- 13.3. Accessing Shared Files
So far in this chapter, you've read about setting up a Mac so that people at other
computers can access its files.
Now comes the payoff: sitting at another computer and connecting to the one you set up.
There are two ways to go about it: You can use Leopard's new, streamlined Sidebar
network, or you can use the older, more flexible Connect to Server command. The
following pages cover both methods.
13.3.1. Connection Method A: Use the Sidebar
Suppose, then, that you're seated in front of your Mac, and you want to see the files on
another Mac on the network. Proceed like this:
1. Open any Finder window.
In the Shared category of the Sidebar at the left side of the window, icons for all
the computers on the network appear. See Figure 13-8.
Tip: The same Sidebar items show up in the Save and Open dialog boxes of your
programs, too, making the entire network available to you for opening and saving
If you don't see a certain Mac's icon here, it might be turned off, it might not be on
the network, or it might have File Sharing turned off. (And if you don't see any
computers at all in the Sidebar, then your computer might not be on the network.
Or maybe you've turned off the checkboxes for "Connected Servers" and "Bonjour
Computers" in Finder Preferences Sidebar.)
Figure 13-8. Macs often appear in the Sidebar with model-specific names
(MacBook, iMac, and so on). Other computers (like PCs) have generic blue
monitors. When you click All in the Sidebar, you see both the icons of
individual computers and the icons of network chunks (like AppleTalk zones
and Windows workgroups).
- POWER USERS' CLINIC
What You Can See
What You Can See Precisely which other folders you can see on the remote
Mac depend on what kind of account you have there: Guest, Standard, or
Administrator. (See the previous chapter.)
If you're using the Guest account, you can see only the Public and Drop Box
folders. The rest of the Mac is invisible and off limits to you.
If you have a Standard account, you can see other people's Public and Drop Box
folders, plus your own Home folder.
(Of course, those are just the factory settings; somebody could have turned on
sharing for additional folders.)
If you're an administrator, you get to see icons for the account-holder folders
and the hard drive itself to which you're connecting. In fact, you even get to see
the names of any other disks connected to that Mac.
If you, O lucky administrator, open the hard drive, you'll discover that you also
the freedom to see and manipulate the contents of the Applications, Desktop,
Library, and Users Shared folders.
You can even see what folders are in other users' Home folders, although you
can't open them or put anything into them.
Finally, as described in the previous chapter, there's the root user. This account
has complete freedom to move or delete any file or folder anywhere, including
critical system files that could disable your Mac. Section 16.9 has the details.
If there are more than six icons in the Sidebar, or if you're on a corporate-style
network that has sub-chunks like nodes or workgroups, you also see an icon called
All. Click it to see the full list of network entities that your Mac can see: not just
individual Mac, Windows, and Unix machines, but also any "network
neighborhoods" (limbs of your network tree). For example, you may see the
- names of AppleTalk zones (clusters of machines, as found in big companies and
Or, if you're trying to tap into a Windows machine, open the icon representing the
workgroup (computer cluster) that contains the machine you want. In small office
networks, it's usually called MSHOME or WORKGROUP. In big corporations,
these workgroups can be called almost anything —as long as it's no more than 12
letters long with no punctuation. (Thanks, Microsoft.)
If you do see icons for workgroups or other network "zones," double-click your
way until you're seeing the icons for individual computers.
Note: If you're a network nerd, you may be interested to note that Mac OS X 10.5
can "see" servers that use the SMB/CIFS, NFS, FTP, and WebDAV protocols
running on Mac OS X Server, AppleShare, Unix, Linux, Novell NetWare,
Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Vista servers. But
Sidebar reveals only the shared computers on your subnet (your local, internal
office network). (It also shows Back to My Mac if it's set up; see Section 184.108.40.206.)
2. Click the computer whose files you want to open.
In the main window, you now see the icons for each account holder on that
computer: Mom, Dad, Sissy, whatever. If you have an account on the other
computer, you'll see a folder representing your stuff, too (Figure 13-9).
Figure 13-9. Without requiring any name or password on the other Mac, you
have full access to anything the other account holders have left in their Public
folders. (There's a Public folder in everyone's Home folder.) At this point,
you're considered a Guest.
