Mac 101: Diving into menus, part 3
During the past two weeks, we’ve explored Mountain Lion’s Apple and Finder menus as well as its File and Edit menus. Let’s wrap it up with the last four menus in the series: View, Go, Window, and Help.
As its name indicates, the View menu is for changing the way Finder items look. The majority of these commands apply to the appearance of windows and their contents. The remaining commands address the ways items are arranged on the desktop.
The first four items—'as Icons', 'as List', 'as Columns', and 'as Cover Flow'—are options that I’ve covered in an earlier column about Finder windows. To refresh your memory: You can look at items within a window in these four views. Icon view displays thumbnail images of the items, List view is exactly what it sounds like, Column view presents items in a cascading hierarchy, and Cover Flow view places large icons at the top of the view and a list of files below.
Clean Up: If you’ve ever saved a few files to the Mac’s desktop or tossed several files into a folder in icon view, you may wonder how the Mac manages to line them up so neatly instead of piling them on top of one another. Wonder no longer: The desktop and Finder windows are ruled by an invisible grid. The Mac places files in the next available grid space; in the Finder, it starts in the upper-right corner, and then moves down and left. In Finder windows in icon view, it arranges icons from left to right in rows.
You can override this grid—for example, by dragging files onto the desktop or into a Finder window—and leave files all over the place, even on top of one another. When this happens, it’s time to invoke the Clean Up command, which tells all the items in a window or on the desktop to spread out and stick to the grid. If you select a few files, this command changes to Clean Up Selection and affects only those selected files.
Clean Up By: By default, when you toss things onto the desktop or into a folder in icon view, they stay where you put them. But when you're cleaning up, you can impose a measure of order on them. This command makes that happen. Choose Clean Up By, and from the submenu select Name, Kind, Date Modified, Date Created, Size, or Label, and the Mac will reorganize your items according to the selected criterion. For example, if you have files named Moe, Larry, and Curly on the desktop and you choose Clean Up By Name, the files will arrange alphabetically as Curly, Larry, and Moe. This command applies to all files in a window or on the desktop, even if you’ve selected only a couple of them.
A word about the active state of things: Before we go on, a bit of explanation.
Every so often I’ll toss around the term active. This doesn’t mean that the item I’m referring to is shimmying around your computer or that it maintains a healthy workout regimen. Rather, it applies to the thing that you’re currently working with. For example, if I launch iTunes on my Mac and that app is front and center, with the name iTunes appearing on the left side of the menu bar, that is the active application. But if I’m working in the Finder and I open a new window, that window is active. If I then click on the desktop, the desktop is active, not the window. (You can tell whether a window is active by looking at its title bar: If it’s black, it’s active. If it’s gray, it’s not.) The only way to determine whether the desktop is active is that nothing else seems to be.
Clear enough? Then on we go.
Sort By and Arrange By: If the Mac’s desktop is active, this command will be Sort By. If a window is present and active, this command will be Arrange By. The two are similar but not identical. We’ll start with Sort By.
Just a couple of paragraphs ago I said that when you toss things onto the desktop or into a window, they generally stay where they are. That’s true provided that you haven’t chosen one of the commands that appears in the Sort By submenu (which contains None, Name, Kind, Date Last Opened, Date Added, Date Modified, Date Created, Size, and Label commands). If you select one of the commands (other than None)—Name, for instance—then items on the desktop will display in that order.
More important, when you add new items to that window or desktop, the new item will fit into the arrangement. Let's say you’ve chosen Sort By Name, and the files Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo are lined up appropriately on the desktop. When you then save the file Groucho to the desktop, Harpo and Zeppo will shift down a position to make room for Groucho, as that file falls alphabetically after Chico.
Arrange By works much the same way within Finder windows, with just a couple of differences. One difference is that the Arrange By submenu includes an Application entry (so that you can gang all your Pages documents together, for example). The other is that when you impose one of these options, the window will be divided into sections. So, if you choose Kind, the window will contain such categories as Folders, Images, Presentations, and Documents, with files placed under the appropriate category heading.
The next four commands change depending on their current state. If a command reads 'Show' something, and you select it to show whatever that thing is, the command will change to Hide so that you can later hide that thing.
Show Path Bar: Curious about where an item is located in the Finder’s hierarchy? Choose this command and select a file or folder. At the bottom of a Finder window you’ll see the path to it, such as Macintosh HD > Users > Chris > Documents > My Document. You can click on any item in the path bar to move to that directory.
Show Status Bar: The Status Bar appears below the Path Bar (if you’ve made the Path Bar visible) and details the number of items in a window and the amount of free storage space on the active drive. If you select one or more items, the number of selected items appears here as well—'2 of 12 Selected', '156.53 GB Available', for example.
Hide Sidebar: Is the active window too fat? (Or is the sidebar too distracting in a particular window?) You can hide it with this command.
Hide Toolbar: The toolbar is the area at the top of a Finder window that contains the Arrow, View, Action, Arrange, and Share buttons. Choose this command, and they disappear.
Customize Toolbar: As helpful as the buttons in the toolbar are, you’re welcome to change what appears there. You can do so by invoking this command. In the sheet that appears, you’ll find not only the existing buttons but others as well. To add a button to the toolbar, just drag it to where you want it. Additionally, while this sheet is visible, you can rearrange icons in the toolbar by dragging them to a new position. (If you’d like to rearrange the icons when the sheet isn’t visible, just hold down the Command key and drag the icons.)
