An Introduction to the Macintosh

This tutorial is designed for students with little or no Macintosh experience.


First, move the mouse (the small box with a button on the pad next to the Mac) a little to see if the Mac is already on; if the screen stays blank, it's off. To turn it on, if you are using a small-screen Mac like a Macintosh Classic, there is a switch at left on the back. Big-screen Macintoshes usually have an "on" button at upper right on the keyboard (square with an triangle pointing left on it with no other label).

After the Mac is on, across the top of the screen you should see the Main Menu, which consists of the "words" apple, File, Edit, View and Special. This main screen itself is sometimes called the desktop. At bottom right is a picture of a trashcan. These little pictures are called icons. At top right may be a rectangle or something like it with a name below it- this is the icon and name for the computer's hard disk drive, which is where the computer's long-term memory lies.

Your main control for driving a Macintosh is the mouse. Just as you had to practice with the controls of a car before taking it out on the freeway, you will need to develop some basic mouse skills to get around on the Mac. The skills are: pointing, clicking, dragging, and selecting menu items.


POINTING: Hold the mouse lightly between your thumb and middle finger. Move it around a bit on the pad and see how it controls the arrow on the screen. If you accidentally get to the edge of the pad but want to move the arrow more in that direction, just pick up the mouse and place it anywhere else on the pad and keep rolling from there. Now (without pushing the mouse button) practice pointing by moving the arrow until it just touches each of the screen objects. Point to each corner of the screen in turn, in clockwise order and then in counter-clockwise order.


CLICKING: This is where you put the arrow on an icon or a menu item and push-and-release the mouse button (if it has two buttons, push the left one). Try clicking on the apple. Did you see a list appear and then disappear? That was the apple menu. If you want to look at it longer, point at the apple again and this time click-and-hold the button. When you let the button go, the menu disappears.

Let the button go now, and point-and click on the trash can. It should change shading, which means it has been selected. Now click twice on the trash can as quickly as you can. This is called double-clicking. The empty box that opens on the screen is called a window (specifically, it is the trash window). Now close the trash window by pointing and single-clicking on the close box in its upper-left corner.

So, in summary, there are at least three variations on clicking:


DRAGGING: Click-and-hold on the trash (don't double click), and while still holding the button, move the mouse on the mousepad. An outline of the trash can should move as if it is pasted to your arrow. Drag it clockwise to all four corners of the screen. Now drag it back to the lower right corner where it belongs.


SELECTING MENU ITEMS: Click-and hold on the apple. You'll see the apple menu, which is a list of mini-programs called desk accessories. Let's check the time: with the mouse button held down, move the arrow slowly downscreen from the apple. Notice each menu item goes to white-on-black when it is touched by the arrow. Make the Alarm Clock item change to white-on-black and then, without moving the mouse, let go the button. You have just selected that menu item; as a result, you should now have a small box somewhere on the screen showing you the time. Close this desk accessory now by clicking in its close box at left of the time shown.

Now select another desk accessory from the apple menu: the Calculator. Make that menu item go to white-on-black and then carefully let the mouse button go. You should see a picture of a calculator on the screen. You can push buttons on this calculator by pointing to them and clicking. Try it: point and click on each of these in turn: 4, *, 8, =. The calculator register should show you the answer to 4 times 8: 32. The "C" button clears the calculator - try it now. You can also enter numbers on the calculator from the right keypad. Try that to divide 217 by 67.3. It's 3.224, right? Now click on the calculator's close box at the upper left corner to put it away.


MORE ABOUT WINDOWS: Nearly all Macintosh work is done in windows of one sort or another. There are several things these windows have in common. As an example, open the trash window again by double-clicking on its icon. Across the top of every window is the title bar. You can drag the window anywhere you want on the desktop (screen) by clicking-and-holding on the title bar and using it to drag. Try it by dragging the open trash window to the top of the screen. There are two ways to resize the window: (a) click once in the box at top right and the window gets very big. Click again and it returns to its original size; or, (b) click-and-hold in the box at lower right of the window (this is called the resize box), and then drag. The window changes shape and size depending on where you drag that corner.


MINIDISKS: These are the plastic disks (three and one-half inches square) that go, metal side first, writing side up, in the slot in the front of your Mac: the internal disk drive. If you need to buy a disk for a class, most bookstores and some copy centers sell them for a dollar or two.

Make sure you're buying a minidisk for the Macintosh computer, not for an IBM PC or "PC compatible". There are several different kinds of disks with varying storage capacities, and we recommend the following:


This completes our introduction to the Macintosh. Everything discussed above carries over to any Macintosh computer anywhere. Please don't turn off your Mac. (It should be left on most of the time; turning it on and off too much will wear it out more quickly than leaving it on most of the time.) Your lab manager will shut the Macs down at the end of the day.