At this point, the remaining instructions diverge, depending on whether you want
to access other people's stuff or your stuff. That's why there are two alternative
versions of step 3 here:
3. a. If you want to access the stuff that somebody else has left for you, double-click
that person's Public folder.
- Instantly, the icon for that folder appears on your desktop, and an Eject button
appears beside the computer's name in the Sidebar. (You can turn off both of
those visual signals in Finder Preferences.)
In this situation, you're only a Guest. You don't have to bother with a password.
On the other hand, the only thing you can generally see inside the other person's
account folder is his Public folder.
Tip: Actually, you might see other folders here —if the account holder has
specifically shared them and decided that you're important enough to have access
to them, as described on Section 13.2.2.
One thing you'll find inside the Public folder is the Drop Box folder. This folder
exists so that you can give files and folders to the other person. You can drop any
of your own icons onto the Drop Box folder —but you can't open the Drop Box
folder to see what other people have put there. It's one-way, like a mail slot in
somebody's front door.
If you see anything else at all in the Public folder you've opened, then it's stuff that
the account holder has copied there for the enjoyment of you and your network
mates. You're not allowed to delete anything from the other person's Public folder
or make changes to them.
Figure 13-10. Top: You can sign in to your account on another Mac on the
network (even while somebody else is actually using that Mac in person).
Click Connect As (top right), and then enter your name and password. Turn
on "Remember this password" to speed up the process for next time.
The Action ( ) pop-up menu offers a Change Password that gives you the
opportunity to change your account password on the other machine, just in
case you suspect someone saw what you typed.
Bottom: No matter which method you use to connect to a shared folder or
disk, its icon shows up in the Sidebar. It's easy to disconnect, thanks to the
- You can, however, open those icons, read them, or even copy them to your Mac
— and then edit your copies.
b. To access your own Home folder on the other Mac, click it, and then click the
Connect As button (Figure 13-10). Sign in as usual.
When the "Connect to the file server" box appears, you're supposed to specify
your account name and password (from the Mac you're tapping into). This is the
same name and password you'd use to log in if you were actually sitting at that
Type your short user name and password. (If you're not sure what your short user
name is, open System Preferences on your home-base Mac, click Accounts, and
then click your account name.) And if you didn't set up a password for your
account, leave the password box empty.
Tip: The dialog box shown in Figure 13-10 includes the delightful and timesaving
"Remember this password in my keychain" option, which makes the Mac
memorize your password for a certain disk so you don't have to type it —or even
see this dialog box —every darned time you connect. (If you have no password,
though, the "Remember password" doesn't work, and you'll have to confront —
and press Enter to dismiss —the "Connect to the file server" box every time.)
When you click Connect (or press Return or Enter), your own Home folder on the
other Mac appears. Its icon shows up on your desktop, and a little button
appears next to its name. Click it to disconnect.
Tip: Once you've connected to a Mac using your account, the other Mac has a lock
on your identity. You'll be able to connect to the other Mac over and over again
during this same computing session, without ever having to retype your password.
In the meantime, you can double-click icons to open them, make copies of them,
and otherwise manipulate them exactly as though they were icons on your own
hard drive. Depending on what permissions you've been given, you can even edit
or trash those files.
- Tip: There's one significant difference between working with "local" icons and
working with those that sit elsewhere on the network. When you delete a file from
another Mac on the network, either by pressing the Delete key or by dragging it to
the Trash, a message appears to let you know that you're about to delete that item
instantly and permanently. It won't simply land in the Trash "folder," awaiting the
Empty Trash command.
You can even use Spotlight to find files on that networked disk. If the Mac across
the network is running Leopard, in fact, you can search for words inside its files,
just as though you were sitting in front of it. If not, you can search only for text in
13.3.2. Connection Method B: Connect to Server
The Sidebar method of connecting to networked folders and disks is practically effortless.
It involves nothing more than clicking your way through folders —a skill that, in theory,
you already know.
But the Sidebar method lacks some advantages of the older "Connect to Server" method
of Mac OS X versions gone by. For example, the Sidebar method doesn't let you type in a
disk's network address. As a result, you can't access any shared disk on the Internet (an
FTP site, for example), or indeed anywhere beyond your local subnet (your own small
Fortunately, there's another way. When you choose Go Connect to Server, you get the
dialog box shown in Figure 13-11. You're supposed to type in the address of the shared
disk you want.
