Working with Dialogs in Mac OS X Lion - dummies

Working with Dialogs in Mac OS X Lion

By Bob LeVitus

Dialogs are special windows that pop up over the active window in Mac OS X Lion. You generally see them when you select a menu item that ends in an ellipsis (…).

Dialogs can contain a number of standard Macintosh features, such as radio buttons, pop-up menus, tabs, text-entry fields, and check boxes. You see these features again and again in dialogs.


  • Radio buttons: Radio buttons are so named because, like the buttons on your car radio (if you have a very old car), only one at a time can be active. (When they’re active, they appear to be pushed in, just like the old radio buttons.) Radio buttons always appear in a group of two or more; when you select one, all the others are automatically deselected.

  • Tabs: When a dialog contains more information than can fit in a single window, the info is divided among tabs.

  • Pop-up menus: These menus are appropriately named because that’s what they do: They pop up when you click them.

    You can always recognize a pop-up menu because it appears in a slightly rounded rectangle and has a double-ended arrow symbol (or a pair of triangles, if you like) on the right.

  • Text-entry fields: In text-entry fields, you type text (including numbers) from the keyboard.

  • Check boxes: The last feature that you see frequently is the check box. In a group of check boxes, you can select as many options as you like. Check boxes are selected when they contain a check mark, and they’re deselected when they’re empty.

Some applications have tri-state check boxes. These special check boxes are empty when nothing in the group is enabled, sport an x when everything in the group is enabled, and sport a minus sign (–) when some items in the group are enabled and some are not. This type of check box is often used for the Custom Install screen of Mac OS X installers.