Got a new Mac for Xmas? Here's your Apple A-Z

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Arm yourself with 'The Knowledge' of OS X operating systems

Just got a new Mac for Christmas? Getting started with OS X? Using a Mac isn't a huge leap from Windows, but OS X does have its own jargon for you to contend with.

So we've put together a list of the most common Mac terminology, as well as some other more general computing lingo you need to know.


This is Apple's term for the industry standard 802.11 Wi-Fi protocol. The word was first adopted with 802.11b, and was renamed AirPort Extreme for the faster 802.11g standard. Apple seems not to have updated the name for 802.11n.

Apple menu

The Apple in the menu bar of all Macs isn't just decorative; you go to this menu to do Mac-level stuff such as log out, shut down and apply system updates.

See also: Menu bar, Software Update


The terms 'application' and 'program' are essentially interchangeable – these are the pieces of software on your Mac, such as iPhoto and Photoshop. While 'program' tends to be used in the PC world, Mac users favour 'application'.


And bonjour to you too. Actually, Bonjour is the new name for Rendezvous, Apple's zero-configuration networking technology that enables devices on a network to discover each other and figure out what each other does. It's used for iTunes sharing, for example.

Boot Camp

Apple's way of enabling you to boot your Mac into Windows.


The Cmd keys either side of your spacebar are Command keys, used for shortcuts. Don't call these 'Apple' keys; old hands will think you naïve!

Desktop picture

The Mac equivalent of a Windows wallpaper. You can change it in the Desktop & Screensaver pane of your Mac's System Preferences.

DMG disk image

Much shareware and other downloadable software is delivered inside a kind of virtual disk, or disk image, whose filename ends in.dmg.

These mount like physical disks, and once you've installed the software or copied it off the virtual disk, you can eject it and trash the DMG.


The strip along the bottom of your Mac's screen that holds your applications and Trash. You can also drop files and folders onto it to the right of the divider.

See also: Trash


A digital connection to hook a display up to a computer with a crystal-clear picture. Though not ubiquitous in PCs, Macs standardised on DVI years ago, although you may need an adapter to use DVI displays with newer Macs.

See also: Mini DisplayPort, VGA


The application on your Mac that lets you sort your files into folders and more. See page 30. FireWire A high-speed port for connecting peripherals such as hard disks and DV cameras.

The old 6-pin FireWire 400 port has largely been replaced by a 9-pin FireWire 800 version. DV cameras tend to use a smaller 4-pin connection.


Software embedded in hardware to control low-level stuff such as fan speeds. Apple sometimes releases firmware updates for its Macs and other devices to fix underlying problems or to add new features. Check Apple Support regularly.

fsck - File System Check

A slightly scary – but useful – trick for checking that the file structures on your Mac are in tip-top condition. You need to be in single-user mode to be able to run fsck; for more information, see Apple Support.

See also: Single-user mode


Apple's suite of lifestyle media applications. Includes iMovie, iDVD, iPhoto, GarageBand and iWeb. iWork Apple's suite of productivity applications. Includes Pages, Keynote and Numbers.

Kernel panic

The Mac rarely crashes. Individual apps may hang, but the system itself usually soldiers on. Sometimes, though, a grey curtain will fall across your screen and you'll get a multilingual warning to restart your computer. That's a kernel panic.

If you get them regularly, suspect big problems. See Apple Support for more info.

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