the next step.

Transfer Data to Your Mac

Your Mac has the ability to move all the data from your old computer to a new one, and that computer can be

another Mac or a Windows PC. A feature called Migration Assistant performs this bit of magic.

TRANSFER TRAIN If you have data from an old Mac, PC, or Time Machine backup, you can

restore it to your new Mac now; otherwise, you can transfer your data at another time.

Within this window you see four options—From Another Mac, From A Windows PC, From Time Machine Or

Other Disk, and Don’t Transfer Now. To move data from your old Mac to your new one, select From Another

Mac and click the Continue button at the bottom of the screen. (Select From A Windows PC to do the same

thing from a Windows system.)


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C H A P T E R 5

Connect Your Mac

CONNECT TO THE OUTSIDE You’ve had a chance to make a project or two; now share

them with the outside world.

Your Mac can perform a bunch of neat tasks all on its own. But when you want to share what you’ve created, you

turn to the outside world to connect your Mac. In this chapter, we go over the various ways to share your creations

using printers and scanners, built-in OS X features, and screen sharing. And if you want to pair their Mac with external

accessories, we have a quick guide on the most common third-party devices and how they work with your Mac.

Print Documents

We create and store a lot of digital files on our Macs—photos, text files, images, PDFs—but there are times

when you may want a hard copy of those files. That’s where printing comes in. Printing digital images is easy

nowadays: All you need is a printer and your Mac.

Choose a Printer

If you had a computer before you purchased your Mac, you may already have a printer in your house. Most

modern printers are compatible with both Macs and PCs; if you’re unsure whether your printer will work with

your Mac, you can check Apple’s website, which has a list of all compatible models.


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CHAPTER 2 Get to Know Your Desktop

READY FOR LAUNCH Pinch your thumb and three fingers together to bring up


This displays all your installed apps in icon view, much like Apple’s iOS home screen. (See “Launchpad” later in

this chapter for more information.) To return to the desktop, do a reverse-pinch gesture (spread your fingers on

the trackpad) or click the Launchpad background.

SPREAD TO SHOW DESKTOP Perform the same sort of four-finger reverse pinch you use to exit Launchpad

while on the desktop or in an app, and you’ll send all open windows to the sides of your screen, revealing your

desktop below. While in this mode, you can do anything you like on the desktop—move files, open an image,

and so on. To bring your windows back, perform a four-finger pinch gesture or open a document.


The rotate gesture, too, is taken from Apple’s mobile operating system. Place two fingers on the trackpad and

rotate right or left to turn images in Preview or iPhoto, as well as in any number of third-party applications that

implement gestures.


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CHAPTER 2 Get to Know Your Desktop

Two-Finger Side Swipe

As you navigate webpages in Safari, folders in the Finder, or screens in the Mac App Store, you can use a twofinger

gesture to swipe back and forth between pages. Say you visit, and then click a link to a

specific article. To go back from the article to the Macworld homepage, you swipe with two fingers to the right

to reveal the previous page underneath.

SURFING SAFARI Swipe with two fingers to navigate back and forth in apps like Safari.

Imagine that rather than telling your Mac to “go back,” you’re swiping the newly loaded page off the screen to

see the old one behind it.

NOTIFICATION CENTER SIDE SWIPE The two-finger side swipe also comes into play for revealing or hiding

Notification Center. (See “Notification Center” later in this chapter for more information about the service.) In

Mountain Lion, Notification Center is where your alerts and notifications are stored.

You can get to Notification Center by clicking the icon in the upper right of the menu bar, or you can use a

clever gesture: Slide two fingers from right to left, starting from the rightmost edge of your trackpad, and Notification

Center will slide into view from the same side on your screen.


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CHAPTER 2 Get to Know Your Desktop

Three- or Four-Finger Side Swipe

Three- or four-finger side swipes navigate between full-screen apps and multiple desktops. (See “Full Screen

Mode” in the “Work with Apps” chapter for more information on full-screen mode; see “Mission Control” later in

this chapter for more information on multiple desktops.) You choose the number of

fingers in the More Gestures tab of the Trackpad

preference pane. If you swipe your fingers to the

right on your main desktop screen, your Dashboard will swoop in from the left. Swiping your

fingers left rotates between your full-screen apps and any virtual desktop spaces you’ve created.

