Understanding and Using Standard Mac OS X Application Menus

Just like under all versions of the Mac OS, Mac OS X applications designed to work on the Mac follow certain conventions when it comes to the menus they provide. Although applications can provide more menus than the core set of standard menus, they are not supposed to provide fewer.


The information in this section is based on standard Mac OS X menus for Cocoa applications. Classic applications provide Mac OS 9 menus, whereas carbonized applications provide a mixture of the two sets of menus. For example, all carbonized applications provide an Application menu, but not all provide Cocoa's Format menu.

If you have used a Mac before, which I have assumed you have, some application menus under Mac OS X aren't much different from those under previous versions of the OS, such as the File and Edit menus. In the following sections, you will learn about some standard application menus that are new or revised for Mac OS X.

Working with Mac OS X Application Menus

All Mac OS X applications have an application menu, which provides the commands you use to control the application itself as well as to interact with the OS (see Figure 6.3).

Figure 6.3. This TextEdit menu is typical of the application menu provided by Mac OS X applications.


Typical commands on an application's application menu are the following:

  • About

  • Preferences

  • Services

  • Hide/Show

  • Quit

One of the more interesting commands on the application menu is the Mac OS X Services command. This command enables you to access functions provided by other applications to add information or perform functions while you are using the current application. Although it is not supported in all applications, when it is supported, it can be quite useful.


Game applications are the most likely to not provide standard menus, and that is okay. After all, who needs a Format menu when you are shooting bad guys?

There are various uses for the Services command, but as an example, suppose you are having trouble understanding an error message you are getting in a certain application and you want to send an email to the technical support organization to get some help. That email might be a lot more meaningful if you can include an image of the actual error dialog box that you see with your explanation. Using the Services commands from within the Mail email application, you can do just that:

  1. Move to the dialog box you want to capture; perhaps it is an error message that suddenly pops up on your screen.

  2. Without doing anything in the dialog box (for example, don't click its OK button), launch the Mail application by clicking its icon on the Dock.

  3. Create a new email message and move into its body.

  4. From the Mail menu, select Services, Grab, Timed Selection.

  5. Bring the dialog box you want to capture to the front by clicking its window.

  6. Wait for Grab's timer to go off.

  7. Move back into the Mail application. The screen that Grab captured is pasted into the new email message.

  8. Finish your message and send it.

The specific services offered on the Services menu depend on the application you are using and the data with which you are working. You should explore Services options that you have with the applications you use most often. Most Apple applications do provide some services, but even with those, support for Services can be spotty. The only way to know is to explore the Services menu for the applications you use.

Even though Apple's basic Mac OS X text editing application, TextEdit, isn't all that great for word processing, it does provide a great example of how many Services commands can be supported. For a list of the Services commands available in TextEdit and what they do, see Table 6.1.

Table 6.1. Commands on the TextEdit Services Menu

Services Command

What It Does


Activates various Finder commands, such as Open, Reveal, and Show Info, on the selected item


Enables you to capture screen shots and paste them into the current document

Import Image

Enables you to import images from an imaging device, such as a digital camera, connected to your Mac


Emails selected text or the entire document via the Mail application

Make New Sticky Note

Creates a new sticky note from the selected text

Open URL

Opens a selected URL in the default Web browser

Script Editor

Enables you to work with AppleScript, such as creating a new AppleScript or running an existing one

Search with Google

Searches for the selected text on www.google.com

Send File To Bluetooth Device

Sends a file to a Bluetooth device, such as a PDA


Enables you to have your Mac speak selected text


Launches Mac OS X's Summary Service application that creates a summary of selected text


Opens a selected file in TextEdit or creates a new TextEdit file from selected text


Some third-party applications can add their own commands to the Services menu. For example, QuicKeys, which enables you to create and run macros, adds a command to the Services menu that enables you to create a macro from within any application.

Working with Mac OS X Format Menus

As you might expect from its name, the Format menu provides commands that enable you to format the file with which you are working. The specific commands on the Format menu depend on the particular application you are using.


The Mac OS X Format menu, including the Fonts panel, is available only in Cocoa applications that are designed to use it. Many Mac OS X applications provide format and font commands that are specific to those applications.

One of the most useful commands on most applications' Format menus is the Font command. This command enables you to work with the fonts you use in a document (see Figure 6.4). In addition to the commands you expect to see, such as Bold, Italic, and so on, you also will see the Show Fonts command, which opens the Font panel.

Figure 6.4. TextEdit's Font command is typical of this command on many applications' Format menus.


The Mac with OS X Font panel enables you to choose and work with the fonts installed on your Mac. The Font panel provides control over the particular font used in your documents as well as enables you to manage the fonts installed on your Mac (see Figure 6.5).

