Things PC users should know before switching to the Mac

I recently had to switch to using a Mac (MacBook Pro) and some of the details surprised me. Some of the stuff is just muscle memory and you can get used to the new status quo eventually (like the fact that the close window ‘x’ is on the left side rather than the right side of the window title bar), but some are actually big inconveniences. Some of these things are not right or wrong, it’s just that if you are used to one way, the other way stinks.

I decided to jot things down as I experience them, and I’m posting them hear as a “buyer beware” for people who are contemplating switching to a Mac.

The list:
[li]No PageDown or PageUp key (at least on MacBook Pro)[/li][LIST]
[li]Need Fn+DownArrow for PageDown and Fn+UpArrow for PageUP, which is a hassle[/li][/ul]
[li]In Finder, selecting a file and pressing the Enter key renames the file instead of opening it[/li][ul]
[li]Need Command+DownArrow to open file on Mac[/li][/ul]
[li] There is no way to delete a file in Finder by using a key press which then prompts for confirmation (basically, what the ‘delete’ button does in Windows)[/li][ul]
[li]You can delete without confirmation by pressing Command+Delete (basically, what Shift+Delete does in Windows)[/li][/ul]
[li]The green “Maximize” button on a window does not maximize like it does in Windows. It does not fill the whole screen. It increases the size to what it thinks is the max that is best for that application.[/li][ul]
[li]One work around in Safari is to add the bookmarklet javascript:self.moveTo(0,0);self.resizeTo(screen.availWidth,screen.availHeight);[/li][li]For other applications, I believe there are some programs you can download that make the Mac maximize behave like Windows, but I haven’t tried any.[/li][/ul]
[li]Double-clicking on the title bar of a window does not maximize it[/li][li]There are no docking stations for Macbooks!!! (The exclamation marks are there because this was very surprising, as it is very unelegant, and thus un-Apple-like, to have to manually connect the monitor, power, keyboard, mouse and speakers every time)[/li][ul]
[li]The closest you can get, I believe, is by buying an Apple monitor, in which case you have to plug three cables every time you connect, and disconnect them every time you disconnect. Compare that to my ThinkPad, which I just plop down onto the docking station and have everything ready to use.[/li][/ul]
[li]When you close the last window of an application (e.g. Safari), the application does not exit. [/li][ul]
[li]You have to manually tell the application to exit, via mouse or keyboard. That is, if I have three browser windows open and I close them one by one, when the last is closed, Safaris is still running. I have to either press Command-Q, or from the menu select “Safari->Quit Safari”[/li][/ul]
[li]You can’t resize a window by clicking on any edge of the window, only from the lower-right corner [/li][ul]
[li]This is quite unfortunate, since it means that if a window is on the right of the screen, you need to move it left, then enlarge it, which is pretty stupid.[/li][/ul]
[li]There is no equivalent of MS Paint. There is Paintbrush, which you can download for free, but it does not have all the features of MS Paint.[/li][li]A lot of Control-<Key> on Windows become Command-<Key> on Mac[/li][ul]
[li]Command-F to search[/li][li]Command-A to select all[/li][li]Command-C and Command-V to copy and paste, etc[/li][li]The solution I’m using is that I remapped the CapsLock key to become the command key in Mac Keyboard settings. Since the CapsLock key is conveniently placed where the Control key is on UNIX keyboards, I do CapsLock-C for copy, etc, which works for me due to muscle memory.[/li][/ul]

I’m sure long-time Mac users have a plethora of issues when moving to the PC.

I wish computers were more configurable so that one can get the awesomeness of, say, OS X, or Windows 7, but can decide which side of the window the damn ‘x’ goes.

It seems to me that a lot of these things are frosting (i.e. where the ‘x’ goes, whether to close the application when the last window closes, whether pressing Enter on a selected file renames it or opens it, etc). The selling point of an OS should be how stable, reliable and fast it is. There should be configuration utilities allowing much more freedom for configuration than current OS allow. There should be a program that puts a “Windows skin” on a Mac and a “Mac skin” on a PC, not in terms of visual elements, but in terms of what each key does and how things behave.

Can you imagine if cars decided on different places to put the gas, brake, and clutch pedals? Cars put the basic stuff in the same place, and then distinguish themselves on performance and reliability. Why don’t OSs do the same?

You’re quite correct regarding some of the oddities of the Mac keyboard. In particular, I find the absence of a “Home” key very problematic with a couple of applications.*

However, the MacBooks have a couple of freakin’ awesome navigation tools with the trackpad. Use one finger, and the cursor goes up and down, just like a Windows laptop. Use two fingers, and the page moves up and down (like Page-Up & Page-Dn). Very nice. Use three fingers, and the page jumps to the bottom or top (like Home & End). REALLY nice.

