Mac OS X is a different paradigm than Windows. Yes, many things act very similar, but there is a lot that is different as well. As a Windows user trying to learn OS X, some of it will be confusing. As I write this, I have not been using OS X very long. I am a long-time Windows user, so I understand the viewpoint of somebody who is confused by OS X. Below, I will lay out several random findings and tips that should clear up some things for Windows users experimenting with OS X.

Quirks of the Switch

Working With Windows
I am used to the Maximize, Minimize and Close buttons being at the top right of the window. With OS X, they are in the left top. This takes some getting used to. At first you will find yourself hunting for them.

Closing Doesn’t Exit The Program
When you close a window, it does not close the program like it does in Windows. You actually have to go to the top menu and select “Quit” from the menu. I find that annoying. It seems more intuitive for me to quit the program if you close the window. For a Windows user, not knowing this can mean that you accidentally leave a LOT of programs running at once. You may think it isn’t running anymore, but it is.

Menu At The Tippy Top
The program menus always sit at the top of the screen, separate from the main program interface. Again, I find that counter-intuitive. I actually prefer to have the menus inside the windows along with the program it belongs to. You’ll get used to it, but Windows users will find that to be odd. For long-time OS X users who think I’m nuts for wanting this the Windows way, you should try multiple monitors under OS X. The moment you drag an app to another screen, you will see how annoying it is to have scroll all the way to your primary monitor just to use a program’s menu options. If some OS X user has a way around this, I am all ears.

No Drive Letters
There are no drive letters in OS X (or any Unix-based operating system for that matter). Since I am so used to Windows, it is weird not having any drive letters. This is certainly not a fault of the operating system. If anything, Windows is the odd one here because Windows is the only OS that I am aware of that uses drive letters. But, it still takes some getting used to.

Understand the Dock
The Dock is the row of icons at the bottom of the screen. The Dock is essentially an equivalent to the Windows taskbar mixed with the Quick Launch bar. So, the Dock will hold shortcuts to applications which you put there, as well as icons for any applications that are currently running. Removing an icon from the Dock is as simple as dragging it off the Dock and letting go. Creating a new alias (shortcut, in Windows terms) in the Dock is done by dragging items to the Dock. In Preferences, you can control the size of the Dock as well as whether it hides automatically or not.

Resizing Windows
Under Windows, you can resize a Window from any point on the edge of the Window. Under OS X, you can only do so via the lower right corner. Again, such a simple little thing that I don’t know why Apple can’t just do.

No OK Buttons
There are many areas of OS X where there is no such thing as an OK button. For example, in preferences, when you change a setting, it changes as soon as you select it. It isn’t consistent and seems to be different depending on the application.

No Cut-And-Paste of Files
This one is surprising, but under Windows you can cut and paste a file to move it. Under OS X, there is no way to do that. This is one of those things that could easily be added to OS X and not upset any of the long-time users.

Installing Applications
I will do up a whole post on this subject, but installing applications is just different. The main reason for this is that there is no registry in OS X. This is actually a plus point, but Windows users will find it odd. Especially when you consider that applications do not put themselves into any specific section of the OS by default. Under Windows, everything you install goes to the Start menu. From the Start menu, you can create shortcuts anywhere you want. In OS X, it is best to keep all applications in the “Applications” folder, but many programs will not put themselves there. This means programs can sit all over your drive with little order to them. Un-installing an application is as easy as dragging it to Trash, but the problem is that that does not take care of any data files associated with the program. There are third-party workarounds, but I think this is an area where OS X could stand a little improvement. While OS X is certainly easy, a little more work to keep things in sync among data files and programs as well as a central repository for all installed applications would be a welcome addition. Even Linux programs put everything in the applications menu. Why can’t OS X do it?


I am now on my third full day of using OS X. Things are coming along well and I’m really digging OS X at this point. But, there really are things about Windows that it just does better. If Apple could take some of these minor Windows-esque points and incorporate them into OS X, it would only serve to improve an already solid operating system. But, I think this point could only be understood by somebody who routinely uses both operating systems.