SCREEN PASS Swipe with three or four fingers to navigate between virtual desktops,

full-screen apps, and the Dashboard.


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C H A P T E R 3

Customize Your Mac

SYSTEM PREFERENCES Customize your Mac by adjusting your system preferences.

No two Mac users are exactly alike. Thankfully, Mac OS X offers countless ways to customize your Mac’s settings

so they better reflect your personal tastes (including the colors you see and the sounds your Mac makes) and

your setup specifics (such as your network settings and security preferences).


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CHAPTER 3 Customize Your Mac

System Preferences Basics

System Preferences technically resides in your Applications folder, though you can also launch System Preferences

from the Apple menu or by clicking the System Preferences icon in the Dock (which resembles a group of gears).

For people familiar with Windows, System Preferences is like the Control Panel: It’s your one-stop shop for everything

from selecting a screensaver to controlling outside access to your Mac’s files. When you launch the application,

you see rows of icons divided into five categories: Personal, Hardware, Internet & Wireless, System, and Other.

Within those categories are a series of panes: The Sound pane, for example, is located under the Hardware category.

Unsurprisingly, System Preferences contains only those preferences used by the system. If you’re instead looking

for an application’s preferences, you can find those within the program’s own menu.

There may be options we describe in this chapter that don’t appear on your Mac: This is because not all Macs

have the same preferences; some options only appear for laptops, or only for computers with dual graphics

cards. We’ve tried to note those where they appear.

Open a Preference Pane

Click a pane, and the System Preferences window morphs into that pane. You can return to the main window

by clicking the back button in the top left corner of the window, or by clicking Show All.

If you’re having trouble locating a setting, you can type it into the search bar in the top right corner. This brings

you back to the main menu and highlights the icons that might contain the item you’re looking for. You can also

customize which preference panes show up on the main list by going to View > Customize, or you can organize

your preferences alphabetically rather than by category.

Unlock Secure Preferences

Only an administrator-level user on your Mac can modify certain preferences, such as those dealing with

accounts, security, and system-level settings. These panes, which Apple calls secure preferences, include the

small padlock icon in the bottom left corner of the window.

The original user account on your Mac is usually an administrator, so if you’ve only set up the one account, you

should be able to click the lock and enter your username and password to change any secure preferences.

Troubleshoot Misbehaving Preferences

System Preferences should rarely goof up. That said, if for any reason your preference panes go missing,

appear in duplicate, or crash your computer repeatedly, follow these steps: Quit System Preferences (if it’s

open) and go to the Finder. Hold down the Option key and click the Go menu, and then select Library. Navigate

to the /Caches folder and delete the file. The next time you launch System

Preferences, it should work normally.


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CHAPTER 3 Customize Your Mac

Customize Your System

We’ve put together information on all the preference panes for each category later in this chapter, but here’s a

quick chart to help you find the most popular settings.


Change your desktop background

Turn off the translucent menu bar

Have your Mac go to sleep after a period of inactivity

Configure your keyboard modifier keys or set up

keyboard shortcuts

Turn off inverse scrolling

Configure your network settings

Set up your printer

Set up an iCloud account

Add an email account

Run apps that aren’t from the Mac App Store

Share files with other computers

Change your user password

Add a new user

Set limits on certain accounts

Set the time and customize the menu-bar clock

Use Dictation

Set up automatic backups

Turn on accessibility features


Desktop & Screen Saver

Desktop & Screen Saver

Energy Saver




Print & Scan


Mail, Contacts & Calendars

Security & Privacy


Users & Groups

Users & Groups

Parental Controls

Date & Time

Dictation & Speech

Time Machine



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CHAPTER 3 Customize Your Mac

Change Your Personal Settings

The Personal category is where you can tweak the way your Mac’s display looks. Play around with its bar colors,

desktop, screensaver, language, notifications, and more.


This pane is where you can adjust the appearance color for buttons, menus, and windows, or change your

highlight color.

GENERAL This pane includes settings for appearance, color themes, and scrolling


You can also change the sidebar icon size; these are the icons inside the sidebar of the Finder window.

You can additionally tweak your scrollbar settings: Determine whether scrollbars show automatically depending

on when your mouse or trackpad is in use, and whether clicking anywhere on the scrollbar jumps your view

to the next page or to the specific page at the place you’ve clicked. Choose whether to use LCD font smoothing,

keep changes when closing documents, and close all windows when quitting an application. You can play

around with each of these options to figure out which settings best suit your style.