Figure 6.5. The Mac OS X Font panel provides much more control over your fonts than was possible under previous versions of the Mac OS.



In most applications, you can open the Font panel by pressing graphics/mac.gif-T.


Not all applications support Mac OS X's Font system. If an application doesn't use this system, it provides its own set of formatting tools that you use to format a document. For example, Microsoft Word X for Mac, service release 1 does not support Mac OS X's font system so you can't access the Font panel from within the application. You have to use its own font tools instead.

The Font panel has a number of panes, and you can choose to display some panes while others are always visible. The various panes of the Font panel are the following:

  • Collections (always displayed)? Under Mac OS X, the ability to group fonts together in collections is built in to the operating system and into the Font panel. Font collections make selecting fonts easier because you can group fonts into collections, so you can select a set of fonts by choosing the collection in which those fonts are contained. You can use the default font collections and create your own, and you use the Collections pane to select the collection with which you want to work. The collections you see in the Collections pane of the Font panel include all those fonts and collections that are installed and enabled via the Font Book application. Applications can also provide distinct collections. For example, in TextEdit, you see the Favorites collection, which contains a set of fonts, typefaces, and sizes you have added via the Add to Favorites action, and the Recently Used collection, which contains the fonts, typefaces, and sizes of text formatting you have recently applied in the current document.

    To learn about installing and maintaining fonts on your Mac using the Font Book application, see "Installing and Using Mac OS X Fonts," p. 230.

  • Family (always displayed)? The Family pane lists all the font families that are part of the selected collection. You select the family you want to work with on the list of available families in the selected collection.

  • Typeface (displayed except when working with the Favorites and Recently Used collection)? In the Typeface pane, you choose the typeface for the selected font family, such as Regular, Bold, and so on.

  • Size (always displayed)? You choose the size of the font you are applying in the Size pane.

  • Preview (displayed when you select Show Preview on the Action menu)? This pane, which appears at the top of the Font panel, provides a preview of the font you have configured.

  • Effects (displayed when you select Show Effects on the Action menu)? This pane provides buttons you use to configure underline, strikethrough, text color, background color, and text shadow effects.

A couple of the default collections are worth some additional detail. The PDF collection contains font families that are suited to the creation of PDF documents (PDF is a native file format under Mac OS X). The Favorites collection is empty by default and is a collection designed for you to be able to create a customized set of your favorite font families, typefaces, and sizes so you can reapply specific text formats by selecting the Favorites collection and clicking the text formatting you want to apply (this is similar to styles in some applications). The Recently Used collection automatically gathers the families, typefaces, and sizes you have recently used so you can reapply them easily. The Web collection contains fonts that are designed to be used on the Web.

The Action menu at the bottom-left corner of the panel provides access to the following commands:

  • Add to Favorites? This command adds the current font, typeface, and size to the Favorites collection.

  • Show/Hide Preview? This choice opens or hides the Preview pane.

  • Show/Hide Effects? This command opens or hides the Effects pane.

  • Color? Choosing this causes the Color Picker to open.

  • Characters? This command opens the Characters palette.

  • Typography? This command opens the Typography panel that you can use to choose ligatures, adjust the space before and after characters, and shift the text baseline.

  • Edit Sizes? Using this command, you can customize the sizes that appear in the Size pane.

  • Manage Fonts? This command opens the Font Book that enables you to manage the fonts installed on your Mac.

Previewing Fonts

If you select Show Preview on the Action menu, a new pane appears at the top of the panel. This pane provides a preview of the currently selected family, typeface, and size. You can use this preview to help you make better selections more quickly. To hide the Preview pane, select Hide Preview on the Action menu.

Using Font Favorites

When you select a font family, typeface, and size and then use the Add to Favorites command on the Action menu, that font is added to your Favorites collection. When you select the Favorites collection in the Font panel, you can quickly choose one of your favorite fonts to use; this saves you a couple of steps (see Figure 6.6).

Figure 6.6. When you add a font, typeface, and size to your Favorites collection, you can easily apply that formatting to selected text in a document.


Creating or Removing Font Collections

You can add or remove font collections from the Font panel. When you do so, the font collection is also added or removed to the Collections available in the Font Book application (which contains all the fonts installed on your Mac).

To learn about the Font Book application, see "Installing and Using Mac OS X Fonts," p. 230.

From the Font panel, you can make the following changes to the collections shown in the Collections list:

  • Add new font collections.

  • Remove font collections.

  • Add fonts to collections.


Although you can manage font collections from within the Font panel, you should generally use the Font Book application, which was added to Mac OS X in version 10.3. This is because font collections are really a system-level resource, so it is better practice to manage them using a system tool?that being the Font Book.

