October 13, 2012, 9:27 PM — In the last Mac 101 column, you finished configuring your new Mac. At long last, it's up and it's running OS X Mountain Lionyouve arrived! But where exactly are you? And whats all that stuff on the screen?
Your Mac is running an application (also known as a program or an app) called Finder. More often than not, youll hear it referred to as the Finder. Given its name, is it a tool for searching your Mac?
Not exactly. Way back when the Mac was first born, Apple used a desktop metaphor to help people imagine the way their files were organized. You could think of the Finder as your desk. Inside that desk were folders that held other folders or files. So, by opening a series of nested folders, youd eventually locate the file (or document) you were interested in working with. So, in this way, the Finder earned its name: It was the starting point for finding your files.
But, as things have progressed, fewer Mac users think of it that way. There are far more efficient means for locating files than digging down through a lot of nested folders. And, with the last couple of iterations of the Mac OS, Apple is deemphasizing the notion of folder hierarchies anyway. (But thats a topic for another column.) For the time being, just think of the Finder as the place you start when you first boot up your Mac. Now let's take a look around.
The menu bar
Starting at the top of the window, you find the menu bar. Yep, another metaphor. Rather than forcing you to remember a bunch of arcane computer commands (as was the case in prehistoric times), Apple organizes common commands in a series of menus. Click on a menu headingEdit, for exampleand you see the related options in a menu below. Select one of those commands, and it executes. So, for instance, click on a file, choose the Duplicate command from the File menu, and the Mac creates another copy of the file. I'll discuss menus and their functions in a future column. For now, were just taking a look around.
In the menu bar you see a number of items. Starting from the left, theres the Apple icon. This is actually a menu. Unlike the menus to its immediate right, this one is represented by an icon rather than a word. Then comes the Finder menu. This menu is known generically as the application menu, meaning that it contains commands specific to the application youre currently working with. If you are currently using iTunes, for example, youll see an iTunes menu in this same positionjust to the right of the Apple menuand in that menu youll find commands that apply to the iTunes application.