Saturday, March 20, 2010

Windows User's Guide To Macs

Not that I'm trying to push you in that direction, just trying to inform you of some things to look for if you are a Windows user and for whatever reason you find yourself using a Mac.

Keyboard and Shortcuts

One of the first things you may notice about Macs is how the keyboard is different from Windows. Instead of the Window key, they have the Command key (Apple key on older Macs). Also, the Command key on Macs is located next to the space bar where the Alt key usually is on Windows machines. If you use a Windows keyboard with a Mac, the Window key will act as the Command key by default.

Another thing that's different is the keyboard shortcuts. Many of the common Windows shortcuts with the Ctrl key are similar with the Command key on the Mac. Such as Cut (Command+X instead of Ctrl+X), Copy (Command+C instead of Ctrl+C), Paste (Command+V instead of Ctrl+V), and Select All (Command+A instead of Ctrl+A). A few differences include closing programs and windows where on the Mac you can usually quit a program with Command+Q instead of Alt+F4 and closing a window is Command+W instead of Ctrl+F4.

Launching Applications

Instead of a taskbar in Windows, Mac OS X has the dock. You can put icons for all of your frequently used programs here for easy access, and this is where you can see your active programs. An open program is indicated by a small blue dot underneath the icon. To find all of your programs, you can go to the Applications folder. In Snow Leopard, you can easily access it on the right side of the dock by clicking the folder icon with an A on it. You can open the Applications folder by clicking the Finder icon (smiley face on the left side of the dock) and then selecting Applications from the Go menu, or with the keyboard shortcut Command+Shift+A. You can also launch programs using Spotlight. If you click on the magnifying glass icon in the top right corner (or keyboard shortcut Command+Space Bar) you can simply type the name of the application you want to launch, similar to the Start menu search in Windows 7 and Vista.


When multitasking in OS X, you can easily access your open programs through the dock, or quickly switch between applications with the Command+Tab shortcut, similar to the Alt+Tab shortcut in Windows. You can also see thumbnails of your open windows by using Expose. By default, the F9 button brings up Expose, or if you have a Macbook with the media keys on it, you can bring it up by clicking the key with the icon containing three small boxes inside a bigger box (F3 on my Macbook Pro), or on the Macbooks with the multitouch track pad you can bring it up by swiping four fingers across the track pad. When you bring up Expose, you can simply click on the window you want to bring it to the front as the active window.

Another note on the media keys, by default the media keys on a Mac keyboard will be the default instead of the function keys. You can change this in System Preferences if you would prefer the function keys instead.


Several 3rd party applications have equivalent Mac versions that you can download or purchase (Firefox, Office). The Mac equivalent of Notepad is Textpad. The Mac equivalent of Control Panel is System Preferences. iTunes is the default media player instead of Windows Media Player. Safari is the default web browser instead of Internet Explorer. Mail is the default e-mail application, similar to Windows Mail or Outlook Express on older versions of Windows. Each Mac comes with the iLife suite, which include iPhoto for organizing a photo collection, iMovie for simple video editing, and iDVD for creating DVDs from your videos.

Multitouch Trackpad

More recent versions of the Macbook and Macbook Pro contain a multitouch trackpad with features to simplify use. For example, you can scroll by swiping two fingers across the trackpad or four fingers to bring up Expose as I mentioned earlier. For right click functionality, you can put two fingers on the trackpad and then click. Also, there is an option in System Preferences that allows you to click in the bottom right corner for right click functionality.

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