Figure 13-11. The Sidebar method of connecting to shared disks and folders is quick
and easy, but it doesn't let you connect to certain kinds of disks. The Connect to
Server method entails plodding through several dialog boxes and doesn't let you
browse for shared disks, but it can find just about every kind of networked disk.
For example, from here, you can connect to:
- • Everyday Macs on your network. If you know the IP address of the Mac you're
trying to access (you geek!), you can type nothing but its IP address into the box
and then hit Connect.
And if the other Mac runs Mac OS X 10.2 or later, you can just type its Bonjour
(Rendezvous) name: afp://upstairs-PowerMac.local/.
Tip: To find out your Mac's IP address, open the Network pane of System
Preferences. There, near the top, you'll see a message like this: "AirPort is
connected to Tim's Hotspot and has the IP address 192.168.1.113." That's your IP
address.To see your Bonjour address, open the Sharing pane of System
Preferences pane. Click File Sharing. Near the top, you'll see the computer name
with ".local" tacked onto its name —and hyphens instead of spaces —like this:
After you enter your account password and choose the shared disk or folder you
want, its icon appears on your desktop and in the Sidebar. You're connected
exactly as though you had clicked Connect As (Figure 13-10).
The next time you open the Connect to Server dialog box, Mac OS X remembers
that address, as a courtesy to you, and shows it pre-entered in the Address field.
• Macs across the Internet. If your Mac has a permanent (static) IP address, the
computer itself can be a server, to which you can connect from anywhere in the
world via the Internet. Details on this procedure begin on Section 22.1.
• An iDisk. An iDisk is a file server, too (Section 18.6.1). The easiest way to bring
your own iDisk icon to the screen is to click the iDisk icon in your Sidebar. But
what if you're not using your own Mac? What if you're visiting a friend, and you
want to bring your iDisk to his screen?
In that case, you could choose Go Disk Other User's iDisk —or, if you're a
Connect to Server kind of person, type afp://idisk.mac.com into the Connect to
Server dialog box. When you click Connect, the Mac asks for your iDisk name
and password. Type them in, and after a moment, your iDisk's icon pops up on the
• Windows machines. Find out the PC's IP address or computer name, and then use
this format for the address: smb://192.168.1.34 or smb://Cheapo-Dell.
- After a moment, you're asked to enter your Windows account name and password,
and then to choose the name of the shared folder you want. When you click OK,
the shared folder appears on your desktop as an icon, ready to use. (More on
sharing with Windows PCs later in this chapter.)
Tip: If you know the name of the shared folder, you can add that after a slash, like
this: smb://192.168.4.23/ sharedstuff. You save yourself one dialog box.
GEM IN THE ROUGH
Faster Ways to Connect Next Time
If you expect that you might want to access a shared disk or folder again later,
take a moment to make an alias of it. (For example, Control-click it and choose
Make Alias from the shortcut menu.)
Next time, you can bring it back to your screen later just by double-clicking the
alias. And if you turned on "Remember this password in my keychain," you
won't even be asked for your name and password again.
Similarly, if you drag a shared folder into the Dock, you can bring it back to
your screen later just by clicking its icon.
You can even drag its icon into the Login Items window described on Section
9.16. Now the disk appears on your desktop automatically each time you log in
—the most effortless arrangement of all.
• NFS servers. If you're on a network with Unix machines, you can tap into one of
their shared directories using this address format: nfs://Machine-Name/pathname,
where Machine-Name is the computer's name or IP address, and pathname is the
folder path (Section 1.2.4) to the shared item you want.
• FTP servers. Mac OS X makes it simple to bring FTP servers onto your screen,
too. (These are the drives, out there on the Internet, that store the files used by
In the Connect to Server dialog box, type the FTP address of the server you want,
like this: www.apple.com. If the site's administrators have permitted anonymous
- access —the equivalent of a Guest account —that's all there is to it. A Finder
window pops open, revealing the FTP site's contents.
If you need a password for the FTP site, however, what you type into the Connect
to Server dialog box should incorporate the account name you've been given, like
this: firstname.lastname@example.org. You'll be asked for your password.
