OS X glossary

802.11x wireless
A protocol for connections to your Ethernet network and your Apple TV unit.

About window
A modeless window that displays an application’s version and copyright information.

Address Book
The place for addresses, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses on the Mac. You can also add a picture and note about the person.

Admin group
A group with special administrative privileges. For example, only members of the admin group can open locked system preferences or install software.

A user in the admin group. The user who installs Mac OS X is automatically assigned to the admin group. An administrator has fewer privileges than root, but more privileges than a normal user. An administrator cannot create, delete, or move files in the system domain.

AES encryption
Advanced Encryption Standard encryption. A Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS), described in FIPS publication 197. AES has been adopted by the US government for the protection of sensitive, nonclassified information. The algorithm was developed by Dr. Joan Daemen and Dr. Vincent Rijmen and was named the Rijndael algorithm. It is a symmetric-key algorithm that can use key sizes of 128, 192, or 256 bits. Apple has adopted the 128-bit version of AES for FileVault. There are approximately 3.4 x 10**38 possible 128-bit keys.

Apple Filing Protocol. A file-sharing protocol, used by AppleShare servers and clients.

A dialog that appears when the system or an application needs to communicate information to the user. Alerts provide messages about error conditions and warn users about potentially hazardous situations or actions.

A sequence of actions to accomplish some task. In cryptography, refers to a sequence of actions, usually mathematical calculations, performed on data to encrypt or decrypt it.

A lightweight reference to files and folders in Mac OS Standard (HFS) and Mac OS Extended (HFS+) file systems. An alias allows multiple references to files and folders without requiring multiple copies of these items. Aliases are not as fragile as symbolic links because they identify the volume and location on disk of a referenced file or folder; the file or folder can be moved around without breaking the alias.

Apple Help
The component that enables applications to display HTML files in Help Viewer, a simple browser.

Apple menu
A menu that provides items that are available to users at all times, regardless of which application is active. It is the leftmost menu in the menu bar.

A scripting language that makes possible direct control of scriptable applications and scriptable parts of Mac OS X.

A suite of network protocols that is standard on Macintosh computers and can be integrated with other network systems, such as the Internet.

A specific style of program that displays a graphical interface to the user.

The overall appearance and behavior of Mac OS X applications.

A short-range wireless technology that lets your Mac communicate with other compatible gadgets, from up to 30 feet away.

Apple’s technology for zero-configuration networking. Bonjour enables dynamic discovery of services over a network.

A data object that specifies the current media position during playback of a DVD. Because the byte length of a bookmark is known, you can save the bookmark in a file for later use.

A special type of memory that is substantially faster than typical main memory (RAM). When a program asks the CPU to read or write data in memory, it first checks to see whether this data is stored in cache memory (because it will be faster to retrieve or write). Cache sizes are usually quite small though, (under 2 MB) so in order to make use of it, the data must be small enough to fit in the cache.

A Mac OS X application environment that uses procedural programming interfaces derived from earlier versions of the Mac OS.

Certificate Assistant
A utility available through the Keychain Access Utility that can be used to create certificates and keys, request certificates from a certificate authority, and evaluate certificates.

A per-user server (also known as the pasteboard) that enables the transfer of data between applications, including the Finder. This server is shared by all running applications and contains data that the user has cut or copied, as well as other data that one application wants to transfer to another, such as in dragging operations.

An advanced object-oriented development platform in Mac OS X. Cocoa is a set of frameworks used for the rapid development of full-featured applications in the Objective-C language. It is based on the integration of OpenStep, Apple technologies, and Java.

An industry-standard architecture for reliably reproducing color images on various devices (such as scanners, video displays, and printers) and operating systems.

column view
A control that displays textual listings of hierarchical data in vertical columns. Navigation between columns reveals levels of the hierarchy.

command-line utility
A tool without a graphical user interface, typically used in the command-line environment.

A small file that a web site automatically saves on your hard drive. It contains information that the site will use on your future visits. For example, a site might save a cookie to preserve your site preferences for the next time or ¯ in the case of a site such as Amazon.com ¯ to identify you automatically and help customize the offerings that you see.

