A Switcher’s Guide to Windows and Mac Differences and Equivalents
So, you’ve switched to Mac. Welcome! If you still feel like you’re stumbling around in the dark, hopefully the following article will turn a few lights on. Or maybe you’re thinking about switching but still a little worried about how compatible you will be with Mac OS X. Again, this article should hold your hand as you cross over.
Although switching to Mac from Windows is a relatively simple process, you still need to re-educate yourself a little on the Mac’s way of doing things and its terminology. Learn the local lingo, you might say. Just like if you’re a foreigner in a country, it is important to learn a few of the basic cultural and language differences. For example, if you’re in the U.S., you might get away with giving your girlfriend a pat on the fanny when out in public; however, try that in Australia and you’ll probably find yourself crumpled on the ground, clutching your groin, speaking (moaning actually) in a high-pitched voice and wondering if you’ll still be able to father children.
Recently, having undertaken study where the computers are all Macs, I’ve encountered many students with no Mac experience and who have struggled at times with the differences. It’s been interesting listening to how they express their frustration at not knowing how to do the simplest little things on the Mac—and what they’ve said hasn’t been flattering to the Mac.
So for them, and every other switcher, this article provides a list of the equivalent terminology, way of doing things on a Mac, and applications to use. It is by no means complete or comprehensive. It also assumes Windows up to XP, as at the moment, that is the version the majority of switchers would be familiar with. By tabling it in a comparative list, it should be easier for you to relate the relevant methods between systems.
Modifier key definitions
On a standard QWERTY keyboard with a U.S. layout, the modifier keys on a Mac are:
- The Command key is the one at either end of the spacebar. In shorthand form, the Command key is represented by the symbol ⌘. It is often also called the Apple key as it also has the Apple logo on it.
- The Option key is the next key out from the Command key. The Option key is represented by the ⌥ symbol.
- The Control key is the third key out from the spacebar and is represented by the ⌃ symbol.
On other keyboard layouts and laptop keyboards, these keys will be laid out differently.
|On Windows||On Mac|
|Blue Screen of Death (less common on Windows since XP)||Kernel Panic (Very rare on Macs)|
|Control Panel||System Preferences|
|Right click menu||Context menu|
|Windows Update||Sofware Update|
This list shows the equivalent methods of doing things on Mac and Windows. Where more than one way is listed, it is separated by a semi-colon and on a new line. Not all methods are shown, only those where the method differs. For instance, just like Windows, you can close a window via the File menu, or copy, cut, and paste via the Edit menu.
|Function||On Windows||On Mac|
|Abort an application||Ctrl-Alt-Del and select application and click “End Task”||Option-Command-Esc then select and click “Force Quit”|
|Applets||Bottom right of Taskbar||Top right of menu bar|
|Applications: Accessing running applications||Alt-tab;
Click on program’s name in the Taskbar
Click on the application’s icon in the Dock. Running applications are indicated by a black triangle below the application’s Dock icon.
|Applications: Finding and launching||Start Menu||Dock;
|Basic troubleshooting of application crashes. (After performing each of these, test if the problem is solved.)||Restart application;
Reinstall troublesome program
Delete troublesome application’s preference file (found in Library/Preferences folder of your User folder and often named something like com.vendorsname.applicationnme.plist.);
Repair disk permissions using the Disk Utility in the Applications/Utilities folder (requires administrator access)
|Close a window||Close button (top right of window)||Close button (top left of window). Note: If the Close button displays a grey dot in the middle of it, the document in the window is unsaved.|
|Context menus||Right mouse click||Control-left mouse click on single button mice, otherwise, also right mouse click|
|Drive names||C:, D:, E: etc||OS X uses the name given to the disk (the label in Windows) to reference disks. eg “iMac Hard Disk”|
|Ejecting CDs and DVDs||Push eject button on disk drive;
Right click on disk and select “Eject”
|In a Finder window, click eject symbol to right of disk
Drag and drop the disk’s icon on to the Trash icon (it will turn into an Eject icon);
Push the Eject key (⏏ ) on the keyboard.