To learn about the Font Book application, see "Installing and Using Mac OS X Fonts," p. 230.


If you select a collection and click the ? button to delete it, the collection is removed from the Font Book, which means the included fonts are deleted from your Mac. Using the Font Book, you can disable both font collections and individual fonts from within collections. This is the best technique because you can prevent collections and fonts from being available within an application but maintain those collections and fonts on your Mac.

Applying Effects to Fonts

Using the Effects tools, you can apply the following effects to selected text:

  • Apply underline effects

  • Apply strikethrough effects

  • Apply color to text

  • Apply color to a document's background

  • Apply text shadow effects


You can also apply color effects by selecting Color on the Action menu.

To apply effects to text, do the following steps:

  1. Select the text to which you want to apply the effects.

  2. Open the Font panel.

  3. Open the action menu and select Show Effects. The Effects pane appears (see Figure 6.7).

    Figure 6.7. You can use the Effects pane to apply various effects to selected text.


  4. Select from the underline effects on the Underline pop-up menu. The options are None, Single, Double, or Color. If you select Color, use the Color Picker to choose the color of the underline.

    To learn how to use the Color Picker, see "Choosing Colors," p. 160.

  5. Select the strikethrough effects on the Strikethrough pop-up menu. The options are None, Single, Double, or Color. If you select Color, use the Color Picker to choose the color of the strikethrough.

  6. Click the Text Color button and use the Color Picker to choose the text color.

  7. Click the Background Color button and use the Color Picker to select the background color of the document on which you are working.

  8. To apply a shadow to the text, click the Text Shadow button; when a shadow is applied, the button is blue.

  9. Use the Shadow Opacity, Show Blur, and Shadow Offset sliders to configure those properties of the shadow.

  10. Use the Shadow Angle wheel to set the angle of the shadow.


Unfortunately, you won't see the effects you apply in the Preview pane. You need to be able to see the document on which you are working to see the results of the text effects you apply.

Choosing Colors

When you choose to apply color from the Font panel, you use the Color Picker (see Figure 6.8). As with the other versions of the Mac OS, you use the Color Picker to define and choose the color to apply to specific items?in this case, text effects.

Figure 6.8. You can control the color applied to fonts using the text effects tools using the Color Picker.



You can open the Color Picker directly by pressing Shift-graphics/mac.gif-C or by selecting Format, Font, Show Colors. You don't need to have the Font panel open to use the Color Picker.

As an example of how the Color Picker works, the following steps show you how to use the Color Picker to choose the color of underline:

  1. Select the item to which you want to apply color (such as text).

  2. Open the Color Picker by clicking the Text Color button or selecting Color on the Underline pop-up menu.

  3. At the top of the Color Picker window, select the color tools with which you want to work. For example, click the Color Wheel to use the standard color wheel as shown in Figure 6.8.

  4. Use the color tools to select the color you want to apply. The color you select is applied to the selected item.


You can drag the color you select to the palette at the bottom of the Color Picker so you can easily apply it again later. This palette serves as a place in which you can store your favorite colors so you can apply them again easily.

Editing the Sizes Available on the Size Pane

If you select Edit Sizes on the Action menu on the Fonts panel, you will see the Font Size sheet, which you can use to change the sizes that appear in the Size pane of the Font panel (see Figure 6.9).

Figure 6.9. You can control the specific sizes of font that appear in the Fonts panel using the Font Size sheet.


Using the Font Size sheet, you can perform the following tasks:

  • To add a size to the Size pane, enter the size you want to add in the New Size box and click + (the plus sign).

  • To remove a size from the Size pane, select it on the size list and click ? (the minus sign).

  • To remove the list of fixed sizes from the Size pane, uncheck the Fixed List check box. Check that box again to display the list of fixed sizes again.

  • To add a size slider to the Size pane, check the Adjustable Slider check box. Then, enter the minimum font size and maximum size to be included on the slider in the Min Size and Max Size text boxes.

  • To reset the sizes to the default values, click the Reset Sizes button.

Save your changes by clicking the Done button. The sheet disappears and the changes you made are reflected in the Size pane.

Applying Typography Effects to Fonts

The Font panel enables you to apply some basic typography effects to text. To do so, use the following steps:

  1. Select Action, Typography. The Typography window appears (see Figure 6.10).

    Figure 6.10. You can use the Typography tools to apply some basic typography to text.