UP TO SPEED
Throughout this chapter, and throughout this book, you'll encounter rituals in
which you're supposed to connect to another Mac, server, or printer by typing in
its IP address (its unique network address).
But first of all, IP addresses are insanely difficult to memorize (220.127.116.11,
anyone?). Second, networks shouldn't require you to deal with them anyway. If
a piece of equipment is on the network, it should announce its presence, rather
than making you specifically call for it by name.
Now you can appreciate the beauty of Bonjour (formerly Rendezvous), an
underlying Mac OS X networking technology that lets networked gadgets detect
each other on the network automatically and recognize each other's capabilities.
It's Bonjour at work, for example, that makes other Macs' names show up in
your iTunes program so that you can listen to their music from across the
network. Bonjour is also responsible for filling up your Bonjour buddy list in
iChat automatically, listing everyone who's on the same office network; for
making shared Macs' names show up in the Sidebar's Network icon; and for
making the names of modern laser printers from HP, Epson, or Lexmark appear
like magic in the list of printers in the Print dialog box.
And if you're lucky enough to have (a) a TiVo Series 2 (or later) video recorder
for your television, (b) a home network that connects it with your Mac, and (c)
TiVo's Home Networking Option, you already know that your Mac's name
magically appears on the TiVo screen. This allows you to play your iTunes
music, or put on a slide show of your iPhoto pictures, right on the TV. Once
again, it's Bonjour at work.
It's even more tantalizing to contemplate the future of Bonjour. To
quotewww.zeroconf.org, whose underlying technology forms the basis of
"The long-term goal of Zeroconf is to enable the creation of entirely new kinds
- of networked products, products that today would simply not be commercially
viable because of the inconvenience and support costs involved in setting up,
configuring, and maintaining a network to allow them to operate."
But that's just the beginning. If electronics companies show interest (and some
have already), you may someday be able to connect the TV, stereo, and DVD
player with just a couple of Ethernet cables, instead of a rat's nest of audio and
For most of us, that day can't come soon enough.
Tip: You can even eliminate that password-dialog box step by using this address
Once you type it and press Return, the FTP server appears as a disk icon on your
desktop (and in the Sidebar). Its contents appear, ready to open or copy.
• WebDAV server. This special Web-based shared disk requires a special address
format, like this: http://Computer-Name/pathname. (Technically, the iDisk is a
WebDAV server —but there are far user-friendlier ways to get at it.)
In each case, once you click OK, you may be asked for your name and password.
And now, some timesaving features in the Connect to Server box:
• Once you've typed a disk's address, you can click+to add it to the list of server
favorites. The next time you want to connect, you can just double-click its name.
• The clock-icon pop-up menu lists Recent Servers —computers you've accessed
recently over the network. If you choose one of them from this pop-up menu, you
can skip having to type in an address.
Tip: Like the Sidebar network-browsing method, the Connect to Server command
displays each connected computer as an icon in your Sidebar, even within the Open or
Save dialog boxes of your programs. You don't have to burrow through the Sidebar's
Network icon to open files from them, or save files onto them.
- 13.3.3. Disconnecting Yourself
When you're finished using a shared disk or folder, you can disconnect from it by
clicking the icon next to its name in the Sidebar.
13.3.4. Disconnecting Others
In Mac OS X, you really have to work if you want to know whether other people on the
network are accessing your Mac. You have to choose System Preferences Sharing
File Sharing Options. There you'll see something like, "Number of users
connected: 1." (See Figure 13-12.)
Figure 13-12. This dialog box asks you how much notice you want to give your co-
workers that they're about to be disconnected, and what message to send them
before the axe falls.
Maybe that's because there's nothing to worry about. You certainly have nothing to fear
from a security standpoint, since people from across the network are allowed to access
only their own folders. Nor will you experience much computer slowdown as you work,
thanks to Mac OS X's prodigious multitasking features.
Still, if you're feeling particularly antisocial, you can slam shut the door to your Mac just
by turning off the File Sharing feature. Click System Preferences in the Dock, click the
Sharing icon, and turn off File Sharing.
If anybody is, in fact, connected to your Mac at the time (from aMac), you see the dialog
box in Figure 13-12. If not, your Mac instantly becomes an island once again.