  • On my office PC, I use an editor which uses the Home key extensively (KEdit32, if you must know). When accessing my office desktop from my MacBook, the missing Home key is a real pain in the ass.

Don’t forget that they also use different file formats, so you can’t write to NTFS backup drives.

I also just bought a Macbook Pro a couple of weeks ago, and while there are things about it that I really like better than its Windows equivalent (like Keynote…my god is this thing better than Powerpoint), the whole thing just seems uncharacteristically (for Apple) clunky. Like you mentioned, the red “X” equivalent in the corner doesn’t close the program. Why not? Why would you need to close, say, an internet browser window but keep the program running? It opens up instantly if I cold start the program, and even if it didn’t, isn’t that what “Minimize” is for? And what’s the deal with no “Maximize”? I like that wherever my windows are, on the PC I can maximize it and it automatically snaps to my monitor’s edges and takes up the whole screen. It’s such a hassle dragging the corner and then trying to center it properly. I also wish I could auto-hide the menu bar across the top, but I haven’t been able to find a way to do that.

Yes, I am very OCD. But I will say that the Mac has a lot more…personality, I guess you could call it, than my typical new Windows machine. Just little touches, like when you’re setting your user info it automatically uses the webcam to show your face as the profile pic.

What? Don’t you ever close windows?
Maybe it’s a PC-user thing.
I use lots and lots of windows, and I close them all the time, without wanting to quit the application. (Like, say I’m in the middle of posting to the SD, and I want to look at another thread for reference - I just pop open a new window, and close it when I’m done).

Well, I mean, like in Safari, I just close the tab I want to close if I want the application to keep running. When I click on the corner to close all the tabs at once, isn’t that a good indication that I want to shut down the whole app? Using “nested” windows like that in programs seems to be a more elegant solution than several unnecessary clicks…

The philosophy behind the Red “X” button:

Mac is truly a “window” based OS. That is, the app is transparent to the desktop (it doesn’t open in its own closed off space). Therefore, with a mac, if you want to close a window, you click the Red button to close that window. The window, and the window the app is running in are not the same thing. The app stays running because sometimes when using an app, you just want to close one window and not quit the entire app. For that, you have to hit Command-Q, or Quit from the File menu (or right click on its icon in the Dock, and select Quit).*

On Windows, apps are not transparent to the desktop like they are on the Mac. They run in their own closed space. In this way, there are Xs for closing the single windows and Xs for closing the entire app.

For instance:
Photoshop on the Mac.

Photoshop on Windows.

Note, how while the Mac loses a button to Quit and app, all the palettes and windows are open to the desktop, and you always know that the red button will simply just close the window, not quit the app.

With Windows, you gain the X to quit the app, but it’s almost entirely closed off from the rest of the desktop and access behind the app.

*Of course, it would be child’s play to introduce a Quit App “X” on the right side of every Mac window, I’m not sure why they don’t… shrug

I’ve gone through the changes myself, as I have a Macbook. I’ve done some things to make it more configurable and easier to use:

  • Bought a DVI KVM switcher so I use the same monitor, and optionally same mouse and keyboard, which makes switching back and forth much easier.

  • Bought a Bluetooth MagicMouse, which adds some very handy multitouch gestures right on the mouse, and which I further enhanced with JiTouch 2, which expands the set of gestures for even more multitouch convenience (both to the mouse and the trackpad).

  • Bought a Bluetooth Mac keyboard so if I don’t want to use the PC keyboard, I have real Mac keys to use. It’s small (model with no numeric keypad) so it’s easy to stow.

The lack of a dock is definitely a bit of a drawback, but I’ve gotten used to it.

I also really don’t like desktop integration with windows like the Photoshop examples. I much prefer a parent window within which all of the child windows reside. It’s a lot easier to deal with for me, though perhaps that comes from being a long time Windows user.

You don’t need a “Quit App” X. All you need is the following logic on the existing X: If this is not the last window open, keep the App running. If this is the last window open for this App, quit the App.

In fact, since I’m an Emacs user, I customized it to do just that on my Mac. Unfortunately, not all Apps are as customizable as Emacs

Ah, I see. I’ve become so used to conceptualizing and treating programs like they’re running in their own little sandboxes. Which is also why it disturbs me that I can’t get app windows to cover up the little icon dock; seeing part of my desktop while using my apps is strangely disconcerting.

