Chapter 3

The MacBook Owner’s Introduction to macOS Big Sur


Bullet Introducing the macOS Big Sur Desktop

Bullet Launching and quitting applications

Bullet Mastering Finder windows, items and shortcuts

Bullet Expanding your Desktop with Mission Control and Spaces

Bullet Customizing the Dock and Desktop

Bullet Getting help

Ah, the Finder. Many admire its scenic beauty. But don’t ignore its unsurpassed power or its many moods. And send a postcard while you’re there.

Okay, so the Big Sur Finder might not be quite as majestic as the mighty region it’s named after, but it’s the basic toolbox you use every day while piloting your MacBook. The Finder includes the most common elements of macOS: window controls, common menu commands, icon fun (everything from launching applications to copying files), keyboard shortcuts, and even emptying the Trash. In fact, you could say that if you master the Finder and learn how to use it efficiently, you’re on your way to becoming a power user!

This chapter is your Finder tour guide, and we’re ready to roll. I satisfy your curiosity about your new playground and introduce you to the basic elements of the Big Sur Desktop. I also outline the resources available if you need help with macOS.

Oh, and I promise to use honest-to-goodness English in my explanations, with a minimum of engineerspeak and indecipherable acronyms. (In return, promise that you’ll boast about Big Sur to your family and friends. Aunt Harriet might not be as technologically savvy as we are.)

Your Own Personal Operating System

Big Sur is a special type of software called an operating system (or OS, as in macOS). This means that Big Sur essentially runs your MacBook and allows you to use all your other applications, such as Music and Adobe Photoshop. It’s the most important computer application — or software — that you run.

Tip Think of a pyramid, with Big Sur as the foundation and other applications running on top.

You’re using the OS when you aren’t running a specific application, such as these actions:

  • Copying files from a USB flash drive to your laptop’s internal drive
  • Navigating files and folders on your drive
  • Choosing a different screen saver

Sometimes, Big Sur even peeks through an application while it’s running. macOS controls application actions such as these:

  • The Open, Save, and Save As dialogs you see when working with files in Photoshop
  • The Print dialog that appears when you print a document in Pages (Apple’s desktop publishing application)

In the following sections, I escort you around the most important hotspots in Big Sur, and you meet the most interesting onscreen thingamabobs you use to control your laptop. (I told you I wouldn’t talk like an engineer!)

The Big Sur Desktop

The Big Sur Desktop isn’t made of wood, and you can’t stick your gum underneath it. But this particular desktop does work much like the surface of a traditional desk. You can store things there, organize things into folders, and take care of important tasks such as writing and drawing (using tools called applications). Heck, you even have a clock and a trash can.

Gaze upon Figure 3-1, and follow along as you venture to your Desktop and beyond. I discuss each of these Desktop elements in more detail later in this chapter.


FIGURE 3-1: Everything Big Sur starts here: the macOS Desktop.

Meet me at the Dock

The Dock is a versatile combination: one part organizer, one part application launcher, and one part system monitor. From the Dock, you can launch applications. The postage-stamp icon represents the Apple Mail application, for example, and clicking the spiffy compass icon launches your Safari web browser. Icons on the Dock also allow you to see what’s running and to display or hide the windows displayed by your applications.

Each icon on the Dock represents one of the following (many of which are proudly displayed in Figure 3-2):

  • An application you can run (or that’s running)
  • An application window that’s minimized (shrunk)
  • A web page’s URL link
  • A document or folder on your system
  • A network server, shared document, or shared folder
  • Your Trash

FIGURE 3-2: The Dock can contain all sorts of exotic icons.

Tip The Dock is highly configurable:

  • It can appear at different edges of the screen.
  • It can disappear until you move the pointer to the edge to call it forth.
  • You can resize it.

Check out that Control Center

Let’s face it: Even with two decades of excellent design behind it, your macOS Desktop can be a somewhat confusing landscape! A laptop often needs a quick settings change around campus, at the airport or the coffee shop. With Big Sur, Apple’s designers have introduced the macOS Control Center to round up all these stray options and present them in a single, convenient spot.

The Control Center is easily customized, too — after all, this is macOS — so you can decide what goes where! Some settings can either appear on your Finder menu bar or the Control Center. You can learn all the details in the section titled “Taking Control of Your MacBook,” later in this chapter.

Dig those crazy icons

By default, Big Sur typically displays at least one icon on your Desktop: your Mac’s internal drive. (If your internal drive’s icon doesn’t appear on the Desktop, choose Finder  ⇒    Preferences, click the General tab of the Preferences dialog, and then select the Hard Disks check box to display your drive icons.) To open a drive and view or use the contents, you double-click the icon. Each icon is a shortcut of sorts that represents something, including

  • CDs and DVDs (if you have an optical drive)
  • External drives and USB flash drives
  • Applications and documents
  • Files and folders
  • Network servers you access

Note that an icon can represent applications you run and documents you create. Sometimes, you single-click an icon to watch it do its thing (as on the Dock), but usually you double-click an icon to make something happen.

There’s no food on this menu

The menu bar isn’t in a restaurant. You find it at the top of the Desktop, where you can use it to control your applications. Virtually every application you run on your laptop has a menu bar.

To use a menu command, follow these steps:

  1. Click the menu title (such as File or Edit).
  2. Choose the desired command from the list that appears, as shown in Figure 3-3.

When you click a menu, it extends down so that you can see the commands it includes. While the menu is extended, you can choose any enabled menu item (just click it) to perform that action. You can tell that an item is enabled if its name appears in black-and-white. Conversely, a menu command is disabled if it’s grayed-out. Clicking it does nothing.

Remember When you see a menu path printed in this book (such as File  ⇒    Save), it’s just a visual shortcut that tells you to click the File menu and then choose Save from the menu that appears.


FIGURE 3-3: Clicking a menu displays a list of menu commands.

Virtually every Mac application has some menus, such as File, Edit, and Window. You’re likely to find similar commands on these menus. But only two menus are in every macOS application:

  • The Apple menu, which is identified by that jaunty Apple Corporation icon (App). This menu is special because it appears on both the Finder menu bar and the menu bar in every application you run. Whether you’re in Music, Photoshop, or Microsoft Word doesn’t matter: If you see a menu bar, the App menu is there. The menu contains common commands to use no matter where you are in Big Sur, such as Restart, Shut Down, and System Preferences. Figure 3-1 proudly displays the Apple icon and menu in the top-left corner.
  • The Application menu, which always bears the name of the active application. The DVD Player menu group appears when you run the Big Sur DVD Player, for example, and the Word menu group appears when you launch Microsoft Word.

Tip You can also display a context or shortcut menu — which regular human beings call a right-click menu — by right-clicking the Big Sur Desktop, an application, a folder, or a file icon. (Because your MacBook is equipped with a trackpad, you can right-click by tapping the trackpad with two fingertips. I explain tapping later in the section titled, “Wait a Second: Where the Heck Are the Mouse Buttons?”)

