MacMost Now 69: OS X Directory Basics

Gary Rosenzweig takes a look at the basic structure of Mac OS X, especially the user folder, and gives suggestions on how to organize your files.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: MacMost Now 69: OS X Directory Basics.

Hi this is Gary Rosenzweig. you know the great thing about macintosh computers is you don't have to know too much about how they work, to get work done. but sometimes it can be very useful to know basic things like how your file system is organized. lets go take a look at that, on this episode of MacMost now.
Ok so most macs are set up with the macintosh hard drive being call, Macintosh HD. and on that hard drive is usually at least four main folders. you have your applications folder, your library folder, your system folder, and your users folder. Now your applications are exactly what you think they would be, you look at it its all the applications you're used to seeing. Maybe you usually hit the applications tab over here on the left. but this is where they are stored at the main level of application folder. now your second folder is usually your library folder, this is stuff your system needs to keep running, a lot of this stuff you don't have to mess with, you can view your caches for your browser, that type of thing. one thing you may have to look into once and a while is your fonts folder, now FontBook will handle matching your fonts, But in case you want to know where they are for backing up thats where they are. And there's a lot of other different things as well, most of which you will never have to deal with unless your a power user. System folder is exactly what you think, its the folder that keeps all the stuff that keeps your operating system going Mac OS X. now this is where everything really is, the users photo. in the users folder you have a folder for each user, in this case we got MacMost, we have the account we created a few episodes ago for something on parental controls account for timmy. we also have a shared folder and this will be where the files shared by all users is kept. So if your logged in as your user, say MacMost in this case, this is what you will have access to. you typically wont have access to other users folders. Inside this user folder, MacMost, you got a bunch of different folders you start to recognize, there's the folder for everything on your desktop. this is the same at looking at the folders on the desktop.except you can view them in list format. you got your documents folder this is where you store most of your files. For you know things your create on your applications, that type of thing, we have a downloads folder that kinda new in leopard, when you download something in safari it puts it right in there. You got a library folder thats specific for that user so you find a lot of the same things you see at the system level library folder, like font, but these fonts will only be available to this one user. Then you got some special folders, movies, music, pictures, these are all things used by iLife, Movies for instance things created by iMovie. Music is basically everything for iTunes and also garageband. and pictures is everything used by iPhoto, its where you find all of that stuff. your public folder is something where you put a file in it other users can see it. and also you have a drop box usually, which means another user could drop something in there. so if your on a network and put something in the public folder, somebody could log into your machine without knowing your password they cant access anything you got except things in your public folder and they can only give you a file by dropping it in the drop box. now you also have a sites folder now this is if your going to use the file sharing capability, it created a small website, personal web sharing its called. now this is basically a little min website for your computer which you can access locally on your computer or if you know the IP address to your computer you can actually use your computer as a mini web server.
Now if your on a mac with restricted access, you typically cannot access anything outside of your own user folder. so basically you got a semi public mac that everyone on it is not an administrator except the one that is the administrator. everyone else can access their own files but cant actually change the applications that are on there because the applications are at the top level. and you can actually change some of the main system settings either just your local system preferences.
Now if you do everything the "right way" which is up to you really, you can have some interesting things going on, for instance if everything you create whether is a word document or a photoshop photo whatever it is everything creates in the documents folder, then you can simply backup all you files by backing up only the documents folder. likewise you might also do the same for movies music pictures, you put all your pictures in the pictures folder, under iphoto you know you can back up all your photos just by backing up the pictures folder. you also know if you need to transfer something to another machine or something you can just use these folders . in the old days people used to store documents in application folders, on the main level of the hard drive places like that. it gets really confusing when you want to move your machine or if you need to rescue data off the machine if the hard drive fails. here this makes it real easy to deal with when in fact you back up your entire user folder you should be able to recreate your user at any machine that you want. Same thing for applications you go ahead and save everything at the applications level. you know you have a backup of all your apps. now all your should be installed by installers or install cd's or DVDs you should be able to lose all you applications folder , simply run all your installers again and get all your applications back
this also helps when your searching for files under spotlight. if your files can be anywhere on your machine then searching for its gonna be tough, its gotta go through all the system folders and applications folders, but if you know all your files are going to be in the user folder or your documents folder, you can just search in those specific locations and find files very quickly with spotlight.
if you work in a small group or small company it can also be very useful for everybody to get together and decide how their gonna store all the files preferably in the documents folder, movie folder, ext. this way if somebody is out and need to access some file they got thats important you know exactly where to look.
until next time this is Gary Rosenzweig with MacMost now

Comments: One Response to “MacMost Now 69: OS X Directory Basics”

    11 years ago

    Hi, I regularly watch your podcasts. I enjoy them.
    What is the difference between “root” use vs “admin” user.
    Some files won’t get deleted, eventhough i have admin previlages. Keep asking “root” user access.

    Thanks for any info

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