Each palette serves a different purpose. Learning what they are for and what they do is for later. Right now, let's just learn how palettes in general function. Each palette can be dragged around the screen just like an image – by clicking on and holding down the title bar – or be enlarged by dragging the edges with the arrows that appear when you hold the cursor close to the edge of the box.
If you don’t need to use a particular palette, it’s ok to close it. If you need it later, you can go to the Window menu and select it to view it again. In the Windows menu, palettes that are visible will have a check next to them. Clicking in this menu on a checked item will uncheck it (thus hiding it.)
By default, the toolbox is on the left of the screen, and on the right side of the screen are the following palettes: Navigator (+Info), Color (+Swatches and Style), History (+Actions and ToolPresets), and Layers (+Channels and Paths.) It looks like this (see picture at right.) At any time, you can restore the palettes to these default positions by selecting “Window > Workspace > Reset Palette Locations.” (This path is shown in the first picture in this entry.)
All Palettes will minimize (go from big to just a title bar) if you double click the title bar. Double-clicking a minimized bar will make it go back to a normal size.
To hide all the Palettes and Toolbox from your workspace, hit the Tab key. Hitting Tab again will make them return. To hide JUST the Palettes but to keep the Toolbox, hold down “shift” and “tab.” (Seriously. Go to Photoshop and do this to see what happens. It's SO cool. It opens up so much workspace to not have those buggers in the way!)
Some Palettes are grouped together and show as tabs within the Palette Group frame (like Layers/Channels/Paths). If you want to separate a palette from it’s group, click and hold down on the name, and drag it outside the palette box. You can also rearrange palettes from different groups to be in the same box this way. (To get it to dock to a palette and not on it’s own in a new frame, drag and hold over group until you see a black highlight, then let go.) You can also dock a palette to the palette well (at the top right of the screen -- shown in second picture in this entry with red type) by dragging it into that gray box.
Most palettes have their own menus, which can be accessed by clicking on a small circle button with an arrow on it. (mine are located right under the palette’s red close X -- is shown in picture with white text and a pointer.) Some also have icons at the bottom of the palette box – some will pop out new menu’s, some are functional (like delete or create new.) Holding your mouse over the icon (don’t click, just hover there) should make a text box pop up, explaining what that icon is for.
You can choose how you want the palettes to be displayed each time you open Photoshop. Your choices are (1) always the default, or (2) the way they were the last time Photoshop was closed. This is accessed by going to "Edit > Preferences > General." From the box that pops up, check or uncheck “Save Palette Locations.” (see picture.)