Software on your Mac, how to get, install and use

How do I get new programs for my Mac?
The easiest way is through the App Store: a direct link to a secure and trustful virtual shop where you can buy and download your software. You can find the App Store in the Apple Menu:

NOTE: buying from the Apple Store requires an internet connection

Other sources

Not all developers sell their software at the Apple Store. Visit the website of the original manufacturer to get your software. Do not use other websites! Malware has been served multiple times through software collection websites.

Be careful to get your software through sources like advertisements on websites or Usenet / Bittorrent.
You'll never know if the software is working properly. It could contain Malware. More about Malware in the Security Chapter.

Copy software by drag and drop

Many programs do not need to be installed, just copied. Just drag them into the appropriate folder (/Applications) on your hard drive.

Installing software
Sometimes programs do need to be installed. This means that the program has to add more items to your Mac, and at different places. You'll see the word 'installer' or '.pkg' in the name of the file you download.
NOTE: Keep your administrator password at hand!


Some programs are packaged as a Disk iMaGe (.dmg). When unpacked (double click) they become a virtual hard disk on your desktop. This virtual disk just works like a real one. It appears on your Desktop and in the Sidebar. After using, you just eject these disks. You can choose to archive the .dmg file if you want.

Watch your System version!
See to it that your software is suitable for your MacOS version. Software from App Store is always OK. They know exactly what your Mac is using as an operating system. The apps you download will always fit your Mac.

How do I know what operating system my Mac has?

Go to the Apple Menu and select 'About this Mac':

An example of downloading and installing software: the App Store
As real Dutch person, MacMiep loves to save money, so we'll download a free program as an example. We'll use MacTracker, a program that shows you all the Mac's that were ever made and tells about their specifications.

1. Use the search field to look for the program you want.

2. Click the 'Download' button to download the App

3. Click the 'Install App' button to get the program on your Mac.

4. Log in with your your Apple ID (yes, also with free software):

NOTE: Don't you have one yet, choose "New Apple ID"

Depending on how large it is, the program will appear sooner or later.

And there it is, in the Applications folder:

Now you can dive into the whole history of the Apple Macintosh!

NOTE: If you wish, you can throw the new program in the Dock or even in the Side Bar. Choose what you like best. There are more roads leading to Rome on a Mac.

An example: downloading and installing without the App Store: Google Chrome
1. download the program from the Google-website.

You'll find it as a .dmg in your Downloads folder:

2. Double-click on the .dmg to open it.

A virtual disc will appear in the Side Bar at DEVICES:

3. The program's on this disk. Drag & drop the program into your own 'Applications' folder:

4. Now Chrome appears in the Applications folder:


NOTE: The virtual disc you used can be ejected; you don't need it anymore

Start up an Program

Double-click the program to start it up.

Put your new program in the Dock
Don't forget to drag and drop your new program into the Dock!

Open at login
Are you planning to use Chrome a lot? Right click on it's dock icon for a menu and choose 'Open at login'.

Warning after downloading software

Did you download a program from the internet, like we just did with Chrome? The first time you'll start that program you'll get a message:

This is a security measure to protect you from downloading and installing something you didn't want.

Working with installers is easy. Double click the installer icon and follow the instructions on screen.
It could be that you need to fill in a serial number or make an account at the software vendor. For example, Adobe CS software needs this.

Here below, we'll install Flash only as an example.
However, Flash is obsolete and a huge security risc due to many leaks.
Don't use it, if possible. You don't need it anymore. Maybe with some online games. If you are obliged to use it, keep it updatet to the latest version, always ASAP.

Download the software

Only to find at, not from other sources!
Flash will download as a .dmg, but you can also find .zip or .pkg files.

Look in the Downloads folder
Software is downloaded in the Downloads folder. Double click on the .dmg file. A virtual disc wil appear:

Open the virtual disk
A file will be on it:

Double click this file to start te installer and follow the information at your screen.
MacOS gives you a warning to prevent downloading programs by accident:

Keep your Administrator password at hand!

NOTE: In case you use Flash, keep the program up-to-date.
You can find the settings for Flash updates in System Preferences => Flash, at the Updates tab.

More about security risks of software in the Security chapter.

Restart needed
Some software has to add things deeply in your operating system. In
case after installation the installer asks for a Restart, do this immediately.

Software developers try to make their products better and better. Updates you can find in the App Store at Updates.

Software that cannot be found in the App store often has it's own method of updating. Mostly you get a notice that an update has appeared. You can also check for updates yourself. Here I check it in my Dutch version VLC (Video LAN Client).