Note: a disk in use will not be able to be ejected.
|File navigation and management||Windows Explorer;
|Files: Location of personal files||My Documents||Documents|
|Installing programs||Run install program (if not automatically run)||Some applications have an installer (usually indicated by a pkg or mpkg suffix). Double click to install. Others you simply drag and drop to the Applications folder.|
|Maximize a window||Maximize button (top right of window)||Zoom button (green button in top left of window). Note: Zoom is not functionally equivalent of Maximize, but is the closest thing to it on Macs. Zoom only enlarges the window enough to display the full width of the document within it.|
|Menu bar: Accessing by keystroke||Alt key||Control-F2|
|Menu bar: Location of an application’s menu bar||Top of its window||Top of screen|
|Minimize a window||Minimize button (top right of window)||Minimize button (orange button in top left of window).|
|Monitoring system performance||Task Manager||Activity Monitor (found in the Applications/Utilities folder|
|Move cursor one word right||Control-Right arrow (cursor) key||Option-Right arrow (cursor) key|
|Move cursor one word left||Control-Left arrow (cursor) key||Option-Left arrow (cursor) key|
|Move cursor to beginning of the line||Home key||Control-Left arrow (cursor) key|
|Move cursor to end of the line||End key||Control-Right arrow (cursor) key|
|Properties: Getting information about an item||Properties menu item. Usually in context menu||Get Info. Usually in either context menu or File menu|
|Options and settings: Location in menus||Usually under the Tools menu item||Usually under the application’s named menu item|
|Removing media||Right click on device and select “Eject”;
Open “Safely Remove Hardware” from Task Bar and Stop device to remove
|In a Finder window, click eject symbol to right of the device;
Drag and drop the device’s icon onto the Trash icon (it will turn into an Eject icon);
Note: a device in use will not be able to be ejected.
|Resize a window||Click and drag any edge||Click and drag bottom right corner|
|Run an applications||Locate via the Start menu||If not already in the Dock, applications are stored in the Applications folder and its sub-folders and can be run directly from there. They can be kept permanently in the Dock by right clicking on their Dock icon and selecting “Keep in Dock”.|
|Screen brightness||Usually on the monitor||F14 to decrease;
F15 to increase
|Screen capture||PrtScn to capture full screen to clipboard;
Alt-PrtScrn to capture current window to clipboard
|Command-Shift-3 to capture full screen to a file;
Control-Command-Shift-3 to copy the full screen to the Clipboard;
Command-Shift-4 to capture selected area of the screen to a file. Press spacebar to automatically select the window under the cursor;
Control-Command-Shift-4 to copy the selected area to the Clipboard.
|Separator used in path names||Backslash (\)||Forward slash (/)|
|Show Desktop||Click Show Desktop shortcut in Taskbar||F11|
|System information||System in Control Panel||“About this Mac” in the Apple menu (top left corner of the screen)|
|Tabbed browsing||Available in Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox||In Safari, is off by default. Enable in Safari’s preferences|
The following list of applications is merely based on commonly used ones and is no recommendation for those listed, nor against any not mentioned. Those that usually come pre-installed on new Macs are indicated by being underlined.
|Purpose||On Windows||On Mac|
|Desktop publishing (home)||Microsoft Publisher;
The Print Shop
The Print Shop
|Desktop publishing (professional)||Adobe InDesign;
|Email client (personal)||Outlook Express;
|Email client (professional)||Outlook||Microsoft Entourage|
|Flash content creation||Flash||Flash|
|Image editing (home)||Adobe Photoshop Elements||Adobe Photoshop Elements|
|Image editing (professional)||Adobe Photoshop||Adobe Photoshop|
|Instant Messaging||Microsoft Messenger;
|Internet telephone calls||Skype||Skype|
|Movie Editing (home)||Movie Maker;
Adobe Premiere Elements
Final Cut Express
|Movie Editing (professional)||Adobe Premiere Professional||Final Cut Pro|
|Music Player||Windows Media Player;
|PDF viewer||Adobe Reader||Preview|
|PDF creation||Adobe Acrobat||Built-in print-to-PDF facility;
|Photo management (personal)||Google’s Picassa||iPhoto|
|Photo management (professional)||Adobe Lightroom||Apple Aperture;
|Web page authoring (professional)||Dreamweaver||Dreamweaver|
|Widgets||Yahoo Widget Engine||Dashboard;
Yahoo Widget Engine
|Word Processing||Microsoft Word||Microsoft Word;
Obviously this article is just scratching the surface, so if you’d like to add any other differences and their equivalents, let us know, because we will keep updating this list so it can always be a useful and current resource for switchers.