(1) A text-based login environment that also displays system log messages, kernel panics, and other information. (2) A special window in Mac OS X that displays messages that would be printed to the text console if the GUI were not in use. This window also displays output written to the standard error and standard output streams by applications launched from the Finder.

Content pane
In either browse mode or search mode, a view that displays category information or a document page.

Content view
In Mac OS X applications, the view object that acts as the root for all other views in the window. In iPhone OS applications, the portion of an iPhone window that displays the application’s custom content. Each content view may be represented by one or more actual views and typically presents a single screen’s worth of application content.

Contextual menu
A menu that appears when the user presses the Control key and clicks an interface item. A contextual menu provides convenient access to frequently used commands associated with the item.

Common UNIX Printing System. An open source architecture commonly used by the UNIX community to implement printing.

Custom install
A metapackage or distribution package installation that a user performs after modifying the default option selection.

The core of Mac OS X, Darwin is an open source project that includes the Darwin kernel, the BSD commands and C libraries, and several additional features. The Darwin kernel is synonymous with the Mac OS X kernel.

A user technology for managing HTML-based programs called widgets. Activating the Dashboard via the F12 key displays a layer above the Mac OS X desktop that contains the user’s current set of widgets.

A graphical application used to build and debug Dashboard widgets.

Default keychain
The keychain accessed by certain Keychain Services functions when no other keychain is specified in the function call. For example, newly created keychain items are stored in the default keychain unless a different keychain is specified in the function call. A default keychain is created for each new login account, but the user can use the Keychain Access utility to designate another keychain as the default.

The background on top of which all windows appear; the working environment displayed on Mac computers.

Discoverable mode
Helps other Bluetooth devices find your Mac.

Digital signature
A way to ensure the integrity of a message or other data using public key cryptography. To create a digital signature, the signer generates a message digest of the data and then uses a private key to encrypt the digest. The signature includes the encrypted digest and identifies the signer. Anyone wanting to verify the signature uses the signer’s digital certificate, which contains the public key needed to decrypt the digest and specifies the algorithm used to create the digest.

A file-system object containing zero or more other named objects (files or other directories).

Disc menu
In DVD Player, the main menu from which titles are selected. The disc menu is sometimes called the title menu, which more accurately refers to the menu within a title from which chapters and other features can be selected.

.dmg file
A Mac OS X disk image file.

A user-configurable, onscreen, interface element that provides a simple way for users to launch frequently used applications and documents. It also houses minimized windows and the Trash.

Left-clicking twice in rapid succession while keeping the cursor in the same location.

Drag and drop
The technique of dragging an item, such as a graphic or selected text, and dropping it on a suitable destination, such as another document.

Drag area
The portion of a window that users can use to move the window.

Positioning the cursor on top of a symbol or icon and then holding down the mouse button and rolling the mouse across your desk, which moves the symbol or icon to a new location.

A software program provided by the printer manufacturer that tells Mac OS X how to communicate with your printer.

An Apple technology you can use to add interactivity to a DVD when played on a computer. DVD@ccess makes it possible to open a web browser to display HTML files, or open a program to view PDF, PICT, or JPEG files.

An optical storage medium that provides greater capacity and bandwidth than CD-ROM; DVDs are frequently used for multimedia as well as data storage.

DVD player
(1) A hardware product that decodes and plays DVD-Video media stored on an optical disc. The output device is generally a television set, although some players have built-in displays and speakers. (2) A computer software program that decodes and plays DVD-Video media stored on an optical disc or a mass storage device such as a hard drive.

A standard for storing and reproducing audio and video on DVD-ROM discs, based on MPEG-2 video compression, Dolby Digital and MPEG audio, and other proprietary data formats.

Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol; DHCP
A protocol that enables a computer to automatically get connection information for communicating with a network or your ISP.

Easy install
A metapackage or distribution package installation that a user performs using the default option selection.

Edit menu
A menu that provides commands for changing (editing) the contents of documents. It contains commands such as Cut, Copy, and Paste.

To secure data so that it cannot be read by unauthorized entities, in such a way that its original state can be restored later (decrypted). In most cryptographic systems, encryption and decryption are performed by manipulating the data with a string of bytes called a key.

The transformation of data into a form in which it cannot be made sense of without the use of some key. Such transformed data is referred to as ciphertext. Use of a key to reverse this process and return the data to its original (or plaintext) form is called decryption.

