Mac 101: Diving into menus, part 3

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Go menu

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.

The Go menu

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 /Applications/Utilities.

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.

Window menu

The Window menu has fairly basic functionality. The first two commands—Minimize and Zoom—replicate a window’s yellow and green buttons, respectively.

The Window menu

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.

Help menu

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.

Find the command you're looking for by typing its name (or part of its name) in the Help menu's search field.

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

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