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  1. Opening and Saving: Opening Files
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This chapter covers what are likely to be the most common problems confronting a Mac OS X user: opening and saving files, copying and moving files, and deleting files. When these operations work the way they should, they are quite easy to accomplish. Due to the nature of Mac OS X, however, sooner or later (more likely sooner), you will have a problem with at least one of these operations. When you do, this chapter is the place to turn.
This chapter is from the book
Mac 0S X Disaster Relief: Troubleshooting Techniques to Help Fix It Yourself

This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Mac 0S X Disaster Relief: Troubleshooting Techniques to Help Fix It Yourself

In This Chapter


Opening and Saving: Opening Files

From the Finder
From the Recent Items menu
From the Dock
From the Contextual Menu
From third-party utilities
From within an application: the Open command

Opening and Saving: Saving

Losing track of saved files
Export instead of Save
TextEdit can't save files in SimpleText format

Opening and Saving: Problems Opening Files

'Item {name of item} is used by Mac OS X and cannot be opened'
'There is no application to open the document'
Document opens in the wrong application
File is corrupted
File is compressed or encoded
Problems with .app files
Permissions/privileges problems with opening files

Copying and Moving: Copying vs. Moving vs. Duplicating Files

The basics
Beyond the basics

Copying and Moving: Problems Copying and Moving Files

Insufficient space
File is corrupted
File does not appear after being moved
Permissions/privileges problems with copying/moving files
Accessing other users' folders
Sticky bits and the Drop Box
SetUID and 'Items could not be copied' error
Copying to back up

Aliases and Symbolic Links

How to recognize an alias
How to locate an original via its alias
How to create an alias
Fixing a broken alias link
Aliases vs. symbolic links: What's difference?
Determine whether a file is a symbolic link or an alias
Create a symbolic link
'Desktop (Mac OS 9)' file is a symbolic link
Symbolic links and hierarchical menus in the Dock
Fixing a broken symbolic link

Deleting: Using the Trash

Place items in Trash
Empty the Trash
Show warning
Eject/Disconnect and Burn icons

Deleting: Problems Deleting Files

Locked files
Too many aliases
Unlocked item cannot be placed in Trash or Trash cannot be emptied
Use Unix to delete files
Can't eject/unmount disks

Invisible Files: What Files Are Invisible?

Files that begin with a dot (.)
Files in the .hidden list
Files with the Invisible (Hidden) bit set

Invisible Files: Making Invisible Files Visible (and Vice Versa)

Toggle a file's Invisible bit
Add or remove a dot at the start of a file name
Use TinkerTool or PropertyList Editor to make invisible files visible
Use the Finder's Go to Folder command
Use an application that lists invisible files in its Open dialog box

Invisible Files: Working with Invisible Files

Saving movie trailers that have the Save option disabled.
Saving the Stickies database file
Modifying Unix files

Maximizing Performance

Not enough memory
Too slow a processor
Not enough free space on the drive (especially for the swap file)
Too slow an Internet connection
Miscellaneous other tips

Quick Fixes

Files do not open in Mac OS 9
Can't copy and paste from Classic to Mac OS X
Date & Time settings
Can't select window

Opening and Saving: Opening Files

If you are familiar with opening files in Mac OS 9, the basics of doing so in Mac OS X are very similar. Here's how the process works.

From the Finder

To open any file, be it an application or a document, locate its icon (or name, if you are in List view) in a Finder window. Double-click the icon/name, and the file will open.

Applications. If you choose to open an application, it simply launches. Its icon appears in the Dock (if it is not already there as a permanent member of the Dock) and starts to bounce until the application is done opening. Thanks to Mac OS X's preemptive multitasking, if an application is taking a long time to launch, you needn't wait for it before doing something else; you can still work with other applications.

Open the application needed to work with the document (assuming that the application is not already open). Thus, if you double-click an AppleWorks document, this action will force AppleWorks to launch and the document to open within AppleWorks. If the Finder is uncertain what application goes with your document, you may have some trouble. One way to resolve this problem is to drag the document icon to the application icon.

From the Recent Items menu

You can choose applications or documents from the Apple menu's Recent Items submenu and launch them from there.

From the Dock

You can single-click any application icon in the Dock, or any application or document in a Dock menu, and the application will launch.

If an application has an icon in the Dock—either a permanent icon or one that appeared when you launched the application—you should be able to open a document with that application by dragging the document icon to the application icon in the Dock.

Figure 6.1 Applications listed in (left) Recent Items and (right) a Dock menu.

From the Contextual Menu

Control-click an item in the Finder, and its contextual menu will appear. One of the items in the contextual menu will be Open. Select it, and the item will launch.


From third-party utilities

An assortment of third-party (non-Apple) launcher utilities is available. DragThing and Drop Drawers are two popular choices. You can access and open any file from these utilities, just as you can from the Finder. A utility called SNAX even acts as a complete replacement for the Finder, offering some enhanced features that are not available in the standard Mac OS X issue.

