An application is a piece of software that helps you perform a task. There is no difference between a program and an application.

Exposé and Applications

By default, all the applications are placed in a folder labeled Applications, which is located at the top of the folder tree in your hard drive. However, this is just a convenient storage place, as you can put an application wherever you’d like on your Mac.

Within the Application folder, there is another folder labeled Utilities. A utility is an application for technical tasks, such as setting something up or diagnosing a problem.

How to Launch and Quit

If you regularly use a particular application, you can drag its icon onto the Dock to access it quickly. Likewise, you can drag a shortcut to an individual application onto your desktop. If you want quick access to your Applications folder, there are a few options:

  • Using the keyboard, when in Finder, press the Command key + Shift + A to jump to Applications.
  • Using the Dock, drag the Applications folder to the right-hand side of the Dock to create a Stack.
  • You can use a customization program and individual applications (or your whole Applications folder) to add elements to the Apple menu.
  • To quickly exit an application, hit the Command key + Q. Conveniently, the keys for save, Command key + S, and for close window, Command key + W, are located nearby. So, when you’ve finished working in a particular application, you can save and close it with the slightest movement of the thumb and middle finger.


Application Menu

When an application is up and running, you’ll find all its menus at the top of the screen. The first menu will display the name of the application. It contains everything relating to it “as a whole”, information about the app, such as preferences, options for quitting or closing, and its location.

The application menu also includes Services. Many users ignore this feature of OS X, but it can be very useful, as it provides quick access to a number of utilities and tools. If you are listening to a track in iTunes, for example, and you want to quickly look up the artist via Google, you can highlight the name of the artist and click Services – Search With Google. If you are typing something in a program with no spell-check feature, select Services – TextEdit – New Window Containing Selection. The text will appear in TextEdit, where you can quickly check the spelling. To customize the way that your Mac’s Services menu works, choose Services – Services Preferences in any application..

Switching Apps and Windows

If you’re working with multiple applications and windows simultaneously, you may find yourself rooting around for a particular pane. There are a couple of tricks that make it much easier to quickly access the application, window or file that you’re looking for…

The Mother of All Shortcuts: Command Key-Tab

This keyboard shortcut allows you to access all the apps which are currently open on your Mac. Hold down the Command key and press the Tab key. A bar will appear in the center of the screen, displaying all the applications you have opened. Keep holding down the Command Key, and cycle between these applications with repeated clicks of the Tab key. When you find the app you want to access, release the keys.

If you want to cycle through the open apps in the opposite direction, add Shift to the combination. You can also keep holding down the Command key and select one of the icons with your mouse.

If you cycle through applications with the Command key and Tab, you can hit Q to quit a highlighted program. You can also hit H to hide a program. This is a great way to quickly close lots of programs or clear the decks.

Note, however, that this shortcut will ignore minimized windows. It also won’t work for all applications.


The OS X Exposé exposes open windows and the desktop by keyboard shortcuts. To do so, try one of the following:

  • Hit F9 to see all windows that are open.
  • Hit F10 to see windows in the current application.
  • Hit F11 to hide all windows.
  • All new Macs also feature an Exposé button at the top of the keyboard (in the F3 position) to reveal all windows. Many computers from the MacBook family allow you to control Exposé with Multi-Touch finger gestures.
  • From the Exposé and Spaces panel of System Preferences, you can set up Active Screen Corners for the various Exposé commands. Simply moving your mouse pointer to one of the screen’s corners does the same as a shortcut.
  • While using Exposé or minimizing windows, hold down the Shift key. This will make everything happen in slow motion.

Hiding Applications

Another useful way to cut through the clutter is to hide all the windows of your applications, except the one you’re working in. These options appear in the menu for an application. However, it’s more convenient to hold down the Option key, in order to hide the application you are leaving. You can also hold down the Command key + Option key when clicking to a different application via its icon on the Dock, or via an open window, if you want to hide all but the application you are selecting.

How to Minimize Windows

To minimize or hide an individual window, minimize it to the Dock by clicking the yellow button on its top-right corner. To minimize all the windows within an application, including Finder, hold the Option key while clicking the yellow button.

If you find the way windows “melt” down into their minimized state a bit too cute, change “Genie” to “Scale” in the Dock pane of System Preferences..


Spaces’ features allow you to set up a number of different virtual working areas on your Mac for different applications, and for different activities. Its basic idea is to minimize clutter by limiting which active applications and windows are visible at any one time. You might create one “space” for work applications, another for video and music, and another for email and chat.

To get started, open System PreferencesExposé & Spaces and click the Spaces tab. Check the Enable Spaces box to get the Spaces up and running.

You are now ready to start adding spaces to your grid using the buttons in the top section of the panel, and assigning different commonly used applications to always open into a specific space using the lower half of the panel.

After you do that, you can go back to using your Mac as usual. Your applications and windows will now move in and out of view when you need them. What’s more, there are various different ways to move between your new spaces.

  • You can create rows and columns of spaces.
  • Associate applications with different spaces.
  • Assign shortcuts for switching spaces.

Click F8 to reveal the bird’s eye view, and then either use the mouse or arrow keys to navigate to the one you want, then hit Return. When previewing all your spaces in the bird’s eye view, click and drag individual spaces to rearrange them on the screen.

Click the Spaces menu bar icon and select a space from the list.

Click the Dock icon of any application associated with a specific space to be taken to that space. Note that if an application is currently closed, clicking its Dock icon will both launch the application, and take you to the associated space.

Use the keyboard shortcuts ^1, ^2, ^3, ^4, etc., to go directly to a space.

Use the keyboard shortcuts ^ arrows to toggle between the various spaces.

In bird’s eye view, you can drag individual Finder and application windows between different spaces, even when the application is already associated with a certain space. This is useful for keeping a space tidy when working with multiple documents from a single application.

Within System PreferencesExposé & Spaces, check the Show Spaces in menu bar box. This offers a quick and easy way to switch between spaces, and open Spaces Preferences.

You can create up to 16 spaces arranged 4 x 4. However, anything more than six almost defeats the purpose, as it can become a drag to keep track of where things are and switch quickly between applications.

Check the When switching box at the bottom of the panel, if you want the relevant space to come to the front when you click the icon of an application associated with that space.

Installing and Uninstalling

Some applications can take you through a step by step installer process. However, in the majority of cases, installing software on Mac OS X involves simply dropping a single file or folder into the Applications folder (or somewhere else if you prefer). If you don’t want an app that you’ve downloaded to be available to other users on your Mac, put it in your home folder, not in the Applications folder.

To uninstall an app, drag the file to the trash. Installing and uninstalling applications is a very user-friendly element of OS X.

It is very easy to share applications. Just copy a file or folder from someone else’s Applications folder into yours, and generally it should work with no issues. However, be aware that you may break the terms of the license agreement in this case.

Also keep in mind that when you drag an application to the Trash, some residual files may be left in your Mac’s Libraries. This is harmless, but you may want to delete them and clean the Mac if you’re short of disk space. The “readme” file that usually comes with an app, though not always, may contain the names of all files relevant to that app. You could also use Spotlight to search for the name of the application to locate files that are no longer useful. However, you must be certain that you can delete these files, and that they are not used by other apps!

Be warned: Small and easily installed applications, such as widgets, offer an obvious way in for malicious software, so avoid any widgets that look remotely suspicious..


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