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How to Find Help with Mac OS X Snow Leopard

One of the best features about all Macs is the excellent built-in help, and Mac OS X Snow Leopard doesn’t cheat you on that legacy: This system has online help in abundance. When you have a question about how to do something, the Mac Help Center is the first place you should visit (after this Web site, of course).

  1. Click the Help menu.

    The Search Help field and the Mac Help item appear in the Mac Help window.

    Start looking for answers in the Help window.
    Start looking for answers in the Help window.
  2. Type a word or phrase into the text field at the top right and then press Return.

    Mac provides one or more articles to read that (theoretically) are related to your question. Usually. For example, if you type menus and press Return, you get 15 different help topics.

    Mac provides lots of answers.
    Mac provides lots of answers.

Now, here’s a cool feature that lets you search using visual cues. Here’s how it works:

  1. Type a word or phrase in the Help menu’s Search field.

    The keyboard shortcut for Help appears on the Help menu as Command+?, but you really need to press shift+Command+? to open Help through the keyboard.

  2. Select any item that has a menu icon to its left.

    For example, select the Secure Empty Trash item.

    If you choose an item with a menu icon, an arrow points to that item in context.
    If you choose an item with a menu icon, an arrow points to that item in context.

    The automatic visual cue — an arrow — appears, pointing at that command in the appropriate menu.

Although you don’t have to be connected to the Internet to use Mac Help, you do need an Internet connection to get the most out of it. That’s because OS X installs only certain help articles on your hard drive. If you ask a question that those articles don’t answer, Mac Help connects to Apple’s Web site and downloads the answer (assuming that you have an active Internet connection). These answers are the “Support Articles,” denoted by a plus. Click one of these entries, and Help Viewer retrieves the text over the Internet. Although this can sometimes be inconvenient, it’s also quite smart. This way Apple can update the Help system at any time without requiring any action from you.

Furthermore, after you’ve asked a question and Mac Help has grabbed the answer from the Apple Web site, the answer remains on your hard drive forever. If you ask for it again — even at a later date — your computer won’t have to download it from the Apple Web site again.

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