Basics of the Finder and Its Desktop in OS X Mavericks - dummies

Basics of the Finder and Its Desktop in OS X Mavericks

By Bob LeVitus

The Finder is OS X Mavericks’ program that creates the Desktop, keeps track of your files and folders, and is always running. Just about everything you do on your Mac begins and ends with the Finder. It’s where you manage files, store documents, launch programs, and much more. If you ever expect to master your Mac, the first step is to master the Finder and its Desktop.

Check out the default Mac Finder and Desktop for OS X Mavericks.


The Finder is the center of your Mac OS experience. Here’s a quick description of its most prominent features:

  • Desktop: The Desktop is the area behind the windows and the Dock. In Mavericks, it looks like a wave. It’s also where your hard-drive icon (ordinarily) lives, though if you bought a new Mac with Mavericks preinstalled, there won’t be any icons at all.

    The Desktop isn’t a window, yet it acts like one. Like a folder window or disk window, the Desktop can contain icons. But unlike most windows, which require a bit of navigation to get to, the Desktop is a great place for things you use a lot, such as folders, applications, or particular documents.

    Some folks use the terms Desktop and Finder interchangeably to refer to the total Macintosh environment you see after you log in — the icons, windows, menus, and all that other cool stuff. Just to make things confusing, the background you see on your screen — the picture behind your hard-drive icon and your open windows — is also called the Desktop.

    Let’s refer to the application you use when the Desktop is showing as the Finder. The Desktop refers to the picture background behind your windows and the Dock, which you can use as a storage place for icons if you want.

    To make things even more confusing, the Desktop is a full-screen representation of the icons in the Desktop folder inside your Home folder.

  • Dock: The Dock is the Finder’s main navigation shortcut tool. It makes getting to frequently used icons easy, even when you have a screen full of windows. Like the Desktop, the Dock is a great place for the folders, applications, and specific documents you use most. Besides putting your frequently used icons at your fingertips, it’s extremely customizable.

  • Icons: Icons are the little pictures you see in your windows and even on your Desktop. Icons represent the things you work with on your Mac, such as applications (programs), documents, folders, utilities, and more.

  • Windows: Opening most icons (by double-clicking them) makes a window appear. Windows in the Finder show you the contents of hard-drive and folder icons, and windows in applications usually show you the contents of your documents.

  • Menus: Menus let you choose to do things, such as create new folders; duplicate files; cut, copy, or paste text; and so on.