The Finder menu bar is your friend

Whenever the Finder itself is ready to be used (or, in Macspeak, whenever the Finder is the active application), the Finder menu bar appears at the top of the screen. You know that the Finder is active and ready when the word Finder appears at the left end of the menu bar.

There’s always room for one more window

You’re probably familiar with the ubiquitous window itself. Both Big Sur and the applications you run use windows to display things such as

  • The documents you create
  • The contents of your drive

The window shown in Figure 3-1 earlier in this chapter is a Finder window, where Big Sur gives you access to the applications, documents, and folders on your system. You use Finder windows to launch applications, perform disk chores such as copying and moving files, and navigate your internal and external drives.

Wait a Second: Where the Heck Are the Mouse Buttons?

Big Sur takes a visual approach to everything. What you see in Figure 3-1, earlier in this chapter, is designed for point-and-click convenience, because the trackpad is your primary navigational tool while you’re using your Mac laptop. You move your finger over the surface of the trackpad, and the pointer follows like an obedient pup. The faster you move your finger, the farther the pointer goes. When your pointer is over the desired item, you tap it (or click it, if you prefer the more familiar term); it opens; you do your thing; life is good.

Warning Never use any object other than your finger on the trackpad! That means no pencils (no, not even the eraser end), pens, or chopsticks; they can damage your trackpad in no time.

If you’ve grazed on the other side of the fence — if you’re one of Those Who Were Once Windows Users — you’re probably accustomed to using a mouse with at least two buttons. This brings up the nagging question: “Hey, Mark, where the heck are the buttons?”

In a nutshell, the buttons simply ain’t there if you’re using your Mac laptop’s trackpad. The entire surface of the trackpad can act as both buttons. To customize how the trackpad operates, click the App menu on the Finder menu bar, click System Preferences on the menu that drops down, and then click the Trackpad icon in the System Preferences dialog. From the Point & Click pane of that pane, for example, you can

  • Select the Tap to Click check box. Now when you tap quickly anywhere on the trackpad, your Mac laptop counts that as a click. Tap twice quickly, and your MacBook recognizes a double-click.
  • Select the Secondary Click check box. A single tap with two fingers displays the right-click menu (which I cover in more detail in a page or two).
  • Select the Look Up & Data Detectors check box. If your Mac laptop is equipped with a Force Touch Trackpad, you can choose how Force Click operates (along with the Force Click and Haptic Feedback check box, which provides physical feedback from the trackpad). Note that these two check boxes don’t appear if your MacBook has an older trackpad.
  • Adjust your tracking speed and Force Click pressure. Click and drag the Tracking speed slider to speed or slow the rate at which the pointer moves. The Click pressure slider controls how hard you must press to activate Force Click.

Apple has done a great job of illustrating each gesture available from the Trackpad pane in System Preferences. A short video clip shows you both the gesture itself and the effect of that gesture within macOS.

I’ll be honest: When my laptop is on my desk at home, I plug in a Logitech optical trackball. This neat device has two buttons and a scroll wheel, saving me wear and tear on my trackpad and offering even finer control in my applications. In fact, a new industry has sprung up for tiny USB mousing devices made especially for laptops. Some devices are smaller than a business card, but they still carry a full complement of two buttons and a scroll wheel. If you’d rather have an external trackpad while desk-bound, consider Apple’s wireless Magic Trackpad 2. At $149, it’s on the expensive side, but it perfectly mirrors the features offered by your MacBook’s trackpad.

In this book, I refer to the pointer whether you’re using the trackpad or a mouse. So here’s a Mark’s Maxim that I think you’ll appreciate more and more as you use your laptop:

Marksmaxim If you can afford a USB or wireless Bluetooth mouse, trackpad, or trackball for your laptop, buy it.

If you tap the trackpad with two fingertips (or click the right mouse button on a USB mouse), Big Sur performs the same default function that a right click does in Windows. When you right-click most items — icons, documents, even your Desktop — you get a shortcut menu of commands that are specific to that item.

Figure 3-4 shows a typical convenient shortcut menu in a Finder window. I have all sorts of cool items at my disposal on this menu because of the applications I’ve installed that make use of such a menu.

Tip If you’re using a USB mouse, don’t forget to visit the Mouse pane in System Preferences to configure it.


FIGURE 3-4: Welcome to your shortcut menu!

Launching and Quitting Applications with Aplomb

Now it’s time to pair your new trackpad acumen with the Big Sur Finder window. Follow along with this simple exercise. Move the pointer over the Music icon on the Dock. (This icon bears the symbol of a musical note.) Then tap the trackpad once. (See the preceding section for details on how to configure it.) Whoosh! Big Sur launches (or starts, or runs) the Music application, and you see a window much like the one shown in Figure 3-5.


FIGURE 3-5: Click a Dock icon to launch that application.

Tip If an application icon is already selected (which I discuss later in the chapter), you can simply press ⌘   +O to launch it. The same key shortcut works with documents, too.

Besides the Dock, you have a plethora of ways to launch an application or open a document in Big Sur:

  • From the App menu: You can launch several applications from anywhere in Big Sur by using the App menu. Choose System Preferences to change all sorts of settings, such as your display background and icon appearance. Choose App Store to launch the macOS App Store and display software that you can download to your laptop. (Most of this software are commercial applications that you have to pay for, but many great free applications are available as well.) You can also use the App Store to see whether update patches are available for your Apple software.
  • From the Launchpad: Arrange all your application icons in a full-screen display. (The Launchpad icon on the Dock is a grid of colored squares.) If you have more than one screen (or page) worth of applications, swipe two fingers to the left or right on the trackpad to move between pages. To launch an application, just click the icon. (If you’re the proud owner of an iPhone or iPad, the Launchpad is familiar because it corresponds directly to the iOS Home screen on those devices.)
  • From the Desktop: If you have a document you created or an application icon on your Desktop, you can launch or open it from the Desktop by double-clicking that icon (rapidly tapping the trackpad twice with one finger when the pointer is on top of the icon).

    Tip Double-clicking a device or network connection on your Desktop opens the contents in a Finder window. This method works for CDs and DVDs you’ve loaded, as well as external drives and USB flash drives. Just double-click ’em to open them and display their contents in a Finder window. Applications and documents typically launch from a CD, a DVD, or an external drive just as they launch from your internal drive (the one that’s typically named Macintosh HD). So you don’t have to copy stuff from the external drive just to use it. Note, however, that running an application directly from your optical or external drive usually causes the application to run significantly slower. (Oh, and don’t forget that you can’t change the contents of most CDs and DVDs; they’re read-only, so you can’t write to them.)