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C H A P T E R 4

Work with Apps

MEET YOUR APPS Your Mac comes with a variety of preinstalled applications.

While the Finder and System Preferences give your Mac its underlying structure, its apps are what make it

shine. We explain how to open, save, and restore files from your apps, when to use Full Screen mode, and some

iCloud basics. We also provide an overview of all the applications that come preinstalled on your Mac, along

with tips for buying third-party apps from the Mac App Store.


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CHAPTER 4 Work with Apps

Application Basics

As mentioned in the “Get to Know Your Desktop” chapter, applications (sometimes called programs or apps)

reside in the Applications folder of your computer. (If you have multiple accounts, there’s also an Applications

folder within your Home folder; this is for any apps you download from the Mac App Store, which we’ll talk

about later in this chapter in “Explore the Mac App Store.”)

While you can store and launch your apps from other folders on your Mac, Apple recommends that you keep

them in the Applications folder—storing them elsewhere may cause your apps to have problems with finding

and storing your preferences.

That said, you can make links—also called aliases—for your most-used apps. The easiest way to do so is to

drag the application icon in question into the Dock; this gives you a way to quickly launch the program without

having to go into the Applications folder. If you want the application icon on the desktop, you can also make a

traditional alias: Control-click (or right-click) the application’s icon and choose Make Alias. This will create a copy

of the application with a little arrow over the icon, indicating that it’s just a link to your program, rather than a

duplicate of it. Drag this icon to the desktop; now you can double-click it to open the program.

You can also quickly launch apps by clicking the Spotlight icon in the menu bar (or using the Command-Spacebar

shortcut) and typing the first few letters of an application’s name until it pops up under Top Hit, and then

pressing the Return key.

Menu Options

Once an application launches, it offers you a variety of menus and options to interact with it, depending on its

type. Like the Finder, all programs list their name in bold next to the Apple menu; clicking the name displays a

menu with the program’s About information, preferences, system services, hiding options, and quit function. If

a keyboard command can also trigger a menu item, that command appears to the right of the item.

All applications additionally show the File, Edit, View, Window, and Help menus in the menu bar, though their contents

vary depending on the program. (Apps may also insert custom menu items between View and Window.)


Need to switch between several applications? Press Command-Tab on your keyboard to bring up the quick switch

menu. As long as you hold the Command key down, this menu will stay on screen; you can either use your cursor to

select the app you want to go to, or tap the Tab key to cycle through apps until you find the one you like.

You can also quit applications quickly this way: Press Command-Tab to bring up the menu, and, while holding down the

Command key, highlight the app you want to quit (via your cursor or by tapping the Tab key). When the correct app is

selected, press the Q key.


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CHAPTER 4 Work with Apps

FILE If you want to create a new file in your application, open a file, save a currently open file, or print it, open

the File menu.

EDIT The Edit menu often contains commands for Undo, Cut, Copy, Paste, and Select All.

VIEW The actual items in the View menu vary greatly depending on the application, but it generally deals with

various features you can enable (or hide) in a program. The View menu may also offer ways to switch from one

application view to another.

WINDOW This menu deals with the commands for zooming and minimizing a window; it also lists all open windows

in an application and may provide other options for arranging or moving your windows.

HELP If you don’t know where to find a menu item, or you want to search the application’s manual, use the Help

Search bar. This menu may also have a listing for the application manual, if you want to look at it in its entirety,

or tutorials.

Work with Application Windows

When you open an application, it usually opens a window. Depending on what program you’ve launched, that

window may contain any manner of things: a webpage, an empty text document, your media library, your

email, or a chat window.

With few exceptions, the top of a window is laid out with three colored buttons in the top left, a title bar in the

center top, and (if the application supports Full Screen mode) two diagonal arrows in the top right. Below this,

the program may have a number of custom buttons designated for app-specific tasks.

WINDOW BARS Most basic apps have window buttons and a title bar along the top of

a window. If they support Full Screen mode, they may also show a Full Screen button

in the top right.

COLORED BUTTONS From left to right, these color-coded buttons do the following: close the window, minimize

the window, and maximize the window. (If you want to adjust the size of the window without using the green

button, click and drag on any corner.)

