MASTER YOUR DESKTOP
It’s easy to get around the macOS desktop – here are the essentials
Own all the features of your Mac’s desktop
Whether you’re new to the Mac or have upgraded to Sierra from a much older version of OS X (now macOS), the new desktop might look different
from what you’re used to. Don’t worry, though: the basics are much the same as before (and much like Windows Explorer, if you’re coming to the Mac from a PC). Here’s an overview of Finder – the app you’re actually using when you view the desktop, open and manage windows, navigate around your hard drive and organise your files and folders.
1 Apple menu
Click the Apple logo at the top-left corner of your screen and you’ll find lots of handy stuff for managing and controlling your Mac. Software Update is vital for keeping software up to date, and App Store is for finding new apps. As well as options to sleep, restart and shut down your Mac, another useful command is Force Quit, which you can use to close a misbehaving app (or any app, though you’ll lose any unsaved work).
2 Menu bar
On the Mac this menu bar strip is always present – unless you hide it or switch to ‘full-screen’ mode – and it changes according to which application is currently active. After the Apple menu, the first bold word you see is always the name of the specific application you’re currently working with, and its menu holds commands to do with that app, such as quitting, editing and customising its preferences and hiding it.
3 Menu bar items
At the right-hand end of the menu bar you’ll find vital info about your Wi-Fi, battery charge, volume level and more. Click an icon to view details or settings. Some other services and apps add icons here. Some of these can be removed by holding ç and dragging them off, but others will need a command to quit them. Click the rightmost icon to open Notification Centre; click the multicoloured icon to activate Siri and the magnifying glass icon to bring up Spotlight.
You can customise the Sierra desktop with your own images: go to System Preferences, then Desktop & Screen Saver. Go to the Finder menu > Preferences for more options, including whether icons for external media and connected servers show up on the Desktop. In fact, the Desktop is just a folder too: click Desktop in a Finder window sidebar and you can also view its contents in a window, just as you can the contents of any other folder.
Each window in Finder shows this sidebar (unless you specifically hide it by choosing View > Hide Sidebar). It provides quick access to storage devices, computers on your local network, folders that you use regularly, and other items you add to it. You can choose exactly what your Mac displays here in Finder > Preferences > Sidebar. Click the sidebar item you want to view and the window content changes to show that item on the right.
Your account’s folder includes various special folders, such as Movies, Music and Pictures, which are intended to store those media. AirDrop may appear here too – it isn’t a folder, but a way to transfer files between nearby Macs and iOS devices, even if they aren’t connected to the same network. You can view the contents of a folder in different ways: as icons; as a list that can be sorted by attributes such as date modified; in a hierarchy; or in Cover Flow.
The Dock shows currently running applications (the ones with a little black arrow under their icon), but not the individual windows that are open for these apps – usually you can right-click on an app’s icon and it will list the windows it has open. Except for some system utilities, apps stay open even when you close the last window, so you have to quit them; the easiest way to do this is usually by pressing ç+q, but you can right click and hit Quit.
8 The Dock
There’s a divider towards the right of the Dock; apps sit to the left of this and files and folders that you want quick access to can be dropped to the right. You can keep favourite apps in the Dock, so you can launch them with a click: just drag an icon into the Dock. To remove the icon of an app you rarely use, just drag it out of the Dock – the icon will vanish in a puff of smoke.
Just to the right of the Dock’s dividing line are shortcuts known as stacks. Click one to see its contents; click an item within it to open that item, or click the ‘Open in Finder’ arrow icon to open the entire folder. You can change a stack’s appearance by rightclicking it and selecting a View option from the menu that appears in front of you.
Drag and drop files here to delete them. Files stay in the Trash until you empty it by right-clicking here and choosing Empty Trash. To restore a file before it is deleted, open the Trash, rightclick the file and select Put Back. Drag an external drive here and the icon changes to an eject icon.