Lab 0: MacOS Instructions

Getting Started with MacOS

Follow your instructor's directions for beginning a session. When you see an arrow on the screen (pointing to about the 11-oclock position), the machine is ready for you to begin. If you have not used a mouse before, move it around on its pad and note how the arrow moves in response. The arrow is called the mouse cursor, and it is used to point at objects on the screen.

If you are not accustomed to using a mouse, take a few moments to practice pointing at objects on the screen.

Interacting with the Computer

The way in which you interact with a computer depends upon the computing environment of its operating system. For example, an environment in which you use a mouse to interact with menus, windows, and icons on a computer's screen is called a graphical user interface (GUI (pronounced gooey)).

In contrast to a GUI, there are environments which work a little differently:

  1. The computer displays a prompt and waits for you to enter a command.
  2. You enter a command.
  3. The computer executes (performs) that command, and it displays the results (if any).
The interaction then starts all over with the first step.

These are called command-line environments; you interact with the machine by entering commands following a system prompt. The MS-DOS operating system (a precursor of MS Windows) uses a command-line environment.

In order to use a command-line environment, you must learn those commands that the environment understands. This can make a command-line environment more difficult to use than a GUI, since you must be able to recall the right commands to use the system. By contrast, users of a GUI environment need only be able to recognize the proper menu choice, link, or icon they need to select in order to make something happen. However, a command-line environment is very powerful once you learn its basic tricks.

Let's begin by learning about the mouse. The mouse button is usually used to select and open an object on the screen. Selecting an object is accomplished by pointing the mouse at the object and clicking once, opening is is similar, but requires a double-click (clicking the left button twice in rapid succession).

To illustrate, there should be a tiny picture (called an icon) in the upper right corner of your computer's screen. Different institutions use different pictures and names for this icon, so we will refer to it using the generic term hard drive icon. Point the mouse at your hard drive icon and click the left mouse button. The icon should darken, indicating it has been selected.

Next, double-click while pointing at your hard drive icon, to open it. A new window should appear listing some of the folders and files that are in your computer's hard drive.

When you have multiple windows open, the title-bar at the top of the selected window darkens to indicate that the window is selected. This window is known as the active window.

Drag and Drop

One of the most common things people want to do with windows is reposition them on the screen. This is quite easy in the MacOS: just point the mouse at the title-bar of the window, hold down the mouse button, and move the mouse until the window is where you want it. This is called dragging the window. Then release the mouse button and the window will stay put (until you drag it somewhere else). This is called dropping the window. Dragging and dropping makes it easy to reposition a window.

Navigating in Your Computer

Ok! We're ready to explore! If you have a floppy disk, insert it into your computer's floppy drive, and let's get started. If you save your files onto a network drive, use that drive instead of a floppy disk.

If your floppy is already formatted for storing files, a new floppy disk icon should appear on the right side of your screen. If your floppy was not formatted for MacOS, you will see a message indicating that the disk needs to be initialized. Go ahead and initialize it, and the floppy icon will (eventually) appear.

Double-click this icon to open it and view the contents of whatever disk you placed in the drive. If this is a new disk, its window may well be empty.

Each of the icons can be explored in exactly the same way as we just saw -- by double-clicking on the icon for that device, and then in its window, clicking on whatever icon you want to examine next.


Very soon, we'll be entering and running a simple C++ program. But when your are done, you'd like to be able to save your program somewhere "safe". To save your program safely, the computer stores it on magnetic media (usually a hard or floppy disk) in a container called a file.

Throughout this lab manual, we'll create dozens of files, and so some means of organizing them is needed. Just as the documents in a filing cabinet are often kept in manilla file folders, MacOS lets us create a folder where we can store related files.

Begin by making sure that your hard disk window is selected. (Your instructor may instead have a particular folder on the desktop or on your floppy or on a network drive where you should do this work; if so, open this folder instead.) Then point the mouse at your File menu near the top left of your screen and click and hold the mouse button to display the File Menu. Move the mouse downwards until it points at the File -> New Folder choice, and release the mouse button when the choice darkens. You should see a folder icon labeled untitled folder appear in your active window.

When the new folder appears its name is automatically selected, so that you can give it a more descriptive name. Since we are creating a folder in which to store our labs, type labs to rename this folder appropriately.

Viewing the Contents of a Folder

To see what's inside of a folder is easy: just double-click on the folder icon to open it! Take a moment to look inside your labs folder. It should be empty, since we have not yet put anything into it. A new window appears but the old one remains nearby; you can always return to the window for the parent folder by clicking on it.

For practice, navigate back to the window containing labs and make three other folders: one named practice, one named projects, and one named myLib.

Discarding a Folder

We made practice just for practice, to learn how to get rid of unwanted folders. Click on practice, drag it to the Trash icon (the icon will darken when the mouse is properly positioned over it) and drop it there. Your folder should disappear into the Trash, and if the Trash was empty, its icon should change to indicate that it is no longer empty.

If you throw something away and later decide you want to get it back, you can open the Trash by double-clicking on it and drag what you want to retrieve from the window back to your hard disk or floppy disk. If you are certain that you will not want to retrieve anything from the Trash, you can empty the trash by choosing Finder -> Empty Trash in the Finder. This operation cannot be undone, so use it with caution.


active window, command-line environments, computing environment, dragging, dropping, file, folder, graphical user interface, GUI, hard drive icon, icon, mouse cursor

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Report all errors to Jeremy D. Frens.