Anyway, from now on, I’m going to be a lot more understanding towards old people using computers for the first time. Before I got the Macbook, my attitude was, “Look, if you mastered the Selectric Typewriter and now you can’t understand ‘right-clicking,’ you may have reached the point where you should consider assisted living.” But I have to admit, after finding that the green button does not mean “maximize,” I stared at the screen for a good 30 seconds not knowing what to do. It was very humbling.

Au contraire!

I have one.

You can make the dock be autohide, which means it goes away when the mouse is not there, which means maximized windows use up all the screen.

Speaking of the Dock, it makes it quite easy to see if an application is still running or not, and to quit said application from there (just right-click its icon and select ‘Quit’).

I have a hard time understanding why some people find Macs counterintuitive, but I do my best to be patient. We were all new to this once upon a time, after all.

I think it’s because programs under Windows all run under one parent window with their own assortment of child windows, each of which have their own X. Close the X on a child window and the child window closes. Close the X on the parent, and the program closes. That’s just the way it’s worked – not just on Windows, I might add. The Atari ST and Amiga were both the same way, not to mention BeOS, OS/2, X-Windows and the other various flavours of Linux GUIs. The Mac, I think, is the only one that doesn’t treat the X as “Quit Program.” (Never used NeXT so I don’t know if it was, but since NeXT was the precursor to OS X and designed by Steve Jobs, I’d be inclined to think so.)

It’s like moving to Australia and driving on the left side of the road; you’re not going to find it easy at first even though it’s conceptually simple and the locals find it second nature. It’s just hard because your brain’s been trained a certain way for decades.

While I can see the logic, sometimes I want to keep photoshop open, while I’m doing something else in Illustrator, but don’t need or want to keep a 800MB photoshop file open eating up ram just to keep the app launched for convenience when I know I’ll need to jump back shortly.

I’m not aware of how Photoshop works, but couldn’t you just close the 800MB file, but keep the window open? e.g. in Emacs, if I have a 100MB file open, I can close the file (to free up RAM), which is a different operation than closing the window.

Also, in Photoshop, don’t you have all those little windows with color palettes and other “gadgets” on them? If you close the window containing the 800MB file, all those other helper windows are still open, which means the app is still running if you want to jump back shortly.

Finally, even if you do close the last window and Photoshop exits, if you come back to it in a few minutes, how long does Photoshop take to launch? Is it a hog? Does it take more than 30 seconds?

It’s definitely a huge dose of “what you’re used to”.

I absolutely can’t STAND the window-within-a-window (MDI I think they call it?) way of working. How can you multitask? How can you have two open Excel sheets with a Notepad document open below the one on the left, and an email message open between the two spreadsheets, if each app’s individual windows are enclosed by some freaking application window? And why would you want an app to take up the whole screen, unless it’s a movie you’re watching or something?
There are some things I like about how the Windows platform behaves, though. It can be awkward to have to connect to each network share and authenticate so as to mount it on your desktop. PCs just do or do not have access to a network share based (usually) on your Windows logon account & password, although I suppose there are tradeoffs. And (as is often mentioned in these threads) I can see where it would be useful to be able to drag Folder X onto Folder Y and have it add items into subfolders that are not present in the subfolders of Folder Y of the same name (merging contents). I would not want that to be the only behavior but I’d like to have the option. A “smart replace” option or something.

But seriously, what’s with the weird way PCs select text when you double-cick a word? Whose brilliant idea was it to have the adjacent characters get selected along with the word you double-click? And I’d never be able to remember the keystroke equivs for special characters.

Those three aren’t, using your own words, “frosting.” But the controls for the lights, A/C, the gearshift, etc? Those vary from brand to brand and model to model.

I don’t think this is necessarily a Windows thing. It’s maybe an MS Office thing. For example, you can have multiple Internet Explorer windows open and they are not under some application window enclosure. You can move them apart, put an email window between them, etc. So, it’s not a Windows issue.

If I’m reading, e.g. the SDMB, or the news, I don’t want tons of other windows behind, to the left and to the right of my browser window, all with their own color and their own text and colorful images. It’s distracting. I’d rather maximize the browser window and focus on what I’m reading. Similarly when I’m typing a memo.

It looks like they just put all the required connectors on one fixture, so you can just slide your Macbook into place, is this correct? But how easy is it to connect your Macbook, making sure that all those connectors connect properly? Have they done a good job?

It’s great that some company makes those, and I may look into getting one of them if people say they work well, but they seem like practical hacks instead of true docking stations (which would require support from Apple, to put a “docking connector” on the laptop)