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

Justin Pot 16-05-2013

Bring 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?


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 Everything You Need to Know about Your Mac's Dock It's the primary way many users interact with Mac OS X, but a lot of people still don't know some of the most basic and useful things the dock is capable of. Read More , 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.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

Whatsapp Pinterest

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Rsm
    May 22, 2013 at 12:50 am

    Check out bettertouchtool, it provides useful window management functions even if you don't have a trackpad. I also use hyperswitch and it works well.

  2. Bart van Oers
    May 21, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    I use Moom to resize windows. When you hover over the green maximize button, a small bar pops up where you can choose how the window will resize, ex. left, right or full screen. It's also possible to assign keyboard shortcuts. When I press cmd+arrow left, the window resizes to the left half of the screen. When I press cmd-arrow up, the window goes full screen. Everything is customizable. Love it.

  3. Samarth Hegde
    May 17, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    but we cant get a complete windows feel and how ever if we are using mac laptops we wont have windows button in the keyboard and the functions remains the same according to ios

    • Justin Pot
      May 17, 2013 at 4:38 pm

      Want a complete Windows feel? Install Windows. It's not hard to do on a Mac.

    • null
      May 26, 2013 at 3:58 pm

      Sadly osx is very restrictive and locked platform, its not very custumizable, i don't think you will be able to make it feel much more like wIndows. Most stuff is already covered in this article.

  4. Pooky Joralyn
    May 17, 2013 at 8:23 am

    The most stupid thing on OSX is its menu bar. I have to move the mouse to the top every time, and it depends on the active window too! Worse still, I can't even find anything whenever I forget which one is the active window.

  5. Jakob
    May 17, 2013 at 6:39 am

    I´m not totally sure i understand what you miss about the command + tab feature..
    But i think (Same company who made Hyperdock) may solve the problem :) (Free beta)
    While talking about great Mac apps, I just have to mention one of my favorites.. Totalfinder.. - Gives you tabs in your Finder and let you split your Finder window into two, just like good old Total Commander back in the Dos days :)
    I did not knew Bartender. Seems to be something i was missing :) Thanks

  6. shawn
    May 17, 2013 at 3:05 am

    i'm a new osX convert, wife ran win 7 i used mainly ubuntu or derivitive....and still do, now my biggest complaint, make the damn red close button kill the app/program not just the window and when you click the dock icon, resume the window status. does not doing otherwise serve a purpose? not being glib, really am curious at the logic behind it..

    • Justin Pot
      May 17, 2013 at 4:37 pm

      I guess it's so you can leave the app running after you've closed all windows – something Windows itself doesn't really offer you a way to do. I like it, myself, but then again I use Command+Q when I actually want to close a program entirely.

  7. Gideon Waxfarb
    May 17, 2013 at 12:48 am

    Do either OSX or Linux have a good Autohotkey alternative? My favorite feature is being able to set up shortcut keys on a per-application level. So, for example, whether I'm in a text editor, web browser, or whatever, CTRL+T always opens a new tab. It's handy when you don't have to remember different hotkeys for different apps :)

  8. Kevin Clinthorne
    May 17, 2013 at 12:04 am

    Missed the boat on the fact that osx does have a shortcut that is 100% identical to alt-tab, it is command-tab. It looks and functions almost exactly the same

    • Justin Pot
      May 17, 2013 at 12:19 am

      But it's not: alt-tab switches by windows; command-tab switches by application. It's a subtle difference, unless you have multiple windows of the same program open. Then it can be very annoying.

  9. Jay S
    May 16, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    I was just noticing the icon of a rocket on a field of silver-cd earlier tonight, clicked on it & saw "Launchpad" if not for the first time, at least the first time recently, and I immediately thought..."this is dumb."

    But then, I use ubuntu about 90% of the time and OSX the other 10 percent. I gave up on Windows about two to three years ago. I don't *hate* it, but I don't *use* it either.

  10. Paul S
    May 16, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    How about being able to have a blank desktop behind a program similar the way windoze does it. I hate it when you accidentally click on the desktop and end up on the finder instead of remaining in the program.

    I agree with Doc about having the menu bar on the program instead of the top of the window. This would help immensely when running multiple monitors (as I do) and you keep a text editor for note taking on the second or third monitor and the menu is all the way on the other side of the arrangement.

    • Bill
      May 16, 2013 at 10:49 pm

      There's an app called SecondBar that puts a menu on my second monitor.

      And there's a great program called Window Magnet that lets you snap your windows so they become half-screen, full screen or even quarter screen.

    • Bill
      May 16, 2013 at 10:50 pm

      Does anyone know of a program that can put the Dock on both screens if you're using a second monitor?

      • Justin Pot
        May 16, 2013 at 10:58 pm

        I've looked, and have found no such thing. I'd be thrilled if someone else found it, though...

        • Doc
          May 16, 2013 at 11:26 pm

          I guess that's something else nobody has found a reason to do.

          Seriously, if somebody doesn't think something is *possible*, they'll never ask for it.

        • Justin Pot
          May 16, 2013 at 11:56 pm

          Very few people contemplate what's possible before requesting features, and fewer hackers care about it before they start a project. If enough people wanted this it would exist.

