If you have a nagging urge to read this article, I’d imagine that you’ve been a Windows user throughout your technological life. Switching from one operating system to another (in this case to a Mac) is far from easy, especially when the two operating systems have so little in common.
Uprooting yourself from a perfectly safe and familiar surrounding which you were enveloped in while using your PC and switching to a Mac may be uncomfortable and in fact, downright awkward. But trust me, once you understand the difference between the two and learn to adapt to the “Mac style”, the dust should inevitably settle and perhaps you’ll eventually enjoy using a Mac.
This switching to Mac guide or call it a crash course will be a stripped down version of most tutorials on how to use a Mac. I will only touch on the bare essentials and hopefully that will make your learning experience a less complicating one.
If you’re looking to install an application in Windows, most likely you’d have to double-click on the setup.exe file to run in the installer.
On a Mac, the majority of apps are packaged in a disk image called a DMG. The usual installation procedure is:
- Double-click the DMG to mount it
- Once mounted, its contents are automatically displayed
- Click and drag the app to the Applications folder
- Unmount the DMG
Sometimes, an app will come with an installer. Simply follow the instructions and you’re golden.
If you need to remove an application in Windows, you’ll have to head into Control Panel -> Add/Remove Programs.
On a Mac, because most apps are self-contained, all you need to do is drag the app from your Applications folder to the Trash. Finito.
In Windows, Control Panel is the operations center. Everything you need in order to change any settings will be found there.
On a Mac, you’ll need System Preferences. It can be accessed from the Apple menu, located in the top-left hand corner or in the Utilities folder (Applications -> Utilities). Every customizable setting — from display font size and screen saver patterns to Bluetooth and Printer Sharing — will be found there. If you can’t seem to locate the setting you need, use the Spotlight search field within System Preferences to narrow down the possibilities.
Exploring For Files
If you need to explore the contents of say, the Program Files folder in Windows, you’ll definitely use Windows Explorer and would presumably start by double-clicking My Computer.
On a Mac, what you would use is the Finder. Click on the Finder icon (the smiley face) on the Dock and a new Finder Window will open, displaying the contents of your Home folder. From there, you are able to access your Applications, Documents, Downloads, Movies, Music and Pictures folders.
Most Windows keyboard shortcuts revolve around the Control button. To copy — Control + C, to paste — Control + V and so on.
On a Mac, the big kahuna is the Command button. It’s located next to the spacebar and has a clover icon on it. You’ll definitely need to reprogram your fingers (your thumb, actually) to hit this button instead of Control.
For a complete list of commonly-used Mac OS X shortcuts, refer to MakeUseOf’s Cheat Sheets page.
The regular rigmarole to go through if you need to launch an app in Windows would be to click on Start, then go on from there depending on how you have your Start menu customized.
On a Mac, the Dock is where you’ll start. Drag all of your favourite apps — internet browser, instant messaging client, music player, movie player, etc — from the Applications folder onto the Dock for easy access.
Dealing With Unresponsive Apps
If something went wrong while using a Windows PC, most users will instinctively press the infamous Control+Alt+Del key sequence to invoke the Task Manager.
On a Mac, if an app isn’t responding, your safest bet is to force it to quit. You can do this by right-clicking the app’s icon on the Dock and click on Force Quit.
Alternatively, you can learn to use Mac’s task manager — Activity Monitor.
If you get a whiff that your Windows PC is starting to clunker and slow down, the obvious easy-fix is to use Window’s Disk Defragmenter.
On a Mac, fragmentation is automatically dealt with by the operating system so you don’t need to worry about that. If you notice your Mac starting to slow down, take a look at some optimizers in this article and here for a couple of tips to keep your Mac running smoothly. Many (even seasoned) Mac users will advise you to run Disk Utility to repair file permissions as a cure-all for Mac slowdowns. I have to point out this is a myth. Repairing permissions deals with a very specific issue, read more about it here.
I hope that this crash course helps any recent Mac Switchers out there to comprehend the alien (albeit very pretty) operating system before them. I can’t emphasize the importance of user experience here. You’ll only learn to master a Mac after you’ve used it for some time and no tutorial can completely substitute your personal learning process.