Help Desk

Information Technology

Finding and Starting Applications on macOS

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 dock

The different icons on the left side of the dock are "applications." They are, in order from left to right, Finder, Safari, Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel, System Preferences, and iBooks. Then we have a divider and the trash. Your dock will probably have different applications and folders on it.

If there is a dot below the application, as there is in the above example with Finder 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.

For more information on navigating the dock, including adding or removing applications/folders from it, please visit our dock help page.

Spotlight Search

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 (spotlight 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 for the first time:

Spotlight Search

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

Spotlight search application

You can then just hit Enter and it will open Safari for you. This is possible to do with all of the applications and files on your computer. To navigate the spotlight results, use your arrowkeys or your mouse. 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.


To access applications via Finder,press Command+Shift+A.

Alternatively, open a new Finder window by clicking on its icon on the Dock:

Finder Icon

Then select "Applications" on the sidebar.

Finder sidebar 


Launchpad is another great way to open your apps, as well as a way to organize them into folders.

To open Launchpad, click the rocket icon on the Dock:

Launchpad Icon

Alternatively, you can press the F4 button on your keyboard, which can be found just above the 4 button.

To open any application via Launchpad, simply click the one you would like to open. Click and drag applications to change their locations. To create a folder of applications, click and drag an application you would like in the folder to another.