A family of high-speed local area network technologies at the physical layer of the OSI model.

A Mac feature that, with a click of a button, organizes your Mac desktop.

The DRM (digital rights management) system built into Apple’s QuickTime technology and used by the iPod music player, the iTunes music application, and the iTunes store. These systems use FairPlay to encrypt some AAC files to restrict their playback to authorized devices.

File allocation table. A data structure used in the MS-DOS file system. Also synonymous with the file system that uses it. The FAT file system is also used as part of Microsoft Windows and has been adopted for use inside devices such as digital cameras.

A Mac feature that automatically scrambles, or encrypts, the data in your Home folder.

The system application that acts as the primary user interface for file-system interaction.

Software (or a computer running such software) that prevents unauthorized access to a network by users outside the network. (A physical firewall prevents the spread of fire between two physical locations; the software analog prevents the unauthorized spread of data.)

Apple’s implementation of the IEEE 1394 standard serial bus for connecting digital devices such as cameras and hard drives.

Part of the TCP/IP protocol suite; (the hoary acronym FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. FTP is one of the oldest methods for sharing files between computers

Function key
One of the keys with the letter F and a number, plus the Help, Home, Page Up, Page Down, Del, and End keys. Housed on the top row of the Mac keyboard.

In Ink Services, a handwritten mark that is recognized as having a special meaning, such as, Select All, Cut, and Copy.

Help button
A button that opens Help Viewer to the help content appropriate for the context. A help button is a round button with a question mark.

Help Menu
A menu that provides access to the onscreen help documentation for an application.

Hierarchical File System. The Mac OS Standard file-system format, used to represent a collection of files as a hierarchy of directories (folders), each of which may contain either files or other folders. HFS is a two-fork volume format.

Hierarchical File System Plus. The Mac OS Extended file-system format. This format adds support for filenames longer than 31 characters, Unicode representation of file and directory names, and efficient operation on very large disks. HFS+ is a multiple-fork volume format.

Hypertext Transfer Protocol. The client-server TCP/IP protocol used on the web for the exchange of HTML documents.

The Mac’s built-in calendar.

The application that lets you burn movies onto a disk.

Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. An organization of electronics professionals that has established many technology and audio-related standards. Pronounced “eye triple-e.”

IEEE 1394
See FireWire.

A Mac desktop computer.

In the Ink technology, raw data that represents the input drawn by the user with the stylus.

iPhone Dev Center
An Apple developer center that provides all the resources needed to develop iPhone applications. Access to this developer center requires an ADC membership. See also user focus.

iPhone Developer Program
A program that allows you to develop iPhone applications, test them on devices, and distribute them to your customers through the App Store.

The application where you store and touch up digital images.

The application that keeps your calendar, Address Book, and Internet bookmarks synchronized across multiple devices.

Apple’s renowned musical jukebox.

The tool that lets you create personal Web sites, blogs, and podcasts.

Java 2 Platform, Enterprise Edition. A specification that defines a platform for the development and deployment of web applications. It describes an environment under which enterprise beans, servlets, and JSP pages can share resources and work together.

A development environment for creating applications that can be seen in both standalone and networked environments.

Joint Photographic Experts Group. An international standard for compressing still images. This standard supplies the algorithm for image compression. The version of JPEG supplied with QuickTime complies with the baseline ISO standard bitstream, version 9R9. This algorithm is best suited for use with natural images.

An industry-standard protocol created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to provide authentication over a network. It is a symmetric-key, server-based protocol and is used widely in Macintosh, Windows, and UNIX networks.

A database in Mac OS X and iPhone OS used to store encrypted passwords, private keys, and other secrets. It is also used to store certificates and other nonsecret information that is used in cryptography and authentication. The Keychain Manager and Keychain Services are public APIs that can be used to manipulate data in the keychain, and the Keychain Access utility is an application that can be used for the same purpose.

To start up an application that was not previously running.

Launch Services
A Mac OS X application programming interface that enables a running program to open other applications, documents, or URLs in a way similar to the Finder or the Dock.

Lightweight Directory Access Protocol; LDAP
With LDAP, you can search a central company directory from anywhere in the world as long as you have an Internet connection.