  • From the Recent Items selection: When you click the App menu and hover the pointer over the Recent Items menu item, the Finder displays all the applications and documents you’ve used over the past few computing sessions. Click an item in this list to launch or open it.
  • From the Login Items list: Login items are applications that Big Sur launches automatically each time you log in to your user account. I cover login items in detail in Chapter 10.
  • From the Finder window: You can also double-click an icon within the confines of a Finder window to open it (documents), launch it (applications), or display the contents (folders).

Tip The macOS Quick Look feature can display the contents of just about any document or file — but without actually opening the corresponding application! Sweet. To use Quick Look from a Finder window, click a file to select it and then press the spacebar.

After you finish using an application, you can quit that application to close its window and return to the Desktop. Here are several ways to quit an application:

  • Press ⌘   +Q. This keyboard shortcut quits virtually every Macintosh application. Just make sure that the application you want to quit is currently active first. (The application name should appear immediately to the right of the App menu.)
  • Choose the Quit command from the application’s menu. To display the Quit command, click the application’s named menu on the menu bar. As I just mentioned, this menu is always to the immediate right of the App menu. Safari displays a Safari menu, for example, and that same spot in the menu bar is taken up by Calendar when Calendar is the active application. Refer to Figure 3-5, and look for the Music menu, right next to App at the top of the figure.
  • Choose Quit from the Dock. You can right-click an application’s icon on the Dock and then choose Quit from the menu that appears.

    Tip A running application displays a small dot below its icon on the Dock.

  • Click the Close button in the application window. Some applications quit entirely when you close their window, such as the System Preferences window or the Apple DVD Player. Other applications might continue running without any window, such as Safari or Music; to close these applications, you have to use another method in this list. (More on window controls such as Close in the next section.)
  • Warning Choose Force Quit from the App menu. This is a last-resort measure! Use this method only if an application has frozen and you can’t use another method in this list to quit. (It should be marked as unresponsive in the Force Quit dialog.) Force-quitting an application doesn’t save any changes to any open documents in that application!

Performing Tricks with Finder Windows

In the following sections of your introduction to macOS, I describe basic windows management in Big Sur: how to move things around, how to close windows, and how to make windows disappear and reappear like magic.

Scrolling in and resizing windows

Can you imagine what life would be like if you couldn’t see more than a single window’s worth of stuff? Shopping would be curtailed quite a bit — and so would the contents of the folders on your MacBook’s drives!

That’s why Big Sur includes scroll bars that you can click and drag to move through the window’s contents. (By default, scroll bars don’t appear in Big Sur until you move the pointer close to them.) You can

  • Click the scroll box and drag it. For the uninitiated, that means clicking the darker portion of the bar and holding your finger on the trackpad while you move your finger in the desired direction.
  • Click anywhere in the empty area above or below the scroll box to scroll pages one at a time.
  • Hold down the Option key and click anywhere in the empty area above or below the bar to scroll to that spot in the document.

Tip You can also drag two fingertips across the trackpad to scroll a window’s contents (both vertically and horizontally). To control trackpad behavior, open System Preferences and click the Trackpad pane. You can read all about configuring trackpad settings in the earlier section, “Wait a Second: Where the Heck Are the Mouse Buttons?

Figure 3-6 shows two vertical scroll bars and one horizontal scroll bar in a typical Finder window, as well as the Sidebar and three Finder Tabs.


FIGURE 3-6: A plethora of helpful window controls.

Tip Often, pressing the Page Up and Page Down keys moves you through a document one page at a time. Also, pressing the arrow keys moves the insertion pointer one line or one character in the four compass directions.

You can also resize most Finder and application windows by enlarging or reducing the window frame itself. Move the pointer over any corner or edge of a window and then drag the edge in any direction until the window is the precise size you need. (More information on dragging pops up later in this chapter.)

Minimizing and restoring windows

Resizing a window is indeed helpful, but maybe you simply want to banish the doggone thing until you need it again. That’s a situation for the Minimize button, which also appears in Figure 3-6 earlier in the chapter. A minimized window disappears from the Desktop but isn’t closed; it simply reappears on the Dock as a miniature icon.

Minimizing a window is easy: Move the pointer over the Minimize button (the second of the three buttons in the top-left corner of the window). A minus sign appears on the button to tell you you’re on target. Then click. Here’s a good shortcut: Double-clicking the window’s title bar (the top frame of the window, which usually includes a document or application name) minimizes the window.

To restore the window to its full size (and its original position on the Desktop), just click its window icon on the Dock.

Moving and zooming windows

Perhaps you want to move a window to another location on the Desktop so that you can see the contents of multiple windows at the same time. Click the window’s title bar and drag the window anywhere you like; then release the mouse button. (Don’t click the icon at the center of the title bar, though. You’ll move just the icon itself, not the window.)

Tip Many applications can automatically arrange multiple windows for you (examples include Microsoft Word and PowerPoint). Choose Window  ⇒    Arrange All if this option appears.

To see everything a window can show you, use the Zoom feature to expand any Finder or application window to its maximum practical size. (Zooming a Finder window is different from zooming with the Multi-Touch feature, because you’re expanding only the size of the Finder window, not an image or document.) Note that a zoomed window can fill the entire screen. If that extra space isn’t applicable for the application, the window might expand to only a larger part of the Desktop.

To zoom a window, move your pointer over the third button in the top-left corner of the window. Again, refer to Figure 3-6, which struts its stuff and illustrates the position. (Man, that is one versatile figure.) A double-arrow icon appears on the Zoom/Full-Screen button. Click to expand your horizons to full-screen, or hold down the Option key while clicking (which changes the icon to a plus sign) to zoom the window to maximum size.

Speaking of full-screen operation, it comes in very handy on a smaller laptop display. A single application fills the screen without displaying a window frame or traditional Finder menu bar. The method you use to switch to full-screen mode varies depending on the application, so there’s no one menu command or one keyboard shortcut that always does the deed. Most of the applications included with macOS Big Sur use View  ⇒    Enter Full Screen, and many applications have a button you can click in the window to switch back and forth. A click of the Zoom/Full-Screen button (without holding down the Option key) switches most Apple applications into full-screen mode. Finder windows can also be switched to full-screen mode in Big Sur! To exit full-screen mode, just press Esc.

So how do you switch among applications if they’re all in full-screen mode?

  • Move your pointer to the bottom of the screen to display the Dock, where you can click another application to switch to it.
  • Invoke Mission Control, and choose another application there. (More about Mission Control later in this chapter.)
  • Swipe three fingers to the left or right across the trackpad surface.
  • On the keyboard, press the ⌘   +Tab shortcut to cycle through the applications you have running.

Closing windows

When you’re finished with an application, or you no longer need to have a window open, move the pointer over the Close button in the top-left corner of the window (the first of the three buttons). When the X appears on the button, click it. And yes, I can make one more reference to Figure 3-6, which I’m thinking of nominating as Figure of the Year.

