The Mountain Lion Desktop on Your MacBook - dummies

The Mountain Lion Desktop on Your MacBook

By Mark L. Chambers

Mountain Lion is a special type of software on your MacBook called an operating system (or OS, as in OS X). That means that Mountain Lion essentially runs your MacBook and also allows you to run all your other applications, such as iTunes or Photoshop. It’s the most important computer application — or software — that you run.

Think of a pyramid, with Mountain Lion as the foundation and other applications running on top.

You’re using the OS when you aren’t running a specific application, such as these actions:

  • Copying files from a USB flash drive to your drive

  • Navigating through files and folders on your drive

  • Choosing a different screen saver

Sometimes, Mountain Lion even peeks through an application while it’s running. For example, application actions such as these are also controlled by Mountain Lion:

  • The Open, Save, and Save As dialogs that you see when working with files in Photoshop

  • The Print dialog that appears when you print a document in Microsoft Word

The Mountain Lion desktop isn’t made of wood, and you can’t stick your gum underneath. However, this particular desktop does indeed work much like the surface of a traditional desk. You can store things there, organize things into folders, and take care of important tasks such as writing and drawing. Heck, you even have a clock and a trash can.


Meet me at the Dock

The Dock is a versatile combination: one part organizer, one part application launcher, and one part system monitor. From the Dock, you can launch applications, see what’s running, and display or hide the windows shown by your applications.

Each icon in the Dock represents one of the following:

  • An application that you can run (or is running)

  • An application window that’s minimized (shrunk)

  • A web page URL link

  • A document or folder on your system

  • A network server, shared document, or shared folder

  • Your Trash


The Dock is highly configurable:

  • It can appear at different edges of the screen.

  • It can disappear until you move your mouse pointer to the edge to call it forth.

  • You can resize it.

Dig those crazy icons

By default, Mountain Lion always displays at least one icon on your desktop: your Mac’s internal drive. To open a drive and view or use the contents, you double-click the icon. Other icons that might appear on your desktop include

  • CDs and DVDs

  • An iPod

  • External hard drives, solid-state drives, or USB flash drives

  • Applications, folders, and documents

  • Files and folders

  • Network servers you access

There’s no food on this menu

The menu bar isn’t found in a restaurant. You find it at the top of the desktop, where you can use it to control your applications. Virtually every application that you run on your laptop has a menu bar.

To use a menu command, follow these steps:

  1. Click the menu title (such as File or Edit).

  2. Choose the desired command from the list that appears.


Virtually every Macintosh application has some menus, such as File, Edit, and Window. You’re likely to find similar commands within these menus. However, only two menus are in every OS X application:

  • The Apple menu (which is identified with that jaunty Apple Corporation icon).

  • The Application menu (which always bears the name of the active application). For instance, the DVD Player menu group appears when you run the Mountain Lion DVD Player, and the Word menu appears when you launch Microsoft Word.

You can also display a shortcut menu — which regular human beings call a right-click menu — by right-clicking your Mountain Lion desktop, an application, a folder, or a file icon. (Because your MacBook is equipped with a trackpad, you can right-click by tapping the trackpad with two fingertips.)

There’s always room for one more window

You’re probably already familiar with the ubiquitous window itself. Both Mountain Lion and the applications that you run use windows to display things such as

  • The documents that you create

  • The contents of your drive

Mountain Lion gives you access to the applications, documents, and folders on your system in the Finder Window.

Windows are surprisingly configurable.