Navigating OS X

Navigating OS X can be confusing if you're new to the operating system. This free lesson can help you better understand how to use it.

Working with applications

Video: Using the Dock

Launch "Using the Dock" video!

An application—also known as a program—is a type of software that allows you to complete tasks on your computer. OS X comes with many applications you can use. For example, if you want to browse the Internet, you can use Safari, the built-in web browser for OS X. One of the easiest ways to open an application is by clicking its icon on the Dock.

To open an application:

  1. Using your mouse, click an application icon on the Dock. In our example, we'll open Safari.
    screenshot of OS X
  2. The application will appear in a new window.
    screenshot of OS X

If you don't see the application you want, click the Spotlight icon in the top-right corner of the screen and type the name of the application with your keyboard to search for it.

screenshot of OS X

Working with windows

Whenever you open a file, folder, or application, it will appear in a new window. You can have multiple items open at the same time in different windows. You'll use windows all the time, so it's important to know how to switch between open windows, how to move and resize windows, and how to close windows when you're done using them.

Parts of a window

You'll see the same three buttons in the upper-left corner of almost every window. These buttons allow you to:

To move a window:

  1. Click and drag the top of the window to move it to the desired location on the screen. When you're done, release the mouse.
    screenshot of OS X
  2. The window will appear in the new location.

To resize a window:

  1. Hover the mouse over the lower-right corner of the window, then click and drag the mouse to make the window larger or smaller. When you're done, release the mouse.
    screenshot of OS X
  2. The window will be resized.
    screenshot of OS X

Quitting applications

Unlike Microsoft Windows, closing a window in OS X does not automatically quit an application. The application will continue running in the background even if it doesn't have a window open. To see whether an application is running, look for a small light below the icon on the dock. In the image below, you can see that there are four open applications (Finder, Safari, TextEdit, and iTunes).

screenshot of OS X

To keep your computer running smoothly, you may want to quit an application when you're done using it. To do this, click the icon on the dock to switch to the application, then click the application name in the top-left corner of the screen and select Quit from the menu that appears. Note: You won't be able to quit Finder because OS X requires Finder to run continuously.

screenshot of OS X

You can also quit an application by pressing Command+Q on your keyboard. This is an example of a keyboard shortcut—we'll talk much more about these in our lesson on Keyboard Shortcuts in OS X.