Tip Perhaps you have more than one window open in the same application, and you want to close ’em all in one fell swoop. Hold down the Option key while you click the Close button in any of the windows.

If you haven’t saved a document and you try to close that application’s window, the application gets downright surly and prompts you for confirmation: “Hey, human, you don’t really want to do this, do you?” If you answer in the affirmative — “Why, yes, machine. Yes indeed, I do want to throw this away and not save it.” — the application discards the document you were working on. If you decide to keep your document (thereby saving your posterior from harm), you can cancel the action and then save the document within the application.

Juggling Folders and Icons

Finder windows aren’t just for launching applications and opening the files and documents you create. You can also use the icons in a Finder window to select one or more specific items or to copy and move items from place to place within your system.

A field observer’s guide to icons

Not all icons are created equal. Earlier in this chapter, I introduce you to your MacBook’s drive icon on the Desktop. Here’s a little background on the other types of icons you might encounter during your mobile Mac travels:

  • Hardware: These icons are your internal storage devices (such as your hard drive and optical drive, if you have one) as well as external peripherals, such as an external hard drive or a USB flash drive.
  • Applications: These icons represent the applications you can launch. Most applications have a custom icon that incorporates the company’s logo or the specific application logo. Double-clicking an application usually doesn’t load a document automatically; you typically get a new blank document or an Open dialog from which you can choose the existing file you want to open.
  • Documents: Many of the files on your hard drive are documents that can be opened in the corresponding applications; the icon usually looks similar to the application’s icon, so documents are easy to recognize. Double-clicking a document automatically launches the associated application (as long as macOS recognizes the file type, that is).
  • Files: Most of the file icons on your system are mundane things such as preferences and settings files, text files, log files, and miscellaneous data files. Yet most icons are identified by at least some type of recognizable image that lets you guess what purpose the file serves. You’ll also come across generic file icons that look like a blank sheet of paper (used when Big Sur has no earthly idea what the file type is).
  • Aliases: An alias acts as a link to another item elsewhere on your system. To launch Adobe Acrobat, for example, you can click an Adobe Acrobat alias icon that you can create on your Desktop instead of clicking the actual Acrobat application icon. The alias essentially acts the same way as the original icon, but it doesn’t take up the same amount of space — only a few bytes for the icon itself compared with the size of the actual application. Also, you don’t have to go digging through folders galore to find the original application icon. (Windows switchers know an alias as a shortcut. The idea is the same, although Macs had it first. Harrumph.) You can always identify an alias by the small curved arrow at the base of the icon, and the icon might also sport the tag alias at the end of its name.

    You have two ways to create an alias. Here's one:

    1. Select the item (more on selecting items in the next section).
    2. Choose File  ⇒    Make Alias or press ⌘   +L.

    Here’s another way to create an alias:

    1. Hold down ⌘   +Option.
    2. Drag the original icon to the location where you want the alias.

    Tip Note that this funky method doesn’t add the alias tag to the end of the alias icon’s name unless you drag the icon to another spot in the same folder.

So why bother to use an alias? Two good reasons:

  • You can launch an application or open a document from anywhere on your drive. If you occasionally need to use another application while working on a Pages project, for example, you can add an alias and launch the other application directly from the folder in which you store those Pages documents. Speed, organization, and convenience abound. Life is good.
  • You can send an alias to the Trash without affecting the original item. When that school project is finished, you can safely delete the entire folder without worrying about whether Pages will run the next time you double-click the application icon!

Selecting items

Often, the menu or keyboard commands you perform in the Finder need to be performed on something. Perhaps you’re moving an item to the Trash, getting more information on the item, or creating an alias for that item. To identify the target of your action to the Finder, you need to select one or more items on your Desktop or in a Finder window. In the following sections, I show you just how to do that.

Selecting one thing

Big Sur gives you a couple of options for selecting just one item for an upcoming action:

  • Move the pointer over the item and click. A dark border (or highlight) appears around the icon, indicating that it’s selected.
  • If an icon is already highlighted on your Desktop or in a window, move the selection highlight to another icon in the same location by using the arrow keys. To shift the selection highlight alphabetically, press Tab (to move in order) or press Shift+Tab (to move in reverse order).

Remember Selecting items in the Finder doesn’t actually do anything to them by itself. You have to perform an action on the selected items to make something happen.

Selecting a whole bunch of things

You can also select multiple items with aplomb by using one of these methods:

  • Adjacent items:
    • Drag a box around them. If that sounds like ancient Sumerian, here’s the explanation: Click a spot above and to the left of the first item. Keep holding down your finger on the trackpad surface, and drag down and to the right. (This is called dragging in Macspeak.) A box outline like the one shown in Figure 3-7 appears, indicating what you’re selecting. Any icons that touch or appear within the box outline are selected when you release the button.
    • Click the first item to select it, and then hold down the Shift key while you click the last item. Big Sur selects both items and everything between them.
  • Nonadjacent items: Select these by holding down the ⌘   key while you click each item.

FIGURE 3-7: Drag a box around icons to select them.

Tip Check out the status bar (which can appear at the top or bottom of a Finder window, depending on whether the toolbar is hidden). It tells you how much space is available on the drive you’re working in, as well as how many items are displayed in the current Finder window. When you select items, it shows you how many you highlighted. (If you don’t see a status bar, choose View  ⇒    Show Status Bar.)

Copying items

Want to copy items from one Finder window to another or from one location (like a flash drive) to another (like your Desktop)? Très easy. Just use one of these methods:

  • On the same drive
    • To copy one item to another location: Hold down the Option key (you don’t have to select the icon first) and then click and drag the item from its current home to the new location.

      Tip To put a copy of an item in a folder, just drop the item on top of the receiving folder. If you hold the item you’re dragging over the destination folder for a second or two, Big Sur opens a new window so that you can see the target’s contents. (This is called a spring-loaded folder. Really.)

    • To copy multiple items to another location: Select them all (see the preceding section), hold down the Option key, and then drag and drop one of the selected items where you want it. All the items you selected follow the item you drag, rather like lemmings. Nice touch, don’t you think?

      To help indicate your target when you’re copying files, Big Sur highlights the location to show you where the items will end up. (This works whether the target location is a folder or a drive icon.) If the target location is a window, Big Sur adds a highlight to the window border.

  • On a different drive
    • To copy one or multiple items: Click and drag the icon (or the selected items if you have more than one) from the original window to a window you open on the target drive. (No need to hold down the Option key while copying to a different drive.) You can also drag one item (or a selected group of items) and simply drop the items on top of the drive icon on your Desktop.

      Remember The items are copied to the top level, or root, of the target drive.

      If you try to move or copy something to a location that already has an item with the same name, you see a dialog that prompts you to decide whether to replace the file or to stop the copy/move procedure and leave the existing file alone. Heck, you can even keep both. macOS performs the copy or move but also appends the word copy to the item being copied. Good insurance indeed.

