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What Lies beneath the Mountain Lion Apple Menu Tree

On the far-left side of the Mac OS X Mountain Lion menu bar sits a little apple, which, if you click it, actually displays a menu. No matter what application is active, the Apple menu is always available in the top-left corner of your menu bar.

The menu bar is always available, even with apps that hide it in full-screen mode. To make it reappear, move your cursor to the top of the screen, wait a second or two, and watch the menu bar magically reappear.

From top to bottom, the Apple menu gives you a number of options, including the following:

  • About This Mac: Choose this item to see what version of OS X you’re running, what kind of Mac and processor you’re using, how much memory your Mac has, and the name of your Startup Disk.

    The window that appears also sports a Get Info button that will launch the Apple System Information utility; there, you can find out more than you’ll probably ever want or need to know about your Mac’s hardware and software.

    If you click the version number in this window, it changes to the build number (Apple’s internal tracking number for versions). If you click the build number in this window, it changes to the serial number of your Mac. Finally, if you click the serial number of your Mac in this window, it changes to the version number again.

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  • Software Update: If you’re connected to the Internet, choose this item to have your Mac check with the mothership (Apple) to see whether any updates are available for OS X, its included applications, other Apple-branded applications such as iPhoto, Final Cut Pro, Pages, or even Apple-branded peripheral devices, such as the iPod or iPhone.

  • System Preferences: Choose this item to open the System Preferences window.

  • Dock (submenu): This lets you mess with options for the Dock.

  • Recent Items: This lets you quickly access applications, documents, and servers you’ve used recently.

  • Force Quit: Use this option only in emergencies. What’s an emergency? Use it when an application becomes recalcitrant or otherwise misbehaves, or refuses to quit when you say Quit.

    Memorize the keyboard shortcut for Force Quit (cmd+Option+power button). Sometimes a program gets so badly hosed that you can’t click anywhere and other keyboard shortcuts won’t do anything at all. It doesn’t happen often, nor does it happen to everyone.

    If it should happen to you, calmly press the magic key combo you memorized (cmd+Option+power button), and the Force Quit Applications dialog (usually) appears. Click the name of the program that’s acting up and then click the Force Quit button or press the Return or Enter key to make the balky application stop balking.

    The reason Force Quit should be used only in an emergency is that if you use it on an application that’s working fine and have any unsaved documents, your work since the last time you saved the file will be blown away.

    Or not. The Auto Save and Versions features, which first appeared in Lion, are still the default for Apple’s own applications. If the app you’re using supports Auto Save features, you shouldn’t lose any (or at least not much) of your work regardless of when you last saved.

  • Shut Down options: These four commands do exactly what their names imply:

    • Sleep: Puts your Mac into an energy-efficient state of suspended animation.

    • Restart: Quits all open programs and restarts your Mac. It’s quite polite about this task, asking if you want to save any unsaved changes in open documents before complying.

    • Shut Down: Turns off your Mac.

    • Log Out: Quits all open programs and logs you out. Again, your Mac will be ever so polite, asking if you want to save unsaved changes in open documents before complying. When it’s done, the login screen appears.

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