THE TITLE BAR The actual text of the title bar varies by app: It can tell you what file you have open, what webpage

you’re viewing, or what subfolder you’re viewing, or it can just list the title of the application. If the application

supports Versions, a grey triangle appears when you move your cursor over the title. (See “Save Your Files”

later in this chapter for more information about Versions.)


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CHAPTER 4 Work with Apps

FULL SCREEN MODE Some apps offer a button for Full Screen mode, which allows you to enlarge your current

window to fit your screen. From there, you can work and switch between it and your other apps using a threeor

four-finger Multi-Touch swipe on the trackpad (or by pressing Control–left arrow or Control–right arrow on

the keyboard).

Any software can implement your Mac’s Full Screen mode, though third-party developers need to explicitly code

their apps to take advantage of the feature. (Most of your Mac’s built-in applications support Full Screen mode.)

To enter it, click the small diagonal-arrow icon in the upper right corner of your window’s top bar.

FULL SCREEN AHEAD The menu bar and Dock vanish when you enter Full Screen mode,

but they’re easy enough to get back.

When you send an app into Full Screen mode, the Dock and menu bar zip off the screen. Move your cursor to

where the menu bar or Dock should be, and they’ll temporarily reappear. Your full-screen window is technically

running in its own Mission Control desktop, allowing you to swipe between it and your main desktop—along

with your other apps—using the proper Multi-Touch gesture or keyboard shortcut.


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C H A P T E R 2

Get to Know

Your Desktop

DESKTOP DUTY The desktop is the first aspect of the Mac you’ll get acquainted with.

Now that you’ve set your Mac up and familiarized yourself with the basics, it’s time to really get to know your

desktop. In this chapter, we cover OS X’s Multi-Touch gestures; introduce you to the Finder, the Dock, Launchpad,

Dashboard, and Mission Control; and help you set up your notifications in Notification Center.


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CHAPTER 2 Get to Know Your Desktop

Gestures, Gestures, Gestures

On the iPhone, you use Multi-Touch gestures—tapping and swiping fingers on a Multi-Touch trackpad—for

almost everything. And while your Mac laptop or desktop may not have a touch-sensitive screen, Apple compensates

for this by offering users Multi-Touch gestures through their laptop’s built-in trackpad, external Magic

Trackpad, or Magic Mouse.

Apple began offering Multi-Touch gestures beyond the two-finger scroll in Lion; the company builds on this in

Mountain Lion, letting you “touch” your Mac’s screen more than ever before via the easier-to-reach trackpad.

(One note: Most of these gestures won’t work with Apple’s Multi-Touch Magic Mouse, because that device is

limited to two-finger gestures.)

ON TRACK Review what particular gestures do, disable some of them if you prefer, and

change how they work in the Trackpad pane of System Preferences.

The new gestures are configurable in the Trackpad pane of System Preferences. (For more information, see the

“Customize Your Mac” chapter.) They include tapping to click, dictionary definitions, swiping through webpages

and images, and more.


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CHAPTER 2 Get to Know Your Desktop

Tap to Click and Control-Click (Right-Click)

If you prefer tapping over clicking, you can set your preferences to allow you to substitute a tap on your trackpad

for a click of the mouse button.

You can also configure the Control-click (or right-click, aka secondary click) via a two-finger tap; if you’d rather

click than tap, though, you can set it up so you click in the bottom right or bottom left corner of the trackpad.

THE RIGHT RIGHT-CLICK You can configure whether to Control-click (or right-click) with a

two-finger click or with a single click in one of the bottom corners of your trackpad.

Look Up a Word

Move the cursor over any text—whether it’s editable text in a document you’re writing, or displayed text in a

webpage or anywhere else—and tap the trackpad once using three fingers. A dictionary pop-up appears with

definitions, synonyms, and even Wikipedia entries when appropriate. Highlight two or more words before you

triple-tap (for example, highlight Tim Cook), and the dictionary looks up the combined words instead.


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CHAPTER 2 Get to Know Your Desktop

WORD PERFECT Tap once on a word with three fingers to bring up its definition in an

inline floating panel.

Three-Finger Drag

Like the feeling of physically dragging your windows around? Enable the three-finger drag, and you can move

windows by positioning your cursor and dragging them with three fingers.