Moving things from place to place

Moving things from one location to another location on the same drive is the easiest action you can take. Just drag the selected item or items to the new location. The item disappears from the original spot and reappears in the new spot.

Duplicating in a jiffy

If you need more than one copy of the same item in a folder, use the Big Sur Duplicate command. I use Duplicate often when I want to edit a document but want to ensure that the original document stays pristine, no matter what. I just create a duplicate and edit that file instead.

To use Duplicate, you can

  • Click an item to select it and then choose File  ⇒    Duplicate.
  • Right-click the item and choose Duplicate from the menu.
  • Hold down the Option key and drag the original item to another spot in the same window. When you release the trackpad button, the duplicate file appears like magic!

The duplicate item has the word copy appended to its name. A second copy is named copy2, a third is copy3, and so on.

Remember Duplicating a folder also duplicates all the contents of that folder. Therefore, creating a duplicate folder can take some time if the original folder was stuffed full (or contained files several hundred megabytes or larger). The duplicate folder has copy appended to its name, but the contents of the duplicate folder keep their original names.

Using Finder Tabs

Big Sur includes a powerful feature you can use to display multiple locations in the same window. Finder Tabs work just like the tabs in Safari (as well as other popular browsers for both Macs and PCs), allowing you to switch among multiple locations on your Mac instantly by clicking a tab to switch to that location. You can even drag files and folders from tab to tab!

To open a new tab in a Finder window, you have a wealth of choices:

  • Click the desired location, and press ⌘   +T.
  • Right-click the location, and choose Open in New Tab from the shortcut menu.
  • Select the location, and click the New Tab button (which bears a plus sign) on the right side of the window.
  • Click the Action icon (which bears a gear icon) on any Finder-window toolbar, and choose Open in New Tab.

Suppose that you're working on an iMovie project. You might create tabs by using the Applications item in the Finder window’s Sidebar and a folder (or even a DVD or shared drive) named Work that contains your video clips. The location appears as a new tab below the toolbar. You can open as many tabs as you like, and you can drag the Finder Tabs themselves to reorder them. To close a tab, hover the pointer over it and then click the X button that appears. That hard-working Figure 3-6 (shown earlier in the chapter) shows three Finder Tabs at work.

Tip You can also set new folders to open in tabs instead of windows. Just click the Finder menu at the top of the Desktop, choose Preferences, and then click the Open Folders in Tabs Instead of New Windows check box in the Preferences dialog to enable it.

Keys and Keyboard Shortcuts to Fame and Fortune

Your MacBook’s keyboard might not be as glamorous as the trackpad, but any Mac power user will tell you that using keyboard shortcuts is usually the fastest method of performing certain tasks in the Finder, such as saving or closing a file. I recommend committing these shortcuts to memory and putting them to work as soon as you begin using your laptop so that they become second nature to you as quickly as possible.

Special keys on the keyboard

The Apple standard keyboard has special keys that you might not recognize — especially if you’ve made the smart move and decided to migrate from the chaos that is Windows to macOS! Table 3-1 lists the keys that bear strange hieroglyphics on the Apple keyboard and describes what they do.

TABLE 3-1 Too-Cool Function Keys

Action/Key Name



Audio Mute

Mutes (and restores) all sound produced by your MacBook

Keyboard Illumination

Increases, decreases, or turns off the brightness of your keyboard backlighting

Volume Up

Increases the sound volume

Volume Down

Decreases the sound volume



Displays the right-click/Control+click menu with the trackpad



Primary modifier for menus and keyboard shortcuts



Deletes selected text



Modifier for shortcuts

Using the Finder and application keyboard shortcuts

The Finder is chock-full of keyboard shortcuts that you can use to take care of common tasks. Some of the handiest shortcuts are listed in Table 3-2.

TABLE 3-2 Big Sur Keyboard Shortcuts of Distinction

Key Combination



⌘   +A

Edit menu

Selects all items (works in the Finder too)

⌘   +C

Edit menu

Copies the selected items to the Clipboard

⌘   +H

Application menu

Hides the current application window

⌘   +M

Window menu

Minimizes the active window to the Dock (also works in the Finder)

⌘   +O

File menu

Opens or launches an existing document, file, or folder (also works in the Finder)

⌘   +P

File menu

Prints the current document

⌘   +Q

Application menu

Exits (quits) the application and prompts you to save any changes

⌘   +T

File menu

Opens a new Finder tab with the currently selected location

⌘   +V

Edit menu

Pastes the contents of the Clipboard at the current pointer position

⌘   +X

Edit menu

Cuts the highlighted item to the Clipboard

⌘   +Z

Edit menu

Reverses (undoes) the effect of the last action you took

⌘   +?

Help menu

Displays the Help system (works in the Finder too)

⌘   +Tab


Switches between open applications

⌘   +Option+M


Minimizes all Finder windows to the Dock

⌘   +Option+Esc


Opens the Force Quit dialog

⌘   +Option+W


Closes all Finder windows

Tip But wait; there’s more! Most of your applications also provide their own set of keyboard shortcuts. While you’re working with a new application, display the application’s Help file and print a copy of the keyboard shortcuts as a handy cheat sheet.

If you’ve used a PC before, you’re certainly familiar with three-key shortcuts. The most infamous is Ctrl+Alt+Delete, the beloved reboot/Task Manager shortcut nicknamed the Windows three-finger salute. Three-key shortcuts work the same way in Big Sur (but you’ll be thrilled to know you don’t need to reboot by using that notorious Windows shortcut!). If you’re new to computing, to use a three-key shortcut, hold down the first two keys and then press the third key.

Tip You’re not limited to the keyboard shortcuts I’ve listed. In System Preferences, visit the Keyboard pane and then click the Shortcuts tab to change an existing shortcut or add a shortcut.

Home, Sweet Home Folder

Each user account you create in Big Sur is actually a self-contained universe. Each user has unique characteristics and folders devoted to him or her, and Big Sur keeps track of everything that the user changes or creates. (In Chapter 10, I describe the innate loveliness of multiple users living in peace and harmony on your laptop. Go ahead, invite the family!)

This unique universe includes a different system of folders for each user account on your system. The top-level folder uses the short username that Big Sur assigns when that user account is created. Naturally, the actual folder name is different for each person. Mac techno types typically call this folder your Home folder. (On the Sidebar, look for the teeny house icon below the Favorites heading, marked with your account name.)

Remember When you’re on the hunt for your Home folder, don’t look for a folder that’s actually named Home. Instead, look for the short username that was assigned when you created the user account.