  2. Check the Common Ligatures check box to apply common ligatures to the selected text.

  3. Use the Add Space Before Characters slider to add space before characters in the selected text.

  4. Use the Add Space After Characters slider to add space after characters in the selected text.

  5. Use the Shift Text Baseline slider to change the text baseline of the selected text.

Working with the Character Palette

Special characters can be a pain to enter because remembering which font family the character you need is part of is often difficult. The Character Palette is designed to help find special characters in various languages and quickly apply those characters to your documents. You can also add characters you use frequently for even easier access.


If you are a longtime Mac user, you probably remember the Key Caps application you could use to locate and use special characters. The Mac OS X Character Palette is like that application, but it is much more powerful.

You can open the Character Palette from within applications that use the Mac OS X Font panel, or you can install the Character Palette menu on the Mac OS X menu bar.

To open the Character Palette from the Mac OS X Font panel, select Characters on the Action menu. The Character Palette opens (see Figure 6.11).

Figure 6.11. The Mac OS X Character Palette enables you to efficiently work with special characters.


Installing the Character Palette

You can also install the Character Palette on the Input menu on the Mac OS X menu bar so it is available in all applications, whether they use the Mac OS X Font panel or not. To install the palette, perform the following steps:

  1. Open the System Preferences Utility.

  2. Click the International icon. The International pane opens. Click the Input Menu tab.

  3. Check the box next to Character Palette.

  4. Check the boxes next to any languages you want to install on the Input menu.

  5. Check the "Show input menu in menu bar" check box. This enables the Input menu that will appear on the right end of any application's menu bar, including the Finder (see Figure 6.12).

    Figure 6.12. The Input menu enables you to access the Character Palette from any application.


After you have installed the Character Palette on the Input menu, you can open it by selecting Input menu, Show Character Palette.

Using the Character Palette

The Character Palette has two tabs. The "by Category" tab enables you to select and insert characters you need. When you find a character you use regularly, you can add it to the other tab, which is the Favorites tab, so you can grab it easily and quickly.

To find and use a character, carry out the following steps:

  1. Open the Character Palette (either through the Font panel or from the Input menu).

  2. On the Character Palette, select the language sets you want to view on the View pop-up menu. For example, to see Roman characters, select Roman.

  3. Click the "by Category" tab and choose the category of character you want to view in the left pane. For example, select Math to view mathematical symbols.

  4. To apply different fonts to the character, click the Expansion triangle next to the Font Variation tab. Select the font collection you want to use on the Collections pop-up menu. Then, click the font you want to apply to the character you selected.


    To limit the fonts shown in the Font Variation pane to only those that contain the character you are working with, select "Containing selected character" on the Collections pop-up menu. The character is shown with the fonts that contain it.

  5. Click the Expansion triangle next to the Font Variation text; a preview pane appears, showing a preview of the character you have selected along with its name. You also see characters related to the one you are working with and the name and Unicode number of the character.

  6. Continue adjusting the character until it is the way you want it.

  7. Click Insert with Font. The character is pasted into the active document at the insertion point.


If you don't apply a font to the character, the Insert with Font button is just the Insert button.


If the symbol you selected doesn't appear correctly in the document you inserted it in, see "The Special Character I Inserted Doesn't Look Correct" in the "Troubleshooting" section at the end of this chapter.

Setting Up Character Favorites

You can create a set of favorite characters on the Character Palette to let you quickly choose a character to insert into a document. This is especially useful when you have applied specific fonts to a character.

To create favorite characters, take the following steps:

  1. Open the Character Palette.

  2. Create the character just as you would to insert it into a document.

  3. Click Add to Favorites. This copies the character onto the Favorites tab (see Figure 6.13).

    Figure 6.13. The characters shown on the Favorites tab can be inserted into a document quickly and easily.


To insert a favorite character from the Favorites tab into a document, perform the following steps:

  1. Open the Character Palette.

  2. Click the Favorites tab.

  3. Select the character you want to insert.

  4. Click Insert.

You can remove a character from the Favorites tab by selecting it and clicking Remove.

Working with Mac OS X Application Window Menus

Although some previous applications running in Mac OS provided a Window menu, it was not the standard Window menu as it is now under Mac OS X. When applications can have more than one window open at the same time, you can use the Window menu to manage those open windows. You can do the following:

  • Zoom the current window.

  • Minimize the current window.

  • Bring all windows to the front.

  • Choose a window to bring it to the front.

Using the Window menu is simple. To bring an open window to the front, select it on the menu. To use one of the Window commands, select it.


Some applications mark the frontmost window with a check mark or diamond symbol; however, this behavior is not consistent. In many cases, the frontmost window is marked with some sort of character.

Windows that are open and minimized also appear on the Window menu. If you use the Bring All to Front command, minimized windows remain on the Dock (windows on the Dock are always at the front).

    Part I: Mac OS X: Exploring the Core
    Part III: Mac OS X: Living the Digital Life