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What Is an Icon in Mac OS X Mountain Lion?

What’s an icon? Glad you asked. Each Mac OS X Mountain Lion Finder icon represents an item or a container on your hard drive. Containers — hard disks, folders, CDs, DVDs, shared network volumes, and so on — can contain a virtually unlimited number of application files, document files, and folders.

Icons in the Dock and the Sidebar of Finder windows are not the same as the Finder icons — they’re simply convenient pointers to actual Finder icons. Technically, Dock and Sidebar icons are aliases.

Anyway, working with icons is easy:

  • Single-click to select.

  • Double-click to open.

  • Click-and-drag to move.

  • Release mouse button to drop.

Although icons all work the same, they come in different kinds, shapes, and sizes. When you’ve been around the Macintosh for a while, you develop a sixth sense about icons and can guess what an unfamiliar icon contains just by looking at it.

The major icons types are

  • Application icons are programs — the software you use to accomplish tasks on your Mac. Mail, Safari, and iCal are applications. So are Microsoft Word and Adobe Photoshop.

    Application icons come in a variety of shapes. For example, application icons are often square-ish, diamond-shaped, rectangular, or just oddly shaped.

    image0.jpg
  • Document icons are files created by applications. Letters created with TextEdit are documents. Document icons are often reminiscent of a piece of paper.

    image1.jpg
  • Folder and Disk icons are the Mac’s organizational containers. You can put icons — and the applications or documents they stand for — in folders or disks. You can put folders in disks or in other folders, but you can’t put a disk inside another disk.

    Folders look like, well, manila folders (what a concept) and can contain just about any other icon. You use folders to organize your files and applications on your hard drive. You can have as many folders as you want, so don’t be afraid to create new ones.

    The thought behind the whole folders thing is pretty obvious: If your hard drive is a filing cabinet, folders are its drawers and folders (duh!).

    image2.jpg

    And while disks behave pretty much like folders, their icons often look like disks.

    image3.jpg
  • Alias icons are wonderful — no, make that fabulous — organizational tools.

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