Each account’s Home folder contains a set of subfolders, including

  • Movies
  • Music
  • Pictures
  • Downloads (for files you download by using Safari or through Apple Mail attachments)
  • Public (for files you want to share with others on your network)
  • Documents (for files created by the user)

Although you can store your stuff at the root (top level) of your drive — or even on your Desktop — that gaggle of files, folders, and aliases can get crowded and confusing quickly. Here’s a Mark’s Maxim to live by:

Marksmaxim Your Home folder is where you hang out and where you store your stuff. Use it to make your computing life much easier!™

Create subfolders within your Documents folder to organize your files and folders even further. I create a subfolder in my Documents folder for every book I write so that I can quickly and easily locate all the documents and files associated with that book project.

I discuss security for your Home folder, as well as what gets stored where, in Chapter 10. For now, remember you can reach your Home folder easily because it appears in the Finder window’s Sidebar. One click of the Sidebar entry for your Home folder, and all your stuff is within easy reach. (If your Home folder doesn’t appear in the Sidebar, that’s easy to fix: Choose Finder  ⇒    Preferences, click the Sidebar tab of the Preferences dialog, and then select the check box to display your Home folder.)

In addition to using the Finder window Sidebar, you can reach your Home folder in these convenient ways:

  • From the Go menu: Choose Go  ⇒    Home to display your Home folder immediately from the Finder window, or press ⌘   +Shift+H to accomplish the same thing.
  • From the Open dialog: The Big Sur standard File Open dialog includes the same Home folder (and subfolder) icons as the Finder window’s Sidebar.
  • In any new Finder window you open: If you like, you can set every Finder window you open to display your Home folder automatically:
    1. Choose Finder  ⇒    Preferences and click the General tab.
    2. Click the arrow button on the right side of the New Finder Windows Show pop-up menu.

      A menu pops up (hence the name).

    3. Click the Home entry (with the house icon and your short username) on the menu.
    4. Click the Close button in the top-left corner of the dialog.

      You’re set to go. From now on, every Finder window you open displays your Home folder as the starting location!

Tip Here’s another reason to use your Home folder to store your stuff: default locations! Big Sur expects your stuff to be there when you migrate your files from an older Mac to a new MacBook, and all Apple applications can use your Home folder when loading and saving projects.

Working with Mission Control

For those power users who often work with a passel of applications, allow me to turn your attention to one of the sassiest features in Big Sur: Mission Control. Figure 3-8 shows off the Mission Control screen:

  • Press F3 to show all open windows using Mission Control, grouped by application; then click the one you want. Figure 3-8 illustrates the tiled All Windows display on my MacBook Air after I press F3. Move the pointer on top of the window you want to activate — the window turns blue when it’s selected — and click to switch to that window. You can specify which keys you want to use in the Mission Control pane in System Preferences.
  • Press Ctrl+F3 to show all open windows of the application that you’re currently using; click the one you want to activate. This Mission Control function is great for choosing among all the images you’ve opened in Photoshop or all the Safari web pages populating your Desktop!

FIGURE 3-8: Mission Control is the desktop manager in Big Sur.

Astute observers will notice that the application’s menu bar also changes to match the now-active application.

Tip Besides the F3 and Control+F3 hot keys that I just discussed, Mission Control provides one more nifty function: Press ⌘   +F3, and all your open windows scurry to the side of the screen. Now you can work with drives, files, and aliases on your Desktop, and when you’re ready to confront those dozen application windows again, just press the keyboard shortcut a second time.

Naturally, these key combinations can be viewed and customized. Visit the comfortable confines of System Preferences and click the Mission Control icon to specify what key sequence does what.

Tip Although the Mission Control screen appears automatically when necessary, you can launch it at any time from your MacBook’s Launchpad display or by pressing the Mission Control key on your keyboard. From the trackpad, display the Mission Control screen by swiping up with three fingers.

Switching Desktops with Spaces

Ah, but what if you want to switch to a different set of applications? Suppose that you’re slaving away at your pixel-pushing job — say, designing a magazine cover with Pages. Your page design Desktop also includes Adobe’s Photoshop and InDesign, which you switch among by using one of the techniques I just described. Suddenly, however, you realize that you need to schedule a meeting with others in your office, using Calendar, and you want to check your email in Apple Mail. What to do?

Well, you could certainly open Launchpad and launch those two applications on top of your graphics applications and then minimize or close them. But with Mission Control’s Spaces feature, you can press the Control+← or Control+→ sequences to switch to a different “communications” Desktop, with Calendar and Apple Mail windows already open and in your favorite positions. (I’ve also created a custom “music” Desktop for GarageBand and Music.)

After you set up your meeting and answer any important email, simply press Control+← or Control+→ again to switch back to your “graphics” Desktop, where all your work is exactly as you left it. (And yes, Virginia, Spaces does indeed work with full-screen applications.)

To create a new Desktop for use in Spaces, click the Launchpad icon on the Dock and then click the Mission Control icon. Now you can set up new Spaces Desktops. Move your pointer to the top right of the Mission Control screen, and click the Add button (with the plus sign) that appears. (If you relocated your Dock to the right side of the screen, the Add button shows up in the top-left corner instead.) Spaces creates a new empty Desktop thumbnail. Switch to the new Desktop by clicking the label at the top of the Mission Control screen and then open those applications you want to include. (Alternatively, you can drag the applications from Mission Control to the desired Spaces label.) That’s all there is to it!

To switch an application window between Spaces Desktops, drag the window to the edge of the Desktop and hold it there. Spaces automatically moves the window to the next Desktop. (Applications can also be dragged between Desktops within the Mission Control screen.) You can also delete a Desktop from the Mission Control screen. Just hover your pointer over the offending Spaces label to display the thumbnail, and click the Delete button (with the X) that appears.

Remember You can jump directly to a specific Spaces Desktop by clicking its thumbnail in your Mission Control screen or by holding down the Control key and pressing the number corresponding to that desktop. Finally, you can always use the Control+← or Control+→ shortcuts to move between Desktops and full-screen applications.

Personalizing Your Desktop

Many folks put all their documents, pictures, and videos on their Big Sur Desktop because the file icons are easy to locate! Your computing stuff is right in front of you … or is it?

Call me a finicky, stubborn techno-oldster — go ahead, it’s true — but I prefer a clean macOS Desktop without all the iconic clutter. In fact, my Desktop usually has just three or four icons even though I use my MacBook several hours every day, often on multiple book projects. It’s an organizational thing; I work with literally hundreds of applications, documents, and assorted knickknacks daily. Sooner or later, you’ll find that you’re using that many, too. When you keep your stuff crammed on your Desktop, you end up having to scan your screen for a particular file, alias, or type of icon. You end up taking more time to locate it on your Desktop than in your Documents folder! And don’t forget: Open windows hang out on your Desktop too. To find anything, you have to close or move those windows!

Also, you’ll likely find yourself looking at old icons that no longer mean anything to you or stuff that’s covered in cobwebs that you haven’t used in years. Stale icons — yuck.

Tip I recommend that you arrange your Desktop so that you see only a few icons for the files or documents you use most. Leave the rest of the Desktop for that cool image of your favorite actor or actress.

