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Switching From Mac to Linux? 5 Tips to Make Your Life Easier

Kris Wouk 08-04-2019

There are a lot of things to love about macOS, but there are definitely issues with using it. One of the bigger problems is that it’s exclusive to Apple computers. If you don’t like the hardware the company offers, you’re out of luck when it comes to using macOS.


If you’re looking for a desktop operating system that runs on top of a solid Unix-based foundation, Linux can be a good alternative. To make it easier to get used to Linux, you might want to make your installation a little more Mac-like.

1. Use Linuxbrew Instead of Your Distribution’s Package Manager

Linuxbrew in action

Moving to Linux is going to be a whole lot easier if you’re used to using the command line. If you’re a frequent command line user on the Mac, you’re probably familiar with the Homebrew package manager. If that’s the case, good news: Homebrew is available on Linux, albeit with a different name.

At the start of 2019, Homebrew got a big update, part of which was adding support for Linux. On Linux, the package manager is known as Linuxbrew, and it works exactly the same as it does on Mac. This can make installing your most-used packages a lot easier than using the default package manager provided by the distribution you use.

Homebrew also installs packages in a home directory instead of system-wide. This makes it nicer for beginners, as you don’t have to worry about installing something that can disrupt your system’s performance.


If you’re a developer, this is especially handy as well, since you can easily install different versions of Ruby or Python languages than your operating system requires.

2. Install a Spotlight-Style Launcher

Cerebro sure looks like Spotlight, doesn't it?

There are two types of Mac users: those who launch applications through Launchpad and those who use Spotlight. If you’re in the latter group, moving to Linux will be much easier for you, since you can replicate this very easily. Some Linux desktops will come with this type of behavior by default, but if not, it’s easy to install a Spotlight-style launcher.

A few launchers for Linux will seem familiar to Mac users, but the most Spotlight-like is Cerebro. In addition to launching apps and searching files, it can function as a basic calculator, show maps, and add other functions with plugins. If you’re more familiar with the third-party launcher Alfred, you might want to look into Albert instead. Both apps are free.


Those two are far from the only app launchers available. If neither is your cup of tea, we have a list of nine of the best app launchers for Linux The 9 Best Linux App Launchers to Help You Get Stuff Done Faster Want to search files, find answers, and launch apps quickly and efficiently on Linux? You need one of these Linux app launchers. Read More . Chances are good you’ll find at least one that you really like among them.

3. Make Your Desktop Look More Like macOS

Mojave Theme for Gnome

Getting comfortable with a desktop operating system isn’t all about functionality. Comfort matters too, and some of this comes down to how your environment looks. If you’re feeling a little out of your element, making your Linux desktop look more like macOS might help you ease in.

Changing the look of your desktop is easy, but how you do it will depend on which desktop environment you use. GNOME is probably the most common and has themes available to approximate the look of macOS Mojave. If you’re a fan of the look of older macOS versions, you can find more Aqua-inspired themes as well.


Other desktops like Xfce and KDE vary. Xfce has a dock somewhat similar to macOS and uses GTK themes, so you can definitely get the macOS look. KDE looks more like Windows by default, but is highly customizable, so you can also get this environment looking like macOS.

If you’re not sure where to get started, don’t worry. We’ve already got a list of tweaks you can make to make your Linux desktop look like macOS Make Linux Look Like macOS With These Easy Tweaks If you like Linux but want it to look more like macOS, you're in luck! Here's how to make your Linux desktop look like macOS. Read More .

4. Install a macOS-Style Dock

Docky screenshot

A big part of the macOS experience is the dock. Depending on your Linux distribution and desktop, you might have one of these already. Desktops like Xfce include a dock-style panel. If you use Gnome, there is an extension called Dash to Dock that can turn the slide-out dash into a dock.


You can also install a dock, which is the most customizable option. One popular option is Plank, which its developers say is “meant to be the simplest dock on the planet.” Despite this, it’s fairly customizable, at least in terms of its appearance.

If you want something more powerful, there are plenty of options. Docky is meant to approximate the look of the macOS dock, while GLX Dock adds more visual flair. For even more options, see our list of the best dock apps available for Linux 5 Power Docks For Your Linux Machine Perhaps you've switched to Linux from macOS; or perhaps you just like the idea of a dock. Whichever it is, these five desktop docks for Linux will help you to improve your productivity. Read More .

5. Use a Distribution With Similar Features

The Elementary desktop

The above tweaks will help any Linux distribution act a bit more Mac-like, but you can also start by choosing the right distribution in the first place. Some will be more appealing to Mac users out of the gate, whether it’s due to visual elements or how the user interface acts.

Ubuntu might be the most popular Linux distribution, but Fedora might be a better choice for Mac users. It uses the GNOME 3 desktop, which isn’t all that Mac-like out of the gate but can become Mac-like with a few simple tweaks listed above. You can also enable extended gestures, which can make your touchpad behave more like one on a MacBook.

If you want a desktop that looks Mac-like out of the gate, Elementary OS might be worth a look. The desktop isn’t a direct rip of the macOS UI, but it will be immediately familiar to any Mac user. Elementary OS has a focus on simplicity but also has a unified aesthetic that should appeal to Mac users.

Ready to Make the Move to Linux?

If one or more of these options makes you think moving to Linux might be for you, it’s time to start your journey. The installation process is easier than it has ever been, but there are a few places you might run into stumbling blocks. One of these is getting your installation medium ready.

If that sounds daunting, don’t worry. We have a full walkthrough detailing how to create a USB Linux boot drive How to Create and Boot From a Linux USB Drive on Mac Here's how to create a bootable Linux USB drive on your Mac using several methods, enabling you to try Linux with little hassle. Read More to help you get started.

Related topics: Application Dock, Linux, Linux Elementary, Mac, macOS Mojave, Spotlight.

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  1. dragonmouth
    April 8, 2019 at 12:46 pm

    If you're going to change Linux to look, feel and work like MacOS, why not just stick with MacOS and save yourself all the work and aggravation.

    Although if you're into self-abuse, go right ahead and have fun switching. :-)

    • Tech_Man
      April 8, 2019 at 4:10 pm

      Because you're saving hundreds of dollars over a mac of similar specs, which could then go to a better: case (maybe), CPU, GPU, display, keyboard, mouse, RGB, software...

    • Eddie G. O'Connor
      April 16, 2019 at 8:00 pm

      For someone like myself, (who isn't loaded with cash!) It makes sense because you get "limited" hardware with Apple that you're unable to upgrade. No person can determine the future, that's why when people (usually advertisers!) say something like "make sure to buy the device you need with the specs you'll want" kind of seems foolish no? I mean yeah....8GB of RAM and a 256GB-SSD might suit you now, what happens in the future?....can you upgrade the HDD if you need more room?...can you increase the RAM if you need more speed? Not with Macs....but with any other PC vendor you can start with 8GB..and a 250GB SSD and when you have the need? can go all the way to 2TB of storage, and 32GB of RAM. So maybe its not just about sticking with MacOS....but being able to morph and change when need be.