A Perfect Operating System? Getting Windows Style Features In OS X

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windows on osxBring the best features of Windows to OS X. You did not read that incorrectly.

Many Mac users won’t admit it, but there are some pretty nice features in Windows – particularly Windows 7 and later. Maximizing apps in a way that isn’t seemingly random, resizing your windows by dragging them to a particular side or easily hiding notification icons are just a few things Microsoft’s brought to the desktop that Apple hasn’t got around to (yet?)

Don’t panic, though – third party apps bring all these and more of Windows’ best features to OS X. You just need to know where to look to bring the best of Windows to your Mac.

Actually Maximize Windows

As in Windows, OS X offers three buttons on every window. One button closes the window; another minimizes the window. So far, so good.

The problem is the right-most green button, the purpose of which is completely unclear to many former Windows users. Sometimes it causes a window to take up all vertical space, sometimes it restores a window to its previous size, and sometimes it does nothing at all. Seriously, I just pressed the button on Chrome. Nothing happened.

This is confusing to Windows users, who are used to the same button making a window grow to take up the entire screen or shrink back to a previous size – no ambiguity. Do you wish you could change this?

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windows on osx

Well, good news – Right Zoom makes the maximize button in OS X behave as in Windows. So if the mystery of the maximize button bothers you, consider it solved.

Snap Windows Into Place

It’s probably the best unsung feature in newer versions of Windows – drag a window to top of the screen and it will be instantly maximized – drag a window to the side of the screen and it will take exactly half the screen. It sounds confusing, but a combination of wireframes and animations makes it all make sense.

windows on os mac

If you want this on your Mac, check out iSnap. This free app allows you to resize windows in this way, or by using keyboard shortcuts.

Hide Notification Icons

Oh notification icons! You’re occasionally useful but overwhelming in aggregate. Windows users have for a long time been able to quickly hide icons they don’t want to see constantly, all without losing access when necessary – it’s all easily configured. OS X offers nothing like this, meaning if you constantly use a lot of apps that use the notification area, your menu bar is almost certainly a mess.

windows on os mac

You don’t have to live like this – Bartender for Mac can clean up your act. Sure, it’s not free, but if the clutter above your workspace is driving you nuts this is your only choice.


In Windows pressing “Alt” and “Tab” takes you from one window to another – regardless of which program is offering that window. So if you’ve got three Chrome windows open while also editing five pictures in The Gimp, you can switch between every one of those individual windows quickly using one shortcut.

The equivalent shortcut for Mac – command and tab – switches between programs. This means you can’t use it to switch from one Window in Firefox to another. There’s a (sort of) solution to this: Command and ` (the button above Tab). This shortcut switches between all open windows in your current app.

It’s not perfect, sure, but it’s something – you can switch to your preferred app and then switch to the window that you like.

App Previews

It’s been part of Windows for years – hover your mouse over the icon of an active program and you’ll see a preview of any open windows. Some programs will even offer controls – play, pause and skip for media programs, for example.

windows on os mac

Hyperdock brings this functionality to OS X, along with a lot more. Check it out if you’re at all interested.

Lock Your Screen

It’s quick to lock your screen in Windows – just press the Windows key and L. Mac users can map a corner to lock the screen, but those who prefer a keyboard shortcut are out of luck.

windows on mac

Unless, of course, you install QuickLock. This simple app gives you a custom lock screen you can activate with a keyboard shortcut.

The Worst Feature Works Too – Full Screen Apps

Windows 8 brought the feature absolutely no one was asking for to the PC – full screen, single purpose apps. It’s called “Modern”, because to Microsoft on-screen multitasking is apparently a relic akin to horse drawn carriages and manually churned butter.

windows on mac

Well, Apple offers a similar feature – and actually did years before Microsoft. It’s called full screen mode – introduced with Lion – but instead of every app from Evernote to Office needing to offer two completely different interfaces, Apple simply allows any app to work in full screen. Some programs have unique full-screen interfaces, others simply grow to take up the entire screen. This is similar to Metro in that it sucks, and you’ll rarely use it once you realize you don’t have to.

What’s that? You want a screen filled with animated boxes that represent apps and distract you? You’re lying, shut up. Though I guess you could access the launchpad, a collection of icons for people who want their computer to turn into a phone:

windows on mac

No one really uses this though, do they? No. No one. Move along people.

Or just let me know more Windows features you’d like to see in OS X using the comments below. I might help you out.

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