If you have several applications open, you can also use third-party utilities to navigate among them, rather than the Dock. My favorite is ASM, a utility that brings back the Mac OS 9 Application menu, which lists each open application in a menu at the right end of the menu bar.

From within an application: the Open command

For documents, a final option is to open a document via the Open command in the File menu of an application. This command can be used only to open documents that the application believes it is able to open. Otherwise, the documents will not be listed or will be dimmed and unselectable.

The exact style of, and options available for, the Open dialog box will vary a bit among applications, but all versions of the dialog box have basic elements in common. I'll use the Open dialog box in Microsoft Word as an example.

File list. The middle of the dialog box contains a list of files in the column-view format of the Finder. You can use the horizontal slider along the bottom to navigate to any place on the drive. Click a folder, and its contents appear in the column to the right. Click a file that the application can open, and the Open button is enabled. Click the Open button (or simply double-click the file name), and the file opens.

A shortcut tip: Type Command-D when the Open dialog box is frontmost and the column listing instantly shifts to highlight the Mac OS X Desktop.

From pop-up menu. You can also navigate to a particular location by choosing a folder from the From pop-up menu above the file listing. This menu contains some basic locations (such as Home and Desktop) as well as recently visited folders and folders you have added to your Favorites list (such as via the Add to Favorites button in the bottom-left corner of the Open dialog box).

Go To text box. You can also use the Go To text box to navigate to a particular location. To do so, enter the file's Unix path name. Typing ~/Documents, for example, will take you to the Documents folder in your Home directory.


Chapter 10 for more information on Unix path names.

Drag and drop. Another option is to drag the icon of a file from its Finder location to the Open window. As a result of this action, the listing will shift to the location of the file, with the Open button enabled. Just click Open, and the document opens. Why do this instead of simply double-clicking the file in the Finder? Some documents can be opened in several applications. If you want the file to open in an application other than the one in which it normally opens when you double-click it in the Finder, this method is one way to do so.

Figure 6.2 The Open dialog box in Microsoft Word, with the From pop-up menu visible.

Show pop-up menu. Finally, if the document you want to open is not visible in the window, or is dimmed and cannot be selected, you may be able to open it by changing the selection in the Show pop-up menu. For Word, you could shift from the default choice of All Word Documents to a more-inclusive choice, such as All Documents. Just be aware that trying to open a document that is not intended for an application can have unpredictable results. The document window may be blank, for example, even though the file contains data. Or the file may be an almost-nonsensical string of characters (as might happen if you try to open some graphics files as text in a word processor).

Figure 6.3 The Open dialog box in Microsoft Word, with the Show pop-up menu visible.

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So, you’ve decided to download an older version of Mac OS X. There are many reasons that could point you to this radical decision. To begin with, some of your apps may not be working properly (or simply crash) on newer operating systems. Also, you may have noticed your Mac’s performance went down right after the last update. Finally, if you want to run a parallel copy of Mac OS X on a virtual machine, you too will need a working installation file of an older Mac OS X. Further down we’ll explain where to get one and what problems you may face down the road.

A list of all Mac OS X versions

We’ll be repeatedly referring to these Apple OS versions below, so it’s good to know the basic macOS timeline.

Cheetah 10.0Puma 10.1Jaguar 10.2
Panther 10.3Tiger 10.4Leopard 10.5
Snow Leopard 10.6Lion 10.7Mountain Lion 10.8
Mavericks 10.9Yosemite 10.10El Capitan 10.11
Sierra 10.12High Sierra 10.13Mojave 10.14
Catalina 10.15

STEP 1. Prepare your Mac for installation

Given your Mac isn’t new and is filled with data, you will probably need enough free space on your Mac. This includes not just space for the OS itself but also space for other applications and your user data. One more argument is that the free space on your disk translates into virtual memory so your apps have “fuel” to operate on. The chart below tells you how much free space is needed.

Note, that it is recommended that you install OS on a clean drive. Next, you will need enough disk space available, for example, to create Recovery Partition. Here are some ideas to free up space on your drive:

  • Uninstall large unused apps
  • Empty Trash Bin and Downloads
  • Locate the biggest files on your computer:

Go to Finder > All My Files > Arrange by size
Then you can move your space hoggers onto an external drive or a cloud storage.
If you aren’t comfortable with cleaning the Mac manually, there are some nice automatic “room cleaners”. Our favorite is CleanMyMac as it’s most simple to use of all. It deletes system junk, old broken apps, and the rest of hidden junk on your drive.

Download CleanMyMac for OS 10.4 - 10.8 (free version)

Download CleanMyMac for OS 10.9 (free version)

Download CleanMyMac for OS 10.10 - 10.14 (free version)

STEP 2. Get a copy of Mac OS X download

Normally, it is assumed that updating OS is a one-way road. That’s why going back to a past Apple OS version is problematic. The main challenge is to download the OS installation file itself, because your Mac may already be running a newer version. If you succeed in downloading the OS installation, your next step is to create a bootable USB or DVD and then reinstall the OS on your computer.