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C H A P T E R 6

Secure Your Mac

SECURITY PARADE Keep your Mac safe and sound with OS X’s built-in tools.

Though Apple has long prided itself on the Mac’s safety record, recent exploits have proven that the company

can’t take the security of its operating systems for granted. And the security upgrades present in OS X make it

clear that Apple isn’t.

Apple keeps your data safe with several features: Gatekeeper makes sure you don’t download malicious software

masquerading as a legitimate app; sandboxing protects your Mac App Store apps from similar exploitation;

and FileVault allows you to encrypt your files, preventing the theft of important data from your Mac.

The company also provides essential backup options for keeping your data safe at all times—even in the event

of a hard drive crash or a liquid spill on the keyboard.


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CHAPTER 6 Secure Your Mac

Lock Up Your Mac

If you purchased a laptop, chances are you’re often out and about with your Mac. This makes it very important

to keep your computer—and its data—safe from prying eyes, thieves, and other such dangers.

Set a Password and Lock Message

Use your Mac at a café, workplace, or other public space? You should strongly consider setting a startup password,

which prevents any person from using your computer without your knowledge while you’re otherwise


You can set your password from the Security & Privacy preference pane in System Preferences, or from the Users

& Groups pane; to trigger it when the computer wakes from sleep, you can click the Require Password time

After Sleep Or Screen Saver Begins checkbox. (You can set time to an interval ranging from immediately all the

way up to four hours, depending on how trustworthy you deem your fellow compatriots.) By default, your Mac

automatically logs you in when it starts up, but you can disable that from this pane as well.

LOCKED UP TIGHT Keep a password on your Mac to prevent others from accessing your


You can also choose to Set Lock Message, which displays a short piece of text while the screen is locked. If

you’re worried about potentially losing the computer, this is a great place to put contact information such as

an email address or phone number. (You can also set a message to display at startup from the Users & Groups

preference pane.)

Turn On the Firewall

Mountain Lion has a built-in firewall to protect your computer while you surf the Internet. To turn on the firewall,

you must first unlock the padlock in the lower left corner of the Security & Privacy preference pane (your

administrator password is required), and then click the Start button.


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CHAPTER 6 Secure Your Mac

WALLED UP Tweak what connections you want to allow within the

Firewall Options pane.

From there, you can fine-tune your firewall settings by clicking the Firewall Options button. You can choose to

block all incoming connections or you can create a list of specific applications that are allowed to pass through

the firewall; for instance, to enable music sharing, you can allow connections from iTunes.

Enable FileVault

When you create a user account and password, you automatically enable an initial layer of security on your

Mac. Even so, there are still further precautions you can take to prevent unsavory types from getting a peek at

your data. If you want to be extra cautious, consider using encryption: This keeps your files secure, should they

fall into the wrong hands. When you encrypt your drive, you essentially make it impossible to read for anybody

who doesn’t have the key to decrypt it.

FileVault is designed to encrypt your hard drive’s contents. Not only does this make your hard drive more secure,

there’s also no need to fuss with third-party security tools.

To enable FileVault, go to the Security & Privacy pane of System Preferences. To make changes, you’ll first need

to click the padlock in the lower left corner and enter an administrator username and password. (By default,

this is the same as your username and password.)


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CHAPTER 6 Secure Your Mac

IN THE VAULT To activate FileVault, go to the Security & Privacy pane of System

Preferences and click the Turn On FileVault button.

Click the Turn On FileVault button, and you’ll be asked for the password of each user who has an account on the

Mac. Enter these passwords, and then click Continue. After doing this, you’ll be given a recovery key, which you

should record and keep in a safe place, since it’s the only way to decrypt your drive if you forget your password.

You can also have Apple store the recovery key for you; to retrieve it, you’ll have to provide the answers to three

preset questions.

After you restart your Mac, it will begin the process of encrypting your drive. This can take several hours; fortunately,

the encryption process occurs in the background, so you can continue working. That said, it’s better to

avoid any processor- or disk-intensive tasks while OS X is encrypting your drive, since the encryption will reduce

your Mac’s performance for the duration of the task. Once the initial encryption is done, you’re all set. OS X

automatically handles the entire task of encryption and decryption for you—you can just continue using your

computer as you normally would. The only difference you may note is that your Mac will prompt you to log in to

your computer immediately after you turn it on, instead of after it finishes booting.