Update or Upgrade?
There is a difference between an UpDate and and UpGrade.
The first one is a small piece of software to restore errors in the programming, plumb security leaks and add small new features.
And Upgrade is a total overhauling of a program. The manufacturer made a huge effort to make the program better, add new features and let it work with the latest standards.

How can I see the difference between an Update and and Upgrade?
You can see the difference between the two at the version number.
MacOS 10.15 Catalina is the latest Upgrade of MacOS.
MacOS 10.15.1 is an Update to the same MacOS version.

NOTE: Upgrades are usually much larger in file size than an update. It may also be that you have to pay for an Upgrade, and an Update is for free.

In Windows a program has the word .EXE (‘executabele’) behind it's name.You'll never find that on a Mac, unless you decide to install Windows, off course. More about this in the Switching chapter.

There's no program available that can open my file
You have a file, but no program that can open it.

There's a solution:
Right-click on the file and choose Open with => App Store...
Your Mac will now search for suitable programs in the App Store.

Copying something from one program to another

You can use 'Copy' and 'Paste' from the 'Edit' menu (Command C, Command V). But did you know you can drag and drop between different programs? It depends on the program and the file, but you can always try.

Drag and drop
What also works in many cases is 'drag and drop'. Just select a thing with your mouse and drag it to the place you want it. Just try!

Fast switching between programs
Use the shortcut: Command-Tab .
Trackpad-users can 'sweep' with three fingers.

Installing a printer

There are a lot of printer drivers present in MacOS.
Go to Printers & Scanners at the System Preferences. Click the + symbol to add a new printer.

Choose the right kind of printer in the Add window and click the Add button.

NOTE: In case your printer does not appear in the list, you'll need to install its driver software. Otherwise, visit the manufacturers website for the install software.

How do I print a document?

Printing can be found at the File menu as Print...

Make universal PDF documents.
For example, you made a document you want to email somebody. However, that person doesn't have the program the document's made in. No problem at all, you can use the 'Print' command to make a PDF-file. PDF (Portable Document File) is such a common format, almost every computer can read it.

What to do
Open your document and choose 'Print'. Please select "Save as PDF..." instead of "Print".

Burning CD's or DVD's (for whoever still does that)
The moment you put an empty cd (or DVD) in the player, Finder will react with the following:

When you choose 'Open Finder', a cd-icon will appear on the Desktop in the Navigation bar.

You can drag and drop your data on it:

If you want to burn the cd, just click the nuclear icon or drag & drop it into the Trash: Finder will then ask you if you want to burn that cd.

System preferences for cd’s en dvd’s

In System prefs=> Cd’s & dvd’s you can find the preferences for handling full or empty disks.

NOTE: It is also possible to burn a cd directly from the program you're working in. Like iTunes for music, iPhoto for photo's and iDVD for movies. Choosing the 'burn' command will automatically open the cd-tray and make the Mac ask for an empty disc.
NOTE2: Excellent third party software for burning cd's is for example Toast Titanium, and the free Burn.

Spotlight: fast searching
'Search and You will find' is really true on a Mac. The search machine finds in real time file names and file content as you type.

Just click the enlarging glass on the upper right and the search field appears in the middle of your screen:

Use it!!

Search in a Finder Window
It is also possible to search in all Finder Windows:

Shortcut for Spotlight:
Command + Space Bar

NOTE: Users of Adobe software may come into conflict with Adobe's shortcuts for enlargement. Because of that, MacMiep always presses the space-bar first.

Where is Spotlight allowed to search?
You can find this in System Preferences => Spotlight at 'Privacy':

Use the Google search engine

You can use the Google search engine directly from the Finder. Right click on a selected word and choose 'Search with Google':

Safari will open automatically and search for the word. This feature also works in other programs, like Texteditor:

Dictionary and Wikipedia
When you choose 'Look up .....' then your Mac will automatically contact online Wikipedia encyclopedia and a dictionary:

The result is a pop up with the explanation of the word:

Saving documents: the ins and outs
When you made a document in a program, for example the in the word processor TextEdit, mostly you'd like to save it.
You can find the 'Save' command at the File Menu:

Example of saving a document
Let's save a text-file from the TextEdit program. This is a little program, it comes with your Mac and can open and save Word (.doc) files:

Use the Finder structure during saving documents
Use the blue square to pull down the Save window. You'll find the same structure as in the Finder, including the Side Bar. It's also possible to choose the List or Column:

The difference between Save and Save As
'Save As' means that the document gets a totally new name. 'Save' means the document will be saved under the same name and will be overwritten. Mind this!

Save As..
Press the Alt (Option) key and go to the File menu. An extra 'Save As...' will appear:

Disclaimer: MacMiep is independent. This means she writes what she wants, based on 25+ years of Mac-experience. She doesn't get paid for stories (positive or negative) on this website.