Lightweight Extensible Authentication Protocol
An encryption protocol developed by Cisco Systems for superior security in the business world.

login keychain
A keychain automatically created for a new login account. The login keychain is automatically unlocked at login if its password matches that of the user’s login account.

Mac Mini
Apple’s budget desktop computer. Weighing less than 3 pounds, it’s portable, but not in the same sense as a notebook.

Mac OS X
The operating system that Apple included with all new Mac computer systems since 2002.

Mac Pro
A Mac desktop intended for professionals facing demanding graphics and other computing tasks. Its arrival completed the transition of the Mac line to Intel processors.

MacBook Air
Apple’s super-thin Mac. Encased in aluminum with a 13.3-inch display, Air measures just 0.16 inches at its skinniest point and just 0.75 inches at its thickest. But it still boasts a full-size keyboard and very good battery life.

MacBook, MacBook Pro
Apple’s successor to the PowerBook.

man-in-the-middle attack
An attack on a communication channel in which the attacker can intercept messages going between two parties without the communicating parties’ knowledge. Typically, the man in the middle substitutes messages and even cryptographic keys to impersonate one party to the other.

menu bar
The strip at the top of the user’s primary display that contains menu titles. It includes system and application menus.

The application that keeps your e-mail, contacts, and calendar synchronized, no matter what device you’re using.

A structure of time-based data that is managed by QuickTime. A movie may contain sound, video, animation, or a combination of any of these types of data. A QuickTime movie contains one or more tracks; each track represents a single data stream in the movie.

movie preview
A short dynamic representation of a QuickTime movie. Movie previews typically last no more than 3 to 5 seconds, and they should give the user some idea of what the movie contains. You define a movie preview by specifying its start time, its duration, and its tracks.

Network address translation. A scheme that transforms network packets at a gateway so network addresses that are valid on one side of the gateway are translated into addresses that are valid on the other side.

The network administrative information database and information retrieval system for Mac OS X. Many Mac OS X services consult the NetInfo database for their configuration information.

Network interface card
A hardware device that your computer uses to talk to the rest of the network.

Network File System. The main file-sharing protocol used by UNIX systems. An NFS file server allows users on the network to share files on other hosts as if they were on their own local disks.

Open Transport
A legacy communications architecture for implementing network protocols and other communication features on computers running the Mac OS. Open Transport provides a set of programming interfaces that supports, among other things, both the AppleTalk and TCP/IP protocols.

operating software
The software that makes a Mac work.

parental controls
Safety features that let you place limitations on your child’s computer use.

A formatted section of a disk that contains data.

A special document display format developed by Adobe; they display like a printed document but take up minimal space.

A form of Internet fraud where identity thieves, posing as a respectable financial or Internet company, tries to dupe you into clicking phony links to verify personal or account information.


RAID set
A group of multiple separate disks, working together as a team.

RSS feeds: A barebones summary of articles viewable in Safari.

Safari: The Mac’s Web browser.

sidebar: The pane on the far left of the Finder window. It contains your network, hard disk, home folder, applications, documents, movies, and more.

Smart Groups: A way to group contacts in your Address Book.

Smart Mailboxes: Searches for e-mail that matches specific search criteria.

Spotlight: The Mac’s search technology.

start-up disk: The boot drive that contains the Mac OS X system you’re using at the moment

thread : Contains an original message and all related replies, which makes it easy to follow the flow of an e-mail discussion without bouncing around within your Inbox, searching for the next message in the conversation.

trackpad: The smooth surface below your Mac keyboard that’s your laptop’s answer to using a mouse.

USB port: The place on your Mac where you plug in devices you want to connect, such as printers, scanners, digital cameras, and more.

Voiceover: A screen reader designed to make using a Mac easier by speaking the contents of the screen.

widgets: Lightweight programs that generally serve a useful and singular purpose, such as tracking an overnight package.

wireless network: A network that isn’t connected by wires but uses radio waves, instead.

2 Responses to OS X glossary

  1. Rafael Keef says:

    Thank you. Very helpful article.

  2. Joe Larocco says:

    Thanks for this cool post. Anyway i found your blog on google and find it very useful. I’ll be sure to come back again for more!

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