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Comparing Windows and Mac Desktops and Menus

The basic idea of the Mac desktop is the same as the Windows desktop. Most of the Mac screen is filled with a pattern or image that’s like a tablecloth on which you see various icons that represent files, storage media, and applications. You also find an arrow cursor that you can move around using the mouse or trackpad. You can move icons around by placing the arrow cursor over them, clicking the mouse or trackpad button, and holding down the button as you move the cursor.


The big differences between the Mac and PC desktops are at the top and bottom. All OS X menus appear at the top of the screen, and each application has a different menu. The menu shown is for the application whose window is in front — that application is said to have focus or to be the current application. The first menu on the left is headed by an Apple logo and is called the Apple menu. It contains system-related information. The next menu over is headed by the name of the current application. That menu is where you find entries for changing preferences and quitting the application. Continuing from the left, you typically see File and Edit menus that work much like the corresponding Windows menus. The Help menu is always on the right.

At the bottom of the screen, you see a bunch of largish icons. (You can make them smaller.) This area is called the Dock and roughly corresponds to the Windows taskbar. Each icon on the Dock represents an application or folder; you click an icon once to start or open it. If you don’t know what an icon represents, move your cursor over it, and a label appears. Open applications have a little black triangle underneath their corresponding icon on the Dock. You add applications and folders to the Dock by dragging them there. Click on a folder or stack on the Dock and its contents appear in a graceful arc or as a grid, if there are too many items.

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