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Use Both Windows and a Mac? Use These Tweaks and Work Smarter

Akshata Shanbhag 15-07-2016

If you switch between a Windows PC and a Mac on a regular basis, some of their most obvious differences are sure to trip you up often and slow down your work.


Today we’ll see how you can fix those by making some basic tweaks to your Mac’s setup so that its behavior mirrors that of your Windows setup. Of course, you can also choose to make Windows more like macOS How To Get The Best Features Of Mac, Linux & Co On Windows Operating system envy: You admire certain Mac and Linux features, while using Windows. What if Windows was a canvas and you could add all the neat gimmicks you like? Here's how. Read More instead.

Note: If you’re moving from a PC to a Mac A Quick Guide to Using a Mac for Windows Users Every Windows user should know the basics of working on a Mac. Here's a quick guide to help Mac newcomers find their way around. Read More completely, we’d recommend learning the Apple way of doing things from the get-go.

Switch to Windows-like Scrolling

Head to System Preferences > Trackpad and under the Scroll & Zoom tab, uncheck the box next to Scroll direction: natural. That takes care of matching up the scrolling style on both your Apple and Microsoft computers.


Maximize Windows with the Zoom Button

The (green) Zoom button in the window controls on a Mac seems to have a mind of its own — it maximizes windows in some apps and resizes them to various fits in others.


If you’d like the Zoom button to always maximize the window i.e. expand it to fill the screen, install Right Zoom (free) and be done with it. To go full screen, use that button in tandem with the shift/control/command key.

When you open Right Zoom for the first time, its settings window pops up, prompting you to configure and activate the app. You have the option to set up a hotkey for the maximize function and enable Right Zoom for select applications.


Quit Apps with the Close Button

Do you often get surprised by an app that’s sitting in the dock even after you clicked on its Close button a while ago? After a year of switching to a Mac, I still do. I guess I’ll always equate Close with closing an app rather than with closing a window, as my Mac wants me to. But hey, there’s an app for users like me (isn’t there always?). It’s called RedQuits — the name says it all.


You can also get used to using the command+q keyboard shortcut to quit an app (whereas command+w closes the window or current tab).

Change Function Key Behavior

The F1, F2, F3… keys on your Mac (and on modern PC keyboards) pull double duty as media keys, volume keys, brightness keys, and so on. To use them as regular function keys like you do on a classic PC keyboard i.e. without holding down the Fn key first, go to System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard and check the box next to Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys.



Make Finder Search in the Current Folder

When you search for a keyword with a specific folder open, Finder searches your entire hard drive, unlike Windows’ Explorer, which searches only the open folder and its subfolders.

To replicate Explorer’s in-folder search function in Finder, go to Finder > Preferences > Advanced and from the dropdown menu for When performing a search, select Search the Current Folder.


Remap Keys for Convenience

The reversed positions of the Ctrl and Alt equivalents on the Mac and the lack of keys like PgUp, PgDn, PrntScrn, and Backspace might not seem like a big deal when you have switched over to a Mac Switching from Windows? Essential Keyboard Tips for Mac Newbies Moving from a Windows PC to a Mac can be a shock in many ways for new users, so here's a quick start guide to adjusting to a Mac keyboard layout. Read More one hundred percent. Likewise, the lack of Mac-like features won’t matter much if you’re used to Windows now. But if you have to switch between a Mac and PC too often, having to deal with such differences can make you want to scream in frustration.


Dual booting Windows on your Mac or getting a common all-in-one keyboard The 10 Best Wireless All-in-One Keyboards for Mac and PC Wireless all-in-one keyboards can transform any computer into a home theater system. But which one should you buy? Read More  for your Mac and PC can save your sanity some. Another partial solution is to repurpose less-used keys to compensate for the missing or confusing ones on any one device — on your Mac in this case.

All PC keyboards are not built alike. For example, there might be Win and Fn keys sandwiched between Ctrl and Alt or just the Win key, or the numeric keypad might be missing. For maximum convenience, you’ll have to remap Mac keys How to Remap Your Mac's Function Keys and Do Anything You Want Here's how to remap your Mac keyboard to boost the function keys, which can do so much more with some customization. Read More based on the key placement on your PC keyboard. Install an app like Karabiner to get total control over the remapping.

karabiner-change-functional key

Skip the app if you just want to disable pesky modifier keys or swap functions between them. You can do that from System Preferences > Keyboard > Keyboard. There, click on the Modifier Keys… button. This brings up a dialog box where you can, say, turn the ctrl key into the command key, or disable the Caps Lock key.