Besides keeping things clean, I can recommend other favorite tweaks that you can make to your Desktop:

  • Keep Desktop icons arranged as you like.
    1. Choose View  ⇒    Show View Options.
    2. From the Sort By pop-up menu, choose the criteria that Big Sur uses to automatically arrange your Desktop icons, including the item name, the last modification date, or the size of the items.

      I personally like things organized by name, but many MacBook owners prefer to see things organized by date (putting the most recently modified item at the top, for example).

  • Choose a favorite background.
    1. Right-click any open spot on your Desktop and choose Change Desktop Background from the shortcut menu.

      The Desktop & Screen Saver pane appears, as shown in Figure 3-9.

    2. Browse the various folders of background images that Apple provides, open a folder of your own images, or use an image from your Photos library.
  • Display all the peripherals and network connections on your system.
    1. Choose Finder  ⇒    Preferences.
    2. Make sure that all four of the top check boxes on the Preferences dialog are selected: Hard Disks; External Disks; CDs, DVDs, and iPods; and Connected Servers.

      If you’re connected to an external network, or if you’ve loaded an external hard drive or device, these external storage locations show up on your Desktop. You can double-click that Desktop icon to view your external stuff.


FIGURE 3-9: Choose a Desktop background of more interest.

Taking Control of Your MacBook

Another source of “customization glee” (yes, I am honestly that much of a computer nerd) is the new macOS Control Center, which adds a welcome level of convenience when changing system settings. To display the Control Center anywhere within Big Sur, click the Control Center icon in the Finder menu bar. (It looks like two horizontal sliding switches.) The Center appears as in Figure 3-10, at the right side of the Desktop.


FIGURE 3-10: The Control Center makes it easy to quickly change global settings.

Most of the tiles you see displayed in the Control Center are simple switches for macOS features, like the Display and Sound sliders—you can click and drag them directly to adjust the display brightness and sound volume. The Wi-Fi tile is different (offering a submenu of multiple settings), allowing you to not only enable or disable your MacBook’s Wi-Fi but also switch networks or display the full Network pane within System Preferences.

You can specify what features are shown within the Control Center and which features remain on the Finder menu bar. Click the System Preferences icon in the Dock; then click the Dock & Menu Bar icon. This pane displays the available features in a list on the left. Click a feature to select it, and then click to enable (or disable) the Show in Control Center check box at the right side of the pane. Note that the icons for the Clock, Spotlight, Siri, and Time Machine can appear only in the Finder menu bar, so they can’t appear within Control Center.

Customizing the Dock

In terms of importance, the Dock — the quick-access strip for applications and documents that appears on your Desktop — ranks right up there with the command center of a modern nuclear submarine. Therefore, it had better be easy to customize, and naturally, macOS doesn’t let you down.

Adding applications and extras to the Dock

Why be satisfied with just the icons that Apple places on the Dock? You can add your own applications, files, and folders to the Dock as well:

  • Adding applications: You can add any application to your Dock by dragging its icon into the area to the left side of the Dock (left side of the vertical line on the Dock). You’ll know when you’re in the proper territory because the existing Dock icons obligingly move aside to make space for it.

    Warning Attempting to place an application directly on the right side of the Dock sends it to the Trash (if the Trash icon is highlighted when you release the button), so beware. Note, however, that you can drop an application icon inside a Stack (more on that in a bit) or a folder that already exists at the right end of the Dock. (If you’ve repositioned the Dock on the left or right side of the screen, consider the top of the Dock to be the left side and the bottom of the Dock to be the right side.)

  • Adding individual files and volumes: You can add individual files and volume icons to the Dock by dragging the icon into the area at the right end of the Dock. (Attempting to place icons on the left end of the Dock opens the application associated with the contents, which typically isn’t what you intended.) Again, the existing Dock icons move aside to create a space when you’re in the right area.

    To open the Dock item you’ve added in a Finder window, right-click the icon to display a Dock shortcut menu, where you can open documents, run applications, and have other assorted fun, depending on the item you choose.

  • Adding several files or a folder: Big Sur uses a feature called Stacks, which I discuss in the next section, to handle multiple files or add an entire folder to the Dock.
  • Adding websites: You can drag any URL from Safari directly to the right end of the Dock. Clicking that Dock icon automatically opens your browser and displays that page.

Remember If you see two vertical lines in the Dock, you’ve turned on the Dock’s Recent Applications feature, which displays icons for the last applications you’ve recently launched. (You can find this setting in the Dock & Menu Bar pane of System Preferences.) Consider the vertical line farthest to the right to be the right side of the Dock when adding items to the Dock.

To remove an icon from the Dock, just click and drag it off the Dock. Note, however, that the original application, folder, or volume is not deleted; only the Dock icon itself is permanently excused. If you like, you can delete almost any of the default icons that macOS installs on the Dock; only the Finder and Trash icons must remain on the Dock.

Tip The Dock can also be set to display the most recent applications you’ve launched! Click the System Preferences icon on the Dock and choose the Dock icon; then enable the Show Recent Applications in Dock check box. These recent application icons appear between the application and document sections of the Dock.

Keeping track with Stacks

Big Sur offers Stacks, which are groups of items (documents, applications, and folders) that you want to place on the Dock for convenience — perhaps the files needed for a project you’re working on or your favorite game applications. I have a Stack named Wiley on my Dock that holds all the project files I need for the book I’m currently writing, for example.

To create a Stack, just select a folder containing the items and drag the folder to the right side of the Dock. As always, the Dock opens a spot at the right end of the Dock to indicate you’re in the zone.

To display the items in a Stack, just click it:

  • If the Stack holds relatively few items, they’re displayed in a really cool-looking arc that Apple calls a fan, and you can click the item you want to open or launch. Figure 3-11 illustrates a typical Stack unfurled as a fan.
  • If the Stack is stuffed full of many items, the Stack opens in a grid display, allowing you to scroll the contents to find what you need.

Tip Big Sur provides display and sorting options for Stacks. Right-click the Stack icon and you can choose to sort the contents by name, date created or added, date modified, or file type. If you prefer a grid display (no matter how many items the Stack contains), you can choose Grid mode. Choose List to display the Stack’s contents in much the same way as List view mode in a Finder window. List view mode also allows you to view folders in a Stack as nested menu items. Choose Automatic to return to the default view mode.

When set to Display as Stack, the Stack icon is displayed with icon images from the contents of the folder; if security is an issue, however, choose Display as Folder from the shortcut menu to display the Stack as a plain folder icon instead.


FIGURE 3-11: Stacks make it easy to access your stuff from the Dock.

You can remove a Stack from the Dock by right-clicking the Stack icon and choosing Options from the shortcut menu that appears; then choose Remove from Dock from the submenu that appears. Alternatively, just drag that sucker right off the Dock.

