Help Desk

Computing & Information Services

Finding and Starting Applications on Mac OS X

There are a few different methods to find and start applications on a Mac. The main options that you can use are below:


The dock is one of the first parts of the user interface that you will see upon logging into a Mac. It is most often located at the bottom of the screen, and can be set to autohide. If this is the case, mouse over the bottom of the screen in order to get the dock to show up. Your dock will look similar to this:

mac osx dock

The different icons on the left side of the dock are "applications." They are, in order from left to right, Finder, Firefox, Safari, System Preferences, Terminal, Chrome, Maps, and iBooks. Then we have two folders and the trash. Your dock will probably have different applications and folders on it.

If there is a light below the application, as there is in the above example with Finder, Firefox, and Chrome, that means that the application is currently running. In order to open any of these applications you can just click on them on the dock.

One of the folders on most docks is the "Applications" folder. In the above image it is just left of the trash can. This will include almost all of the applications installed on your system. Even if the application you are looking for is not on the dock it should be located within this folder. Clicking on it will most likely give you a scrollable list of applications that you can open. Below is an example of what this might look like:

mas osx dock applications folder

If you wanted to open TextEdit you would just click on where it says "TextEdit" above and the application would open.


There is another way to find and open applications on a Mac. This method might seem less intuitive at first. But, it is also more powerful and faster once you get the hang of it. It involves using the built in "Spotlight" function on the Mac. This is a part of your computer that searches for whatever you begin to type. In order to access "Spotlight" you can click on the magnifying glass icon on the top right of your menubar, or hit Command+Space on your keyboard. Below you can see what happens when you click this icon or use this keyboard shortcut:

spotlight clean image

Now you can type whatever application you were looking to open. For example, let's try to open Microsoft Word. Below I type in "word" and it recognizes what I'm looking for:

osx spotlight word image

You can then just hit Enter and it will work open Microsoft Word for you. This is possible to do with all of the applications on your computer. You can even do this with files! Once you get used to using this method you will probably realize that you save a large amount of time.

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