Find My Ancestor Blog
21Jul/101

Mac Genealogy – Navigation Basics

The following post continues the series Mac Genealogy. This series will help you learn of different applications, tricks, and lots of other great things that will help you with your genealogy research. As Macs become more and more popular, more genealogists are moving to Mac. This blog series will also help for those who are thinking of switching to Mac, but aren't quite sure - yet! If you haven't been following the series so far, be sure to catch up on previous posts.

Post 1 - Apple or Windows? New Series on Apple Genealogy

*To see any of the images below in a higher resolution, simply click on them.

One of the main differences between Macs and Windows operating systems are of course the design and how you navigate your way through different apps and folders.

Most people who first start using a Mac ask the question, "Where's the Start Menu?" Unlike Windows, Mac OSX, which is Apple's current operating system, does not have a little icon in the lower left hand corner of the screen that you click and opens up a list of different different programs. On a Mac, there are a number of different ways to access your applications.

Before I show how to access your applications, I need to bring to attention the dock. 
The dock on the bottom of the screen is very handy utility to make those apps you access frequent easily accessible. I will go into more detail later about how to customize your dock with your favorite apps.

Notice in the lower left hand corner of the dock there is a little blue smiley face. 
Click that icon to access the "Finder". Finder on a Mac is like Windows Explorer on your PC. Use Finder to access your files and folders located in different directories on your Mac. The default directory will take you to your "Home" or user account folder. This folder is kind of like My Documents on your PC. There are folders such as Documents, Downloads, Movies, Music, Pictures, etc. This is the directory you store all your documents under.


If you are using your Mac for both genealogy and other uses I recommend starting a separate "Genealogy" or "Family History" folder here to keep all those files separate from other files you will later have on your computer. 



As far as folder structures for your genealogy folder, that is a whole other topic in itself. There are many great ways to organize your folders on your computer. You can always use the same folder structure you used on your PC if you like or if you would like to start with a new or better system you can do that too. Below are some great links to genealogy hard drive organization.

Organize Your Hard Drive
Family History Quick Start
Organize Your Genealogy Life
Organizing Digital Genealogy Files
*If you know of another great link for hard drive organization, let me know and I'll add it!

To create a new folder on your Mac you can do it a number of ways. First, locate where you want your folder to be, such as your Genealogy Folder, then go to File -> New Folder. 

Second, right click in the Finder Window -> New Folder. 

Third, hold down the Shift key + Command key and click the N button. 

After doing one of these options simply rename your file and hit Enter/Return.

Use the back and forward arrows at the top of each window to go back and forward between the folders.


The sidebar is a great way to navigate easily and quickly to frequently used folders within Finder. To add folders to the sidebar simply click and drag the folder to the sidebar.


To access your Application that are not in the Dock, you can either click on the Applications icon in the sidebar or you can add the Applications folder to the Dock which I personally find easier and more accessible. If your Application folder is not already in the dock, click your hard drive icon in the finder sidebar. It should be the first icon under the Devices tab of the sidebar. Next click and drag the Applications folder down to the dock on the right hand side of the dashed lines.
Now when you click on the Applications folder in the Dock you will get an easy access to all of you Applications.

Well that should give you a brief overview of the basic navigation on a Mac. Of course there are SO many other things that could be covered containing how to use a Mac, but that would be way too much and take away from my initial intent of this blog series. If you have specific questions about how to do something on a Mac or any other questions, please feel free to leave comments and I will try to help you with them. Some of your questions others might have as well. We can all learn together.

You can also download each post in a PDF format for easy reference while not online. To download this guide in PDF format, click

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  1. Great job on this series!


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