How to download older Mac OS X versions via the App Store

If you once had purchased an old version of Mac OS X from the App Store, open it and go to the Purchased tab. There you’ll find all the installers you can download. However, it doesn’t always work that way. The purchased section lists only those operating systems that you had downloaded in the past. But here is the path to check it:

  1. Click the App Store icon.
  2. Click Purchases in the top menu.
  3. Scroll down to find the preferred OS X version.
  4. Click Download.

This method allows you to download Mavericks and Yosemite by logging with your Apple ID — only if you previously downloaded them from the Mac App Store.

Without App Store: Download Mac OS version as Apple Developer

If you are signed with an Apple Developer account, you can get access to products that are no longer listed on the App Store. If you desperately need a lower OS X version build, consider creating a new Developer account among other options. The membership cost is $99/year and provides a bunch of perks unavailable to ordinary users.

Nevertheless, keep in mind that if you visit, you can only find 10.3-10.6 OS X operating systems there. Newer versions are not available because starting Mac OS X Snow Leopard 10.7, the App Store has become the only source of updating Apple OS versions.

Purchase an older version of Mac operating system

You can purchase a boxed or email version of past Mac OS X directly from Apple. Both will cost you around $20. For the reason of being rather antiquated, Snow Leopard and earlier Apple versions can only be installed from DVD.

Buy a boxed edition of Snow Leopard 10.6
Get an email copy of Lion 10.7
Get an email copy of Mountain Lion 10.8

The email edition comes with a special download code you can use for the Mac App Store. Note, that to install the Lion or Mountain Lion, your Mac needs to be running Snow Leopard so you can install the newer OS on top of it.

How to get macOS El Capitan download

If you are wondering if you can run El Capitan on an older Mac, rejoice as it’s possible too. But before your Mac can run El Capitan it has to be updated to OS X 10.6.8. So, here are main steps you should take:

1. Install Snow Leopard from install DVD.
2. Update to 10.6.8 using Software Update.
3. Download El Capitan here.

“I can’t download an old version of Mac OS X”

If you have a newer Mac, there is no physical option to install Mac OS versions older than your current Mac model. For instance, if your MacBook was released in 2014, don’t expect it to run any OS released prior of that time, because older Apple OS versions simply do not include hardware drivers for your Mac.

But as it often happens, workarounds are possible. There is still a chance to download the installation file if you have an access to a Mac (or virtual machine) running that operating system. For example, to get an installer for Lion, you may ask a friend who has Lion-operated Mac or, once again, set up a virtual machine running Lion. Then you will need to prepare an external drive to download the installation file using OS X Utilities.

Mac Os X Find License File Application

After you’ve completed the download, the installer should launch automatically, but you can click Cancel and copy the file you need. Below is the detailed instruction how to do it.

STEP 3. Install older OS X onto an external drive

The following method allows you to download Mac OS X Lion, Mountain Lion, and Mavericks.

  1. Start your Mac holding down Command + R.
  2. Prepare a clean external drive (at least 10 GB of storage).
  3. Within OS X Utilities, choose Reinstall OS X.
  4. Select external drive as a source.
  5. Enter your Apple ID.

Now the OS should start downloading automatically onto the external drive. After the download is complete, your Mac will prompt you to do a restart, but at this point, you should completely shut it down. Now that the installation file is “captured” onto your external drive, you can reinstall the OS, this time running the file on your Mac.

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  1. Boot your Mac from your standard drive.
  2. Connect the external drive.
  3. Go to external drive > OS X Install Data.

Locate InstallESD.dmg disk image file — this is the file you need to reinstall Lion OS X. The same steps are valid for Mountain Lion and Mavericks.

How to downgrade a Mac running later macOS versions

If your Mac runs macOS Sierra 10.12 or macOS High Sierra 10.13, it is possible to revert it to the previous system if you are not satisfied with the experience. You can do it either with Time Machine or by creating a bootable USB or external drive.
Instruction to downgrade from macOS Sierra

Instruction to downgrade from macOS High Sierra

Instruction to downgrade from macOS Mojave

Mac Os License Cost

Instruction to downgrade from macOS Catalina

Before you do it, the best advice is to back your Mac up so your most important files stay intact. In addition to that, it makes sense to clean up your Mac from old system junk files and application leftovers. The easiest way to do it is to run CleanMyMac X on your machine (download it for free here).

Visit your local Apple Store to download older OS X version

If none of the options to get older OS X worked, pay a visit to nearest local Apple Store. They should have image installations going back to OS Leopard and earlier. You can also ask their assistance to create a bootable USB drive with the installation file. So here you are. We hope this article has helped you to download an old version of Mac OS X. Below are a few more links you may find interesting.

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