ENCRYPT AN EXTERNAL DRIVE For extra security, you can encrypt your external drives as well as your Mac’s

internal drive. The disk you use must be formatted using a GUID partition table—most Mac-formatted disks are,

but if you’re using a disk that’s formatted for PC, you’ll need to reformat it first.


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C H A P T E R 7



SAD MAC Even the best Macs can go bad.

Your Mac and its accompanying operating system are engineering marvels. But even engineering marvels have

their off days. Unless you were born under the luckiest of stars, your Mac is going to act up. And while a trip to

your local Apple Genius Bar will likely result in a better-behaved computer, there are simple things you can try

before calling in the experts. In this chapter we’ll look at them.


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CHAPTER 7 Troubleshooting Tips

Your Mac’s Troubleshooting Tools

Mountain Lion includes several useful diagnostic tools for tracking down persistent problems. Here are some of

the ones you might end up using.

Network Preference Pane and Network Utility

If you’re having trouble with an Internet connection, your first stop should be the Network preference pane.

Click the Assist Me button. From the sheet that appears, select Diagnostics. If you need more help, and assuming

you have sufficient technical skills, try Network Utility.

Activity Monitor

When you’re wrestling with systemwide problems, such as slowdowns, Activity Monitor is the first place to turn. This

program lists all open processes, including running apps and behind-the-scenes activities you don’t see in the Finder.

Start by checking Activity Monitor’s CPU column. If one application is consistently showing an especially high

percentage (anything over 30 percent would qualify), it may be the source of your problem. If it’s an application

you know you can safely quit, highlight it and click Quit Process. If you don’t want to risk quitting something that

looks unfamiliar, you can also restart your Mac.


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CHAPTER 7 Troubleshooting Tips

System Information

Accessed by holding down the Option key and choosing System Information from the Apple menu, this handy

application provides you with your Mac’s intimate technical details. Is your MacBook’s battery not holding a

charge? Choose Power and check the Health Information entry. A questionable reading could indicate a failing

battery. Are you receiving low-memory errors? Select Memory to see if the Mac recognizes all the memory you

believe is installed. While System Information can’t directly repair anything, it can give you a hint about what

needs repairing.

Recovery HD

When you can’t restart your Mac normally, you can hold down the Command-R keys on restart to boot into

Recovery HD, an invisible, bootable, 650MB portion of your drive that OS X treats as a separate hard drive. It

includes a few essential utilities for fixing problems, restoring files, browsing the Web, and even reinstalling the

operating system.


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CHAPTER 7 Troubleshooting Tips

Recover from Crashes

When trouble strikes, figuring out exactly what the problem is and where it’s coming from is half the challenge.

There are often several possible explanations for a single problem. With that in mind, we’ll take a look at some

of the most common Mac issues—application freezes and crashes—and walk you through the steps you should

take to solve them.

Deal with Frozen Applications

It happens to all Mac users sooner or later: You’re about to select a menu command when suddenly your cursor

turns into a beach ball that just spins and spins. You try everything from pounding on the keyboard to offering

a sacrifice to the computer gods—all to no avail. Your application has frozen.

First, some good news: Usually only one application freezes at a time. This means if you move your cursor away

from the program’s window, the beach ball should disappear and your Mac’s behavior should return to normal.

But you’re still stuck with an application on ice.

When you can’t access an application’s Quit command, how do you get it to quit? Don’t fret: OS X offers several

alternative ways to force-quit a program. You only need to use one, as they all do the same thing; however, you

may find one method more convenient than another. Also, sometimes one may work when another doesn’t.

FORCE-QUIT FROM THE APPLE MENU Go to the Apple menu and select Force Quit (or press its keyboard

equivalent: Command-Option-Escape). This brings up the Force Quit Applications window. You’ll see a list of all

your currently open applications. Typically, the phrase “not responding” in parentheses will follow the name of

the frozen app. Select the program’s name and click Force Quit.


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Thanks for Reading!

We hope that this Superguide has helped you get started with your Mac, and that you’re on your way to Mac

mastery. For more Mac basics help and quick tips, check out our Mac 101 blog. And for even more information

on Apple’s products, OS X, and the latest tips, tricks, how-tos, and news, check out and the rest

of our Superguide program.


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