Join Nick Brazzi for an in-depth discussion in this video Essential analogies for an operating system, part of Mac OS X El Capitan Essential Training.
- Mac OS X El Capitan is an operating system. An operating system is the core software on your computer. It's the platform, or foundation, that supports every operation on your computer. It defines the interface on your system. In a way, you can think of it as the personality of your computer. As operating systems, Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X all do basically the same things, but it's the interface, design, and layout of the controls in these operating systems that make them feel completely different from each other.
So even though we're talking about Mac OS X in this course, I want to start by setting up some core analogies that will help you understand how operating systems work in general. Of course, I'm going to talk about specific features in Mac OS X. When computers were first invented, a lot of software and interface elements were developed to simulate real world objects. Think of something like Microsoft Word, which is basically an application that was originally created to do the work that you might do on a typewriter.
Whether you're totally uncomfortable with computers, or an old pro, I find that it's really helpful to take a moment to acknowledge how some aspects of your computer were designed to simulate real world objects. Once you understand these analogies, I think you'll be much more comfortable with OS X. So let's start by thinking about your computer as if it were your office. And in my office, the place that I usually start is at my desk. Looking at the surface of my desk, I have a few things that I always need at arm's reach: my telephone, my pencil jar, my stapler, and probably some documents that I know I'll be working with today.
The analogy to your computer here is pretty clear. The first thing that you see on your computer is your desktop. That's the empty screen that is underneath everything else on your computer, and it's the only thing you see when you don't have any windows open. Like your real world desktop, I recommend that you keep just a few things that you need quick access to on the desktop on your computer. Maybe a few files that you recently downloaded, maybe a folder that you use every day, a shortcut to your hard drive is nice. But I want to caution you against dropping everything that you need directly on your desktop.
Just like the real world desktop, it's very easy for your computer's desktop to get painfully messy and cluttered, to the point where you can't find anything. Besides, there's a much better system in place to take care of all that clutter. And once you make the decision to use it, you can keep things organized very easily. So what is that system that we use to keep our files organized? Well, that's our next analogy. Here in my office, if I get too many files and documents sitting on my desk, eventually I'm going to want to file away the documents that I'm not using right now.
So I filed those things away in my filing cabinet. Every single document that's important to me can be stored in this filing cabinet. And I can set up a logical organization so that any of those documents can be found quickly. So where is the filing cabinet on your Mac? Well, that's a system known as Finder. Finder is the gateway to your hard drive. This is where you go to access all of your files and folders. Even if you have five hard drives connected to your computer, you always get to them using Finder.
You can think of Finder like an application, like Microsoft Word or iTunes. But it's different from any other application because it's always running, and it's the mechanism you use to browse all of your files and folders, and even other applications. Let's take a moment here on my computer to look at how you get to Finder in OS X. Now, down here at the bottom of my screen, you'll see the Dock, this row of icons. This is something we'll be talking about more very soon. One way to get to your Finder, is to find the Finder icon in the Dock, and just click on it, and it opens up a Finder window.
This, of course, is the Finder window. And I'm going to close it for now, because another way of getting to it, would be to double-click on the hard drive icon on your desktop, and you get to the same place. So from here, you can browse through different folders on you computer. For example, I might go to my Documents folder, and into a subfolder here, where I have a bunch of documents stored. So this is just a quick glimpse at Finder, we're going to have an entire chapter dedicated to Finder a little bit later in this course. The third and final analogy that I want to set up, is something that we'll refer to as mission control.
To understand mission control, I want you to imagine that you're in charge of a large business, and you have lots of different departments and lots of employees. You need to communicate with all of your employees or contractors, or all of the people that you work with. As you're working with Mac OS X, I want you to think of each of the applications installed on your computer as your employees. An application is a program that runs on your computer. Things like iTunes, which is the program that you might use to listen to music or watch TV shows.
Or Safari, the program that you might use to browse the internet. Or Microsoft Word, the program that you might use to write documents. Each of these applications is like an employee that works for you, and you have to oversee each of these employees. You need a way to interface with them, and you need a method for helping them communicate with each other. In OS X, we have a few tools that work together to help you do this. These are: the Dock, which we saw a moment ago, and Launchpad, which is a tool that you can use to access all of the applications on your computer, and Mission Control, which is a tool that you can use to navigate between your applications that are currently running.
Now, Mission Control is a great feature in Mac OS X, and I think its name really communicates philosophically what we're talking about here. Interfacing with the applications on your computer, and being able to easily switch between them, is what Mission Control is all about. So, let's take a quick look at these three tools. Here on my computer, we saw a little bit of the Dock before. If you want to launch an application, you just go down to the icon on the Dock and click on it, and that application will launch. So, I just clicked on Safari, which is a program for browsing the internet, and Safari opens up.
You can launch multiple applications. Maybe I also want to launch the Mail application, I can click on that, and the Mail application will launch. You'll notice that the Dock does not have all of your applications, and that's where Launchpad comes in. Now, by default, Launchpad is also on your Dock. That's it right here. And if you click on that, you can see that I've got a list of every single application that's installed on my computer. From here, I can launch any of these applications. So if I want to launch the Notes application, I can just click on it here in Launchpad, and it'll launch that.
Now, Mission Control is what you use when you've got a lot of applications running and you have to easily navigate between them. So I can do things like tile out all of these windows, and then click on the one that I want. And clearly, we're going to work more with Mission Control later in the course. So, that sets up the Dock, Launchpad, and Mission Control in OS X. Which also finishes off the analogies that I want you to keep in mind as we go through this course. You'll get plenty of opportunity to spend more time with each of these.
For now, keep these basic analogies in mind, and I think you'll be in good shape to get started. For the rest of this chapter, we're going to talk about getting your Mac set up. Then, in the next few chapters, we'll dive deeper individually into the Desktop, Finder, and Mission Control.
- Setting mouse and trackpad options and gesture controls
- Connecting to the Internet
- Organizing your Mac OS X desktop
- Browsing files and folders with the Finder
- Launching and quitting applications
- Using Split View and multitasking
- Searching for files with Spotlight
- Browsing the web with Safari
- Setting up Mail, Calendar, and Contacts
- Connecting to others with Messages and FaceTime
- Working with notifications
- Installing apps
- Sharing over a wireless network
- Backing up your Mac