If you switch to Mac from Windows, it can be difficult to adjust to a new set of default apps. It should go without saying that for each of the default Windows apps, there is a Mac equivalent.
Sometimes there are obvious ways to do the same things, and others are going to take a little work to find. However, they are all going to get you working on your Mac.
Task Manager -> Activity Monitor
The most basic step in troubleshooting any Windows issue is to open Task Manager. The app allows you to look at the process and what resources they are using. You access it using the Ctrl + Alt + Del shortcut or by right clicking the Toolbar. It might not be as obvious on the Mac to new users how to get this information.
In the Applications folder, there is a subfolder: Utilities. (Keep this folder handy as there are many useful things there.) After you open Activity Monitor there are different panels for each type of resource: CPU, Memory, Energy, Disk, and Network. Energy even includes the details about closed apps that chewed up your battery.
To quickly access Activity Monitor, pin it to your dock (right click the icon and choose Keep in Dock) or search for it using Spotlight (Command + Space).
Powershell and Command Prompt -> Terminal
Depending on your generation, you think of the command line for Windows as either Cmd.exe or Powershell. The former being the older DOS-style command line, and the latter is Microsoft’s modern take on the command line. If you want a quick way to find your IP, or scan through a bunch of folders — the command line is much faster than clicking through menus.
On the Mac, you have Terminal. This app also lives in the Utilities folder under Applications. This is a Bash shell, something you may be familiar with if you have used Unix or Linux before. There are a ton of powerful tools, but it is an entirely different syntax from the Windows shells. If you miss Powershell, you can install it on your Mac.
Cortana -> Siri and Spotlight
If you are moving over from Windows 10, then you are familiar with Cortana. Though its primary use is as a voice assistant, it is also the way that you search the web and your local computer. In earlier versions of Windows, there was the Find option, which you used for quick file and app searches.
For the Mac, you have Siri, which performs a similar role. You hold down Command + Space to get a Siri prompt. You can ask Siri to search files or to create Reminders and Calendar events.
If you would prefer to do your searches the old fashioned way, you can press Command + Space to bring up Spotlight. It is not as powerful as Siri for certain tasks, but you can search Applications, Files, and the web. It is also great to do simple math problems without opening the Calculator.
Notepad and Wordpad -> TextEdit
On Windows, your basic Text Editor and Rich Text Editor are different programs: Notepad and Wordpad. On the Mac, these combine into a single program called TextEdit. By default TextEdit uses Rich Text, and you can make basic documents with formatting.
However, if you want a barebones text editor, you can simply press Shift + Command + T to switch to plain text. This switch removes the alignment options and the ruler. Then you can create your code or text files. The UI is expectedly simple, and like Notepad it is dead simple to use. It is not for complex projects, but that is not why you are using TextEdit.
Internet Explorer and Edge -> Safari
Windows 10 replaced internet Explorer with Edge. This change ended the era of the internet’s favorite browser to hate. Using Windows for a long time may have soured you on using the default browser. Though that impression may stem from the last time I used Windows regularly in the Vista/IE 7 days.
Safari on the Mac is not quite such a grim affair. Safari has a decent extension collection, though nothing close Firefox or Chrome. What you do get is Apple’s features to save on both resources and battery life. Both Chrome and Firefox are hungry for resources, and a few too many tabs can lead to a significant change in battery life.
Windows Media Player -> iTunes
Windows Media Player is the workaday default media player for Windows. If you have an iOS device, you probably already replaced it long before you got your Mac. iTunes being required for managing your iPhone/iPod/iPad on Windows, you might already be familiar with the app.
Most Mac users do not harbor much love for iTunes. It is, however, the default way to handle your Music, Movies, and iOS apps. More recently it was expanded to include support for Apple’s streaming music service, Apple Music.
iTunes is iTunes, and you are stuck with it for now unless you use Android (then you can use something like Doubletwist).
OneNote -> Notes
One Note is part of the Office suite, but it comes preinstalled on most Windows machines. It offers a notebook you can create tabs in to keep your notes, to-do lists, files, web pages and even drawings. Its Mac version is identical, so if you want to keep using it, you can.
If you are looking for a change, Mac’s built-in Notes app is a bit more simplified. There is a three pane interface. On the left are your folders, then a second pane with your notes laid out, then the main pane where you can edit your note. There is support for rich text, checklist, and linking files and web pages.
You lose the ability to create drawings or mark up your notes since Notes drawing support is for iOS only. That said, Notes is a capable text-based app. It even promises support for tables when High Sierra releases this fall.
Office -> iWork (Pages/Numbers/Keynote)
Okay, so this one is not a default Windows app. Yet, it is the way that most people think about getting “work” done on Windows. Like One Note, Office is already on the Mac, and it is at feature parity with the Windows version.
If you do not want to pay for an Office subscription, Apple has their suite of apps called iWork. Each is free for all Mac users. You can find them in the Mac App Store under individual apps: Pages, Numbers, and Keynote.
Pages is not only a word processor but also is a basic page layout app. You can make business cards, pamphlets, and basic posters. Numbers is nowhere near as powerful as Excel, but ideal for basic organization. Keynote is superior to Powerpoint in many ways. It is the app Apple uses internally for their events.
All the apps are compatible with their Office counterparts. Like Open Office, that compatibility does not always work with advanced features.
Scheduled Tasks -> Automator
Scheduled Tasks is a powerful way to control your Windows machine. If you have started scheduling programs and scripts to run at certain times, you may wonder what the Mac has to match that kind of power.
Automator has you covered. It has a Calendar Event option that allows you to schedule your workflows to run via the built in Mac calendar. Automator is even more powerful, allowing you to create Services and Applications. If you are interested in automating your Mac, you can see our tutorial here.
Switching From Windows to Mac?
These are just the Apps that you can get from Apple or are preinstalled on your Mac. One of the best things about moving to the Mac is the developer community. There are apps made by people who care about the tools that they make and the people who use them. You should explore alternatives beyond the basics — you might find the perfect app for you.
What is the one thing from Windows you wish the Mac did better since switching? If you are a long time Mac user, what is your favorite app? Let us know in the comments.