Getting started with macOS Big Sur

macOS User Guide

The macOS User Guide has a lot more information about how to use your MacBook Air.

Get help. Click the Finder icon  in the Dock, then click the Help menu in the menu bar and choose macOS Help to open the macOS User Guide. Or type a question or term in the search field, then choose a topic from the results list.

The macOS User Guide welcome page showing the Table of Contents link.

Explore topics. To find a topic in the macOS User Guide, you can browse or search. To browse, click “Table of Contents” to see the list of topics, then click a topic to read it. Or type what you want to find in the search field to go right to your answer.

Help viewer showing how to view topics listed in the sidebar and how to display the content of a topic.

Find out what’s new. Click the Help menu, then choose “See What’s New in macOS” to find out more about the latest features of macOS.


Tip: If you can’t remember the location of a menu item in an app, search for it in Help. Place the pointer over the result, and an arrow shows you the command.

The Help menu showing a search for “list” with the Bulleted List command highlighted in the results list and in the Format menu.

The desktop, menu bar, and Help on your Mac

The first thing you see on your MacBook Air is the desktop, where you can quickly open apps, search for anything on your MacBook Air and the web, organize your files, and more.

A Mac screen showing the Apple menu, the App menu, the desktop, the Help menu, a Finder window, the menu bar, the Wi-Fi icon, the Control Center icon, the Finder icon, the System Preferences icon, and the Dock.

Tip: Can’t find the pointer on the screen? To magnify it temporarily, move your finger rapidly back and forth on the trackpad. Or if you’re using a mouse, slide it back and forth quickly.


Menu bar. The menu bar runs along the top of the screen. Use the menus on the left side to choose commands and perform tasks in apps. The menu items change, depending on which app you’re using. Use the icons on the right side to connect to a Wi-Fi network, check your Wi-Fi status the Wi-Fi status icon, open Control Center the Control Center icon, check your battery charge the full battery icon, search using Spotlight the Spotlight icon, and more.

Tip: You can change the icons that appear in the menu bar by going to >System Preferences>Dock&Menu Bar

Apple menu . The Apple menu contains frequently used items and always appears in the upper-left corner of the screen. To open it, click the Apple icon .

App menu. You can have multiple apps and windows open at the same time. The name of the app that’s active appears in bold to the right of the Apple menu , followed by that app’s unique menus. If you open a different app or click an open window in a different app, the name of the app menu changes to that app and the menus in the menu bar change along with it. If you’re looking for a command in a menu and can’t find it, check the app menu to see if the app you want is active.


Help menu. Help for your MacBook Air is always available in the menu bar. To get help, open the Finder in the Dock, click the Help menu, and choose macOS Help to open the macOS User Guide. Or type in the search field and choose a suggestion. To get help for a specific app, open the app and click Help in the menu bar.

A partial desktop with the Help menu open, showing the menu options Search and macOS Help.

Stay organized with stacks. You can use stacks on the desktop to keep files organized in groups (by kind, date, or tag), and to keep your desktop clean. To view what’s inside a stack, click the stack to expand its contents, or place your cursor over a stack to view file thumbnails. To create stacks on your desktop, click the desktop, then choose View > Use Stacks or press Control-Command-0. You can also Control-click the desktop, then choose Use Stacks. To see grouping options for your stacks, go to View > Group Stacks By and choose an option. Then any new files you add to the desktop are automatically sorted into the appropriate stack.


The Finder on your Mac

Use the Finder to organize and locate your files. To open a Finder window, click the Finder icon in the Dock at the bottom of the screen. Force click a file icon to quickly view its contents, or force click a filename to edit it.

An open Finder window, displaying files and folders as icons.

Sync devices. When you connect a device like an iPhone or iPad, you can see it in the Finder sidebar. From there you can back up, update, and restore your device.

Gallery View. With Gallery View, you can see a large preview of a selected file, which gives you a quick way to visually identify images, video clips, and other documents. The Preview pane shows information to help you identify the file you want. Use the scrubber bar at the bottom to quickly locate what you’re looking for. To close or open the Preview pane, press Shift-Command-P.

Tip: To show filenames in Gallery View, press Command-J and select “Show filename.”

An open Finder window in Gallery View, showing a large photo with a row of smaller photos—the scrubber bar—under it. Controls for rotating, marking up, and more are to the right of the scrubber bar.

Quick Actions. At the bottom right of the Preview pane are shortcuts that let you manage and edit files right in the Finder. You can rotate an image, annotate or crop an image in Markup, combine images and PDFs into a single file, trim audio and video files, and create custom actions through Automator workflows (for example, watermarking a file).

To show the Preview pane options in the Finder, choose View > Show Preview. To customize what’s shown, choose View > Show Preview Options, then select the options for your file type. 


Tip: Select a file and press the Space bar to open Quick Look. You can sign PDFs; trim audio and video files; and mark up, rotate, and crop images without opening a separate app.


The Dock on your Mac

The Dock, at the bottom of the screen, is a convenient place to keep the apps and documents you use frequently.

The Dock, showing the Finder, System Preferences, and the line in the Dock that divides apps from files and folders.

Open an app or file. Click an app icon in the Dock, or click the Launchpad  icon  in the Dock to see all the apps on your Mac, then click the app you want. You can also search for an app using Spotlight  (in the top-right corner of the menu bar), then open the app directly from your Spotlight search results. Recently opened apps appear in the center section of the Dock.

Close an app. When you click the red dot in the top-left corner of an open window, the window closes but the app stays open. Open apps have a black dot beneath them in the Dock. To close an app, choose “Quit appname” from the app menu (for example, in the Mail app, choose Quit Mail from the Mail menu). Or Control-click the app icon in the Dock and click Quit.

A portion of the Dock showing black dots beneath open apps.

Add an item to the Dock. Drag the item and drop it where you want it. Place apps in the left section of the Dock, and files or folders in the right section.

Remove an item from the Dock. Drag it out of the Dock. The item isn’t removed from your MacBook Air—just from the Dock.

See everything that’s open on your Mac. Press the Mission Control key on your keyboard or swipe with three fingers on your trackpad to open Mission Control. View your open windows, desktop spaces, full-screen apps, and more, and switch easily between them. You can also add the Mission Control icon  to the Dock. 

See all open windows in an app. Force click an app in the Dock to access Exposé and view all the app’s open windows.

Tip: Click Dock & Menu Bar in System Preference to change the appearance and behavior of the Dock. Make the Dock larger or smaller, move it to the left or right side of the screen, set it to hide when you’re not using it, and more.


Control Center on your Mac

The new Control Center groups all your menu bar extras into a single place, giving you instant access to the controls you use the most—like Bluetooth, AirDrop, Screen Mirroring, and brightness and volume controls—right from the menu bar. Click the Control Center icon in the upper-right corner of the screen to open Control Center.

Zoomed in view of Control Center on your Mac with a callout to the Display button.

Click for more options. Click a button to see more options. For example, click the Wi-Fi button  to see your preferred networks, other networks, or to open Network Preferences. To return to the main Control Center view, click the Control Center icon again.

Pin your Control Center favorites. Drag a favorite item from Control Center to the menu bar to pin it there, so you can easily access it with a single click. To change what appears in Control Center and in the menu bar, open Dock & Menu Bar preferences, select a control on the left, then click “Show in Menu Bar” or “Show in Control Center.” You see a preview of where the control will appear in the menu bar. Some items can’t be added to or removed from Control Center or the menu bar.

Tip: To quickly remove an item from the menu bar, press and hold the Command key and drag the item out of the menu bar.

The Dock and Menu Bar Preferences window.


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