Mac 101: Diving into menus, part 2

Edit menu

I know that was a lot to swallow. Fortunately the Edit menu is short, sweet, and very helpful. Even more than the File menu you’ll find those commands included in the Finder’s Edit menu routinely appear in the menus of other applications you use.

Undo: Undo does what it says. If you’ve just committed some action that you now regret, choose Undo to reverse that action. For instance, if you’ve moved a file to the trash and would like to pluck it out, choose Undo Move of nameoffile. The file will hop out of the trash and back into the Finder. This is another handy keyboard shortcut to memorize—Command-Z invokes Undo in nearly all cases.

Note too that the Undo command remembers more than just the last action. You can invoke Undo multiple times to reverse several of your past actions. In some applications you have unlimited levels of undo.

Redo: Okay, so you just undid something that you thought better of, but you’ve now changed your mind yet again and want to do the thing you did originally. That’s the reason for Redo.

About the clipboard

The next few commands involve something called the clipboard, so it's best to explain what that is before we tread farther down the Edit menu. The clipboard is a holding area where you can store a single item (usually). That item can be an image, chunk of media, bit of selected text… just about anything you can select. I weasel with the usually because it's possible to select multiple files in the Finder and add them to the clipboard. You put things in the clipboard so that you can later place them somewhere else. For example, you might grab a portion of an email message you’ve received, open a new text file in TextEdit, and then put that text in your text document for safe keeping.

Clear? Great. Now to the commands.

Cut: The Cut command (Command-X) removes the selected item from its present location and places it in the clipboard. So, if in the sentence, “The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” I select “quick brown” and choose Cut, the resulting sentence would read “The fox jumped over the lazy dog.” The words “quick brown” would be in the clipboard. Shortly you’ll learn what you can do with that clipboard text.

Copy: Similar to the Cut command, the Copy command (Command-C) places a copy of the selection in the clipboard. Using our previous example of selecting “quick brown,” the original sentence would remain exactly as it was but “quick brown” would still wind up in the clipboard.

Paste: And here’s how our little drama resolves. To move the contents of the clipboard to another place, you choose the Paste command (Command-V). Again, once you’ve copied “quick brown” you can open a text file, place your cursor anywhere you like, press Command-V, and the words “quick brown” appear at that location.

The cool thing about these three commands is that they’re going to appear in just about every application you use. Plus, you can cut, copy, and paste items between applications (and within applications as well).

Select All: There are a variety of ways to select items. You can click and drag on them. You can Command-click on the items you want to select (a discontiguous selection, meaning that you can click on anything you like in a list and you’ll select only the clicked items). You click on the first item in a list that you wish to select and then hold down the Shift key and click on the last item in that list (a contiguous selection where the clicked items plus everything in between are selected). Or, if you simply want to select everything, use Select All (Command-A). You can use this not only for items in the Finder, but also all the words in a text document, images in a photo album, songs in a playlist… you get the idea. Anything that’s selectable.

Show Clipboard: There’s no expiration date on the contents of the clipboard provided that you haven’t restarted your Mac. If you can’t recall the last thing you placed in it, use this command to learn what it holds.

Start Dictation: Dictation—the ability for your Mac to transcribe the words you speak into its microphone—is a subject we’ll tackle at another time. For now, understand that this command (which appears in most applications) can be found near the bottom of the Edit menu.

Special Characters: Your Mac is capable of producing more characters than you see printed on your computer’s keyboard. If you seek an arrow character, foreign currency symbols, math symbols, pictographs or Emoji characters, here’s where you look. To insert a special character in a line of text, just double-click on it.

And that wraps up the two menus that are commonly found in most applications.

Next week: Diving into menus, the conclusion

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