You can also display the contents of a Stack in a Finder window. Right-click the Stack icon and choose the Open item at the bottom of the pop-up shortcut menu.

Tip If you add a folder full of items, the Stack is named after the folder; otherwise, Big Sur does the best job it can of figuring out what to name the Stack.

Apple provides a Stack that’s already set up for you. The Downloads folder, situated next to the Trash, is the default location for any new files that you download with Safari or receive in your email. Big Sur bounces the Download Stack icon to indicate that you’ve received a new item.

Resizing the Dock

You can change the size of the Dock from the Dock settings in System Preferences — but here’s a simpler way to resize the Dock right from the Desktop.

Move your pointer over the vertical solid line that separates the left end of the Dock from the right end; the pointer turns into a funky vertical line with arrows pointing up and down. This is your cue to click and drag while moving up and down, expanding and shrinking the Dock, respectively.

You can also right-click when the funky line pointer is visible to display a shortcut menu of Dock preferences. This menu allows you to change your Dock preferences without the hassle of opening System Preferences and displaying the Dock settings.

What’s with the Trash?

Another sign of a Mac laptop power user is a well-maintained Trash can. It’s a breeze to empty the discarded items you no longer need, and you can even rescue something that you suddenly discover you still need!

The translucent Big Sur Trash icon resides on the Dock, and it works just like the Trash has always worked in macOS. Simply drag selected items to the Trash to delete them.

Remember Note one very important exception: If you drag a Desktop icon for an external device or a removable media drive to the Trash (such as an iPod, DVD, or external hard drive), the Trash icon turns into a giant Eject icon, and the removable device or medium is ejected or shut down — not erased. Repeat, not erased. (That’s why the Trash icon changes to the Eject icon — to remind you that you’re not doing anything destructive.)

Here are other ways to chuck items you select to go to the wastebasket:

  • Choose File  ⇒    Move to Trash.
  • Click the Action button on the Finder toolbar, and choose Move to Trash from the list that appears.
  • Press ⌘   +Delete.
  • Right-click the item, and choose Move to Trash from the shortcut menu that appears.

You can always tell when the Trash contains at least one item, because the basket icon is full of crumpled paper. You don’t have to unfold a wad of paper to see what the Trash holds, however. Just click the Trash icon on the Dock to display the contents of the Trash. To rescue something from the Trash, drag the item(s) from the Trash folder to the Desktop or any other folder in a Finder window. (If you’re doing this for someone who’s unfamiliar with Big Sur, remember to act as though the task was a lot of work, and you’ll earn big-time DRP, or Data Rescue Points.)

When you’re sure that you want to permanently delete the contents of the Trash, use one of these methods to empty the Trash:

  • Choose Finder  ⇒    Empty Trash.
  • Press ⌘   +Shift+Delete.
  • Right-click the Trash icon on the Dock, and choose Empty Trash from the shortcut menu that appears.

All You Really Need to Know about Printing

Because I’m near the end of this chapter, I turn now to a task that most MacBook owners need to tackle soon after buying their laptop or installing Big Sur: printing documents. Because basic printing is so important (and in most cases, so simple), allow me to demonstrate how to print a document.

Most of us have a Universal Serial Bus (USB) printer — the USB being the favored hardware connection in macOS. As long as your printer is supported by macOS, setting it up is as easy as plugging it into one of your MacBook’s USB ports.

Tip Before you print, preview! Would you jump from an airplane without a parachute? Then why would you print a document without double-checking it first? Most applications now have their own built-in Preview thumbnails in the Print sheet, as shown in Figure 3-12. This feature is definitely A Good Thing, because you see what the printed document will look like, possibly saving you both paper and some of that hideously expensive ink or toner.

To print from any application with the default page characteristics (standard 8½ × 11″ paper, portrait mode, no scaling), follow these steps:

  1. In your application, choose File  ⇒    Print or press the ⌘   +P keyboard shortcut.

    In most applications, macOS displays the simple version of the Print sheet. (To display all the fields you see in Figure 3-12, click the Show Details button at the bottom of the sheet.) Some applications use their own custom Print dialogs, but you should see the same general settings.


    FIGURE 3-12: The Print Sheet is available from any application with any real guts.

  2. Click the Copies field and enter the number of copies you need.

    You can also enable or disable collation, just as you can with those oh-so-fancy copiers.

  3. Decide what you want to print.
    • The whole shootin’ match: To print the entire document, use the default Pages radio button setting of All.
    • Anything less: To print a range of selected pages, select the From radio button and enter the starting and ending pages (or, if the application allows it, a selection of individual pages).
  4. (Optional) Choose application-specific printing parameters.

    Each macOS application provides different panes so that you can configure settings specific to that application. You don’t have to display any of these extra settings to print a default document, but the power is there to change the look dramatically when necessary. To display these settings, open the pop-up menu in the center of the Print sheet (which reads Media & Quality in Figure 3-12) and choose one of these panes. If you’re printing from Contacts, for example, you can choose the Contacts entry from the pop-up menu and elect to print a phone list, an envelope, mailing labels, or an email list.

  5. When everything is go for launch, click the Print button.

    The printing system in macOS offers more settings and more functionality, of course. But I can tell you from my experiences as a consultant and hardware technician that this short introduction to printing will likely suffice for 90 percent of the Mac owners on Earth. ’Nuff said.

And Just in Case You Need Help …

You can call on the resources described in this section if you need additional help while you’re discovering how to tame Big Sur.

Tip Some of the help resources are located on the Internet, so your Safari web browser will come in handy when you search for answers.

The Big Sur built-in Help system

Sometimes, the help you need is as close as the Help menu on the Finder menu bar. You can get help for either of the following:

  • A specific application: From the application, just click Help. Then click in the search box and type a short phrase that sums up your query (such as startup keys). You see a list of help topics on the menu. Just click a topic to display more information.
  • General topics: Click a Finder window and then click Help on the menu bar. Again, you see the search box, and you can enter a word or phrase to find in the Help system. To display the Help Center window, click the macOS Help item below the search box.

The Apple web-based support center

Apple has online product support areas for every hardware and software product it manufactures. Visit, and click the Support link at the top of the web page.

Tip The search box works just like the macOS Help system, but the knowledge base that Apple provides online has a lot more answers.


Many magazines and publications (both in print and online) offer tips and tricks on using and maintaining macOS Big Sur.

My personal online favorites are Macworld ( and the Wiley For Dummies website (

Local Mac user groups

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention your local Mac user group. Often, a user group maintains its own website and discussion forum. If you can wait until the next meeting, you can even ask your question and receive a reply from a real live human being — quite a thrill in today’s web-centric world!

To locate a local user group by using your Internet connection, launch Safari, click the Address box, and type

Mac User Group location

Instead of location, type the desired spot on the map, such as

Mac User Group Columbia Missouri

Don’t forget to press Return!

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