One additional toolbar tip: You can add almost anything to the toolbar. For example, if you’d like a handy shortcut to the Special Stuff folder you’ve created, simply drag it into the toolbar. Now, with a single click in any Finder window, you’re there. (Of course, you could just as easily add this folder to the sidebar for the same kind of functionality.) To remove items from the toolbar, hold down the Command key and drag them to the desktop; the icon will disappear, but you won’t delete the original item on your drive.
Show View Options: You choose this command to reveal view options for the active item. If no windows are active in the Finder, this command will show you the view options for the desktop. With a window active, you’ll see the options for that window.
For the desktop view, you can change the size of the desktop icons as well as the size of the invisible grid. The larger the grid, the farther apart icons will be. You can change the size of the text that appears in file and folder labels, as well as the position of those labels. Also, you’ll find the option to show an item’s info—the number of items a folder contains, the resolution of an image file, or the amount of storage a file consumes. You can choose whether thumbnail icons display previews of the file’s contents or appear as generic icons, too. Finally, you can choose how to sort your files here as well.
With a window active, the contents of the view options window changes, depending on the view you’ve chosen. In Icon view you find many of the options you’d see when looking at the desktop’s view options. In List and Cover Flow views, you can choose which column headers will appear in the window. And in Column view you find not only the Arrange By and Sort By pop-up menus available in other view option windows, but also Show Icons, Show Icon Preview, and Show Preview Column entries.
Finally, a Finder menu that needs very little explanation.
Back and Forward: These commands serve the same purpose as the arrow buttons in a window’s toolbar. If you can’t go back or forward because you’ve opened a window for the first time, these commands will be grayed out.
Enclosing Folder: If you’d like to expose the folder that holds a selected item, choose this command. For example, the All My Files window is open and you want to know where Pictures_of_Lily.jpg resides.
The meat of the Go menu lets you open folders that you’re likely to visit routinely. Included in the list are All My Files, Documents, Desktop, Downloads, Home, Computer, AirDrop (a feature I’ll discuss in a future column), Network, Applications, and Utilities. Select one, and that folder will open on the desktop.
Longtime Mac users will note a folder that’s missing: Library. This is a folder within your user folder that holds preferences, application support files, and similar things. Because it’s the kind of folder that Apple would prefer new users not to access, it’s invisible. If, for some very good reason, you need to visit this folder, click the Go menu, hold down the Option key, and click the now-visible Library folder.
Recent Folders: When discussing the Apple menu, I mentioned that you could view items you’d recently accessed by choosing Recent Items from that fruit-shaped menu. Within the Go menu you can focus solely on recently used menus—ten of them, to be exact, in this command’s submenu. Should you wish to, you can clear this list by choosing Clear Menu.
Go to Folder: Let’s say that you’re a dyed-in-the-wool DOS or Unix user, and all this graphical user interface jazz seems like so much pabulum; you prefer to type the path names to folders you wish to visit. Fair enough—this is the command for you. Select it, and a Go to Folder field appears. Type the path to the folder you desire and press Return, and there ye be.
The correct way to write a path is to use slashes (/) to designate levels. So, for example, if you want to open the Utilities folder, inside the Applications folder, which sits at the root level of your hard drive (meaning, the items you see if you double-click the hard-drive icon on your desktop), you should type
Tip: If you want to write the path to an item in your user folder, you don’t have to type something like
/Users/chris/Documents/My Cool Documents. Instead you can use the tilde character (~), which represents your user folder. So, to go to that same My Cool Documents folder, I’d enter
~/Documents/My Cool Documents.
“But hang on, Chris—is this thing good only for command-line geeks?”
In truth, no. There will be times when entering a path is faster than digging down through umpteen folders. Also—and this is something we’ll get to much, much later when you’re a more advanced user—it’s an easy way to navigate to invisible folders. ”Invisible folders? Wha…?” Don’t sweat it. Not important at this point.
Connect to Server: This is another advanced command that requires that you know a bit about accessing other computers on your local network and the Internet. For the time being I’m going to leave it at that, knowing that we’ll eventually get there.
The Window menu has fairly basic functionality. The first two commands—Minimize and Zoom—replicate a window’s yellow and green buttons, respectively.
Cycle Through Windows: This command makes a different Finder window active with each invocation. They become active in alphabetical order, too, so if you have Windows A, B, and C open, and you select Window B to activate it and then choose this command, Window C will come to the front and be active.
Bring All to Front: Let’s suppose that you’re using iPhoto. You click on the desktop, and some of the Finder’s windows are hidden behind iPhoto’s window, which remains on screen. You can easily reveal all the open Finder windows, placing them in front of the iPhoto window, by choosing this command.
You may have noticed that when you opened the box containing your new Mac that no manual was included. Apple dispensed with printed manuals ages ago, largely because of its integrated help system, which you access via this menu.
The Help menu is available in all applications and is contextual, meaning that it will first offer help topics for the application you’re currently working with. I plan to discuss Apple’s help system at length in another column, but I do want to point out one trick that you should know now.
If you’re working with an application that has a load of commands, and you can’t seem to locate the one you want, simply type the name of the command in the Help field. The first entry that appears in the list will be a menu item that points to the command you’re looking for.
You can try it yourself now. Just move to the Finder, click the Help menu, and type
open. When you do, all the commands that contain the word open will appear in the list. Select one, and a blue arrow appears on screen to show you where the command is. You can then press the Return key to trigger that command.
If, in the Finder, you’ve entered nothing in the Help field, you’ll see a Help Center entry at the bottom of the menu. Choose this to produce a Help Center window that provides links to many things you should know about your Mac. (If you haven’t already learned them from Mac 101, naturally.)
Next week: Find and seek