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Taking Advantage of Mac Freebie Tools

A lot of what people do on a computer is look things up, mainly through Internet search engines and other online tools. You have help closer at hand — in the Applications folder. Some of the tools in the Applications folder are described in the following sections.

Dictionary

Finding the meaning of words or phrases is as simple as typing them in a search box. Finding the meaning of life is something else altogether. The Mac supplies versions of the New Oxford American Dictionary and Oxford American Writer's Thesaurus. The computer can even read a dictionary entry out loud.

TextEdit

TextEdit is a freebie word processor. Although it offers nowhere near the flexibility of an industrial-strength word processor such as Microsoft Word, it's no slouch either. You can create tables and lists, and apply a bunch of formatting tricks. And it can accommodate Word documents (if someone sends you some). Truth is, most Word users exploit only a narrow subset of Word's features. Just remember that you already have a decent little word processor onboard.

Calculator

If all of us could do math in our heads, we wouldn't need calculators. In fact, the Mac supplies three on-screen calculators: Basic, Scientific, and Programmer. Choose the one you need from the calculator's View menu.

The Basic calculator is for people who need to perform simple arithmetic here and there. You can use the numeric keypad on your keyboard or use the mouse to click the calculator's keypad. The Scientific version adds square root, sin, cos, and other keys.

The Programmer calculator is even more intimidating. It has keys labeled Hide Binary, Byte Flip, Unicode, RoL, and RoR. You earn extra credit if you know what all these do.

The Mac calculator can do tricks that blow away even the fanciest pocket calculator, such as going online to fetch the latest currency exchange rates.

QuickTime

QuickTime, the Mac's free multimedia player, comes to the rescue when you want to watch a movie (but not a DVD), play sounds, or display pictures. QuickTime typically pops up as needed.

If you want to edit movies or have other bold ambitions (that is, have full-screen playback), consider buying an upgraded version of the program called QuickTime Pro.

Preview

Preview is a versatile program that lets you view graphics files and faxes, take screen shots or screen captures, and peek at PDFs. (That's shorthand for Adobe's portable document format.) It typically loads automatically as needed. For example, if you double-click a PDF file that someone sent you, Preview is probably the program that lets you read it. You can use Preview to rotate, resize, and crop images in one of the many file types it recognizes.

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