  11. Doc
    May 16, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    You forgot the one thing Mac users didn't know they needed: attaching the menu bar to the app instead of the top of the screen. Seriously, if I want to put a text editing window near the bottom of the screen (which I do for Web development, so I can see most of the site I'm working on in the exposed browser window above), why would I have to go *all the way to the top of the screen* to access the menu? Windows attaches the menu bar *to the window*, where it's always the same short distance.
    Mac's menu bar is a relic of its 1984 past. Time to fix it.

    • Justin Pot
      May 16, 2013 at 8:53 pm

      I think having the menu bar up top is cleaner, and was thrilled to see Ubuntu go one step further by hiding the menu when it's not in use. After all: if efficiency is that important, learn the keyboard shortcuts.

      Microsoft, for its part, seems hellbent on removing menus altogether: they're nowhere to be found in Metro and Office ditched them way back in 2007.

      But whatever, to each their own. I don't want my menus attached to my Windows, but the lack of Mac apps to do this suggests no one else wants it badly enough to build the product. Maybe you'll be the one to bring this feature to the Mac and show us all what we've been missing. :)

      • Doc
        May 16, 2013 at 11:30 pm

        Metro is optimized for touch screens, so its "menus" are buttons attached to a long-press event, and Office 2007 & 2010 still has menus; for example, Excel 2007's "Home" menu has "Clipboard," "Font," etc. that expand into the Ribbon, plus "Insert," "Page Layout," "Formulas," etc. menus that fill the Ribbon when selected; there's just no way to close the menu without hiding the entire Ribbon.

        • Justin Pot
          May 16, 2013 at 11:41 pm

          If ribbons count as menus so do the plentiful toolbars in most Mac apps, though. And they're usually customizable, meaning there's no reason you'll ever have to use the menu for features you use regularly.

          Again, it's all a mater of preference, and from your perspective this is valid. Personally, I prefer the lack of clutter to having quick access to windows, but I rarely move my windows too far from the top of the screen in any case. All about your personal workflow, I guess.

  12. Christopher Webb
    May 16, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    Thanks for the QuickLock tip, I was looking for something like that.

    • Josh
      May 17, 2013 at 1:47 pm

      There's a hidden keyboard command already present in OSX to automatically lock the screen: Ctrl+Shift+Eject

      • Dave S
        May 17, 2013 at 2:19 pm

        I was going to add this one because it's one of the shortcuts I use the most. Every time I step away from a Mac, unless it's a presentation machine and has to be showing an image, I do press Ctrl+Shift+Eject. On my Retina Macbook Pro there is no eject button so I use the power button in the top right along with Ctrl+Shift and it does the same thing.

  13. Zhong J
    May 16, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    This feature is also accessible within a Linux system, as it's far more customizable and I think this article would suit better with users running a Linux system; not everyone owns OSX with a price tag. As there's somewhat vague distinguishable between Windows and OSX, due to the fact OSX is more linux friendly and is considered to be WIndows made by Linux.

    • Justin Pot
      May 16, 2013 at 8:36 pm

      Statistically more people use Macs than Linux, but that's beside the point. I love Linux, and am a longtime user, but not every article can be about it. I try to cover all three systems. :)

      • dragonmouth
        May 16, 2013 at 11:57 pm

        "but not every article can be about it"
        Not every one of YOUR articles can be about Linux. I can understand that it may get boring after a while. However, you are one of the few MUO writers, if not the only one, who consistently writes about Linux. Linux articles are few and far between on MUO. Most of the articles are about Windows, iOS or Android. Linux seems to be a forgotten or ignored O/S at MUO. From the comments posted, many of MUO's readers either know Linux or use it. I certainly would welcome more Linux articles.

        "I try to cover all three systems."
        No need for you to try to be evenhanded. Your colleagues do a bang up job of covering Windows and Mac ad nauseam.

        • michel
          May 17, 2013 at 2:28 am

          Speaking for myself, I prefer sites that focus on a single platform. I only use one. I do sometimes read about others, but I'd still rather visit specific sites. For instance, I run Windows (which is best for what I do) but I like to keep an eye on Ubuntu. So I mostly visit windows sites and sometimes read OMG Ubuntu.

        • Scott M
          May 17, 2013 at 12:13 pm

          I have Linux along side windows and I agree more info about would be a real boon.I'm just a new user with the system and would appreciate more useful tips and info on Linux.Now I only learn by trial and error.Which is good in some ways as it reinforces my learning in anything I've deduced on my own.However I know my capabilities and it would be nice to see more discussion of what is available for the operating system in the way of shortcuts,new programs or hacks.

        • Justin Pot
          May 17, 2013 at 2:16 pm

          Danny writes about Linux more often than me, I'd say. And overall we write far more Linux articles than is representational of our readership's usage – our readers are currently overwhelmingly Windows users. Someone with more access can speak to the numbers. Even with that, we are trying to do more Linux stuff – though I'm having trouble thinking of article ideas compared to two years ago. Just feels like less is happening in Linux-land these days. Even OMG Ubuntu posts way less than it used to...