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Mac 101: Use the keyboard to navigate a Grid from the Dock

When I first got my Mac, it came with all the standard applications found in the applications folder. I used to find that opening an application from the applications Grid, on the Dock, was much easier and quicker than opening an application through the Finder.

Over time, with more applications being installed on my computer, my applications Grid became larger and larger. Instead of seeing a small bunch of icons that I could easily recognize and navigate, I literally had dozens of icons on my applications Grid. This made it very difficult to distinguish the one application that I was looking for. It was like looking at a sea of multi-colored icons that were all blurring into one. Maybe you know what I'm talking about?

Naturally, I had my most used applications accessible directly from the Dock, but for all of my other applications, I started using the Finder or Spotlight to locate and launch them instead. That is, until a friend showed me an obvious way to navigate a Grid and launch an application very quickly.

Simply open a Grid, and on your keyboard, type the first letter of the application that you want to open. Mac OS X will highlight the first application beginning with that letter in its title. You can then hit Enter to launch that application. It's very snappy, and makes locating an application a cinch!

For example, if I'm looking to open iPhoto, all I need do is open my applications Grid, type "i" on my keyboard, and so long as iPhoto is the first application beginning with "i," that's the application that will be highlighted.

"But what if I have lots of applications beginning with 'i'?" I hear you ask. Simply navigate through the grid using the keyboard arrow keys, or consecutively type the first two or three letters of the application that you're looking for (for example, "iph" for iPhoto). It simply works in alphabetical order. If you use a List or a Fan instead of a Grid, it works the same way.

After discovering this feature, I soon realized that this applies throughout Mac OS X's menus, files, and folders -- including the Finder. Once you get the hang of it, you'll be navigating through Mac OS X faster than you've ever done before! Oh, and by the way, if you want to open your Grid in super slow motion, hold down the Shift key and click on a Grid at the same time. Go on, try it!

If you've got a tip that helps you navigate through Mac OS X more easily, let us know in the comments.

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