How to apply for a passport
Passport procedure made easy
Applying for a passport is not as hard as some make it seem. I'm going to assume that you are a United States citizen and an adult before I go any further. If you don't fit those two categories, get out now! Just kidding, but you'll have to find your information elsewhere.
If you're applying for your first passport, you have to apply in person. You can renew your passport later through the mail or online. Bring your proof of citizenship, which can include a birth certificate or certificate of live birth (for Barack Obama, before all you birthers point it out).
Now you need to fill out the passport application form, which the government has conveniently named Form DS-11. DO NOT SIGN THIS FORM! You will need to do that when instructed and your signing must be observed by the appropriate government official.
You also need to bring 2 identical passport photos. These are 2 inch by 2 inch photos that you can get at a variety of places, including your local Rite-Aid or other similar grocery store/pharmacies around the country. You can also usually get them at your local county offices, but it'll probably cost more. You can actually take your own photo, but they are very strict on how it must be done: http://usgovinfo.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=usgovinfo&cdn=newsissues&tm=783&f=20&tt=2&bt=1&bts=0&zu=http%3A//travel.state.gov/pdf/Photo-Quality-Requirements.pdf
In addition to your birth certificate, bring your drivers license. Take everything I've just told you about to your local passport acceptance facility, which is really just a big term for your local post office. The fee is always changing (upwards, it seems. how weird), and there is an extra fee that you can pay to expedite the process. Otherwise, your form will just sit on someone's desk for a few months until they get around to looking at it. They are government employees, after all.