Map Your Favorite Keyboard Shortcuts

When you keep hitting Enter to open files in Finder umpteen times a day and end up with the filename selected for renaming, you know it’s time to port your favorite keyboard shortcuts from Windows to macOS. Luckily you can replace a shortcut or create a custom one on your Mac.

Head to System Preferences > Keyboard > Shortcuts first. This section is where you’ll find the shortcuts that Apple has already set up for you. For any function that you see listed in this section, you can add a shortcut or replace the existing one. To do so, select the shortcut field and key in the shortcut you’d like to use. Be sure to also select the corresponding checkbox to enable the use of that shortcut.

To create a brand new shortcut, select App Shortcuts from the left panel and click on the “+” icon beneath the right panel. See a new dialog drop down? Great! That’s where you now need to select:

  • the application where you’d like the shortcut to work
  • the function — exactly as it appears in the application’s menu — for which you’re creating the shortcut, and
  • the keyboard shortcut itself


So, which Windows shortcuts Windows Keyboard Shortcuts 101: The Ultimate Guide Keyboard shortcuts can save you hours of time. Master the universal Windows keyboard shortcuts, keyboard tricks for specific programs, and a few other tips to speed up your work. Read More would be quite convenient to have on your Mac? These, for starters:

  • f2 – for renaming the selected file (Finder)
  • f5 – for reloading webpages (Safari or any other browser)
  • f11 – for entering full screen mode (All Applications)
  • option+f4 – for closing the active window
  • option+enter – for getting file info (Finder)
  • enter – for opening the selected file (Finder); you’ll need a third-party solution like XtraFinder (free) for this one

Get a Start Menu

Your Mac’s dock is neat feature, but for the sake of matching things up with your PC, you could get rid of the dock and install a taskbar-and-Start-menu combo in its place. The app uBar ($20, free trial) makes that possible. Here’s a snapshot of what will replace your dock:


If you’d like to keep the dock as it is, but want give it some extra power, install Hyperdock. It brings Windows-like previews and window snapping capabilities to your Mac’s dock.

Get Common Apps

Install the macOS versions of your favorite and most used apps from Windows. Can’t find a macOS counterpart for an app? Do the next best thing — look for an app that comes closest to the Windows one in terms of the interface and basic functionality.

apps-for-mac-winBetter yet, go platform agnostic and hunt for free web apps. There’s no dearth of those, and you can even turn them into desktop apps with Fluid (free to $4.99).

In this experimental phase, stick to apps that are free or come with a free trial. You don’t want to spend too much money on apps that you’re not even sure you want.

Create a Shared File Repository

Set up your cloud storage app on both your PC and Mac. It’s the easiest way to share files between them. If both devices are on the same network, go for a cross-platform app like Dukto for sharing files Dukto Offers Cross-Platform, Drag-And-Drop File Sharing Drag and drop a file; send it to the desktop of another computer on your network. Dukto makes local file sharing simple, regardless of operating system. Read More .

A Word About App Permissions

Some of the apps listed here need special permissions to work. To grant these permissions, all you have to do is follow the on-screen prompts that appear when you install the apps. If you miss the boat then, you can still go to Security & Privacy > Privacy > Accessibility to give those apps permission to control your Mac. Don’t worry, that’s not as sinister as it sounds.


PC to Mac to PC

These tweaks might seem like a lot of work (and they are), but the impact they’ll have on your workflow is tremendous. Forget productivity Stop Looking for the Secret to Productivity. There Isn't One Don't fall for all the hype. There is no secret to productivity. But the magic formula could be in just three things that can maximize how you get things done. Read More , it’s the end of unintentional clicks and keypresses that you’ll appreciate the most. Finally keys and buttons are where you expect them to be and do what you expect them to do!

Do you jump back and forth between Macs and PCs regularly? What drives you crazy when you switch? How do you make it better?

Related topics: Keyboard, Keyboard Shortcuts, Mac Tricks, Windows.

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  1. Rocky
    July 17, 2016 at 1:00 am

    Make my Mac work like my Windows PC? No, thanks.

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      July 17, 2016 at 3:11 am

      Make your Windows PC work like your Mac :)