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Exploring files on a Mac

On a PC, you use Windows Explorer to browse through files and folders on your computer. On a Mac, you use an Application called the Finder. It is a blue face icon that is always the first icon on the left hand side of the Dock. Open the Finder to view all files on your computer by clicking once on its icon in the Dock.

The Apple Menu

The Apple menu is the equivalent  to the Start button in the Windows interface.  The Apple menu is accessed by clicking on the small Apple logo in the top left on the toolbar. This is how you can log out of the computer, shut down, get information about the computer, access Software Updates, and more.

Quitting Applications

The Menu at the top of the screen remains open in every application, and changes its functions based on the application with which the user is currently working.

When you close the window of an Application on a Mac, it does not necessarily quit the application.

How to Quit an Open Application/Program

  1. Click the name of the open Application on the toolbar at the top of the screen, and
  2. Select Quit "NameofOpenApplication/Program" 

To close an Application, it needs to be the active Application, meaning you can see the name of the application on the toolbar at the top.

Basic Functions on a Mac


While you click on a file, such as a picture, pdf, video, document, etc., tap the Space bar to preview the file without having to open it. 

Opening, Closing, and Maximizing Windows

Instead of controlling the window from the top right hand corner of the screen, Macs controls are on the top left hand corner of the screen. The red circle closes the window, the yellow minus minimizes the window, and the green plus changes the window to its optimal size. There is no maximize button like on Windows. The optimize button opens the window to the ideal size for itself, not maximizes it to fill the screen.

Computer Status Information

Basic information about the general status of you computer can be found at the top right hand of your computer.  Information that can be found here includes:

  • time
  • day of the week
  • wireless status
  • sound volume
  • internet connection
  • battery level
  • Spotlight function (more on this below)


At the very right hand side of the toolbar at the top of the screen, there is a magnifying glass icon for the Spotlight feature. The Spotlight feature allows you to searches your entire computer based on file names.  This is the easiest way to search for a particular file, folder, application, or anything else on your computer.

The Dock

The Dock at the bottom of the screen is an advanced version of the Taskbar on the bottom of the Windows interface. Apple provides a set of default applications already installed on the Dock.

Finding Documents from the Dock

There is a folder to the left of the Trash on the DockDocuments. The Documents folder is the place where you can store documents like papers and image files.

Removing Seldom-Used Applications/Programs from the Dock

If you wish to remove an Application from the dock, follow these steps:

  1. Hold down the Control button and click on the icon of the Application/Program that you want to remove (the equivalent of right clicking on a mouse).
  2. Choose OptionsRemove from Dock.

Adding Often-Used Applications/Programs to the Dock

To add Applications and Programs to the Dock:

  1. Hold down the Control button and click on the Application icon
  2. Choose OptionsKeep in Dock

Accessing Minimized Windows from the Dock

The right side of the dock also holds all your minimized windows. To open the window again, just click on its icon on the Dock.

The Trash

The Trash is the metal trash can icon, which is the last icon on the right hand side of the Dock.

Deleting Items from Your Computer

There are two ways to delete an item from your computer:

Click and drag the item to the Trash


  1. Hold down the Control button and click the item.
  2. Select Move to Trash.

Emptying the Trash

To empty the trash:

  1. Hold Control and click on the Trash icon.
  2. Select Empty Trash.  

Installing New Software on the Mac

To install new software on a Mac:

  1. Download the software you wish to install.  This is usually in a .dmg file format.
  2. Navigate to the Downloads folder.  This should be an icon in the Dock, located next to the trash can.

  3. Click the icon for the software you want to install.  A dialog box will appear as the file opens.
  4. A new window will appear.  This folder should contain the application and another folder inside of this window called Applications. Simply drag the application into this folder.  The application will be installed.

Keyboard and Trackpad Shortcuts

Keyboard Shortcuts




Copy selected item/text to the Clipboard






Undo / Redo


Highlight every item in a document or window, or all characters in a text field


Create a new document in the frontmost application


Save the active document


Display the Print dialog

Spacebar (or Command-Y)

Quick Look


Log Out

Trackpad Shortcuts



One finger click

Clicks item

Control + click

Right clicks item

Two fingers drag

Scroll through frontmost window

Four fingers drag up

View all open windows

Four fingers drag down

Go back to previously open window

*Some clicking trackpad shortcuts require "Tap to Click" to be turned on in System Preferences.

For More Information, see the Mac Support pages on the Apple web site.