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Four Things the Mac OS Does to Confuse a Windows User

Posted by fogview at 10:43 PM on May 31, 2009

First off I will say that I love the Mac OS and I love the Windows OS. (How about that for staying neutral?) Listeners to my Fogview Podcast know I switched to the Mac about six months ago when my main Windows XP computer died. I had an iMac that I was using for video editing and my photography work so I started using that for my daily work. I know there are a lot of Mac fan-boys out there but I’m not one of them. A computer is a computer and each type has it’s advantages and disadvantages. I enjoy using and learning about the Mac OS but I still do a lot of my work on my new Windows Vista machine.

I found that the Mac has it share of “spinning beach balls” just like Windows has it hourglass when the CPU is overloaded and can’t do one more thing. I have programs crash on the Mac just like they crash on Windows. I don’t have to worry about viruses and spyware on the Mac like I do on Windows, but I know that could change in the future.

Mac_exampleWhat I would like to mention is the four things that still confuse me as a newbie “Mac switcher.”

  1. Closing a window on the Mac doesn’t close the program.
    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve clicked the close window icon and realize later that the program is still running. Most Window programs go away when they are closed.
  2. The program menu bar is at the top of the screen instead of at the top of the window. This is related to the first item because if I close a program’s window (i.e. iTunes), I now see another program underneath it but I’m still in the program I thought I closed. If I try to access the menu for the program that I see on the screen, I will be accessing the menu for the program I thought I closed. (See the screen shot on the right for an example of what I’m talking about: iTunes menu and Aperture window)
  3. Control = Alt and Alt = Command keys
    Yes, the keys are switched, at least for how I normally think of them in Windows. For example, I press Ctrl-C to copy in Windows, and Command-C in Mac. Alt-tab to switch programs in Windows and Command-tab in Mac. (The last two are not switched, which only adds to the confusion.)
  4. Home and End act like Page Up and Page Down instead of begin/end
    If I’m typing something in Windows, the Home/End keys will move the cursor to the begin/end of the line I’m typing. On the Mac it generally shifts the content of the window up and down on the screen and doesn’t change the cursor location. (I realize that each program can use the Home/End keys as they see fit, but in the Windows world these keys always seem to work the way I expect — or at least the way I’ve come to expect of them.)

Of all the differences I mentioned, #4 is the one thing I have not been able to get use too. I’m always trying to use the Home/End keys on the Mac to move my cursor around when editing text (I admit that I make lots of typing mistakes). I try to use it when entering URLs into the browser, Google search strings, emails I’m composing, and blogs entries (like this one), and I’m always surprised at the results. I would love for a Mac user to tell me what keys will do a similar thing on the Mac.

Learning to use a Mac has been a fun thing and helps to keep my brain engaged. I picked up a great book that helped answer the question of “How do I do that on the Mac.” It’s called “Switching to the Mac, The Missing Manual” by David Pogue. I highly recommend it if you’re thinking about switching too.

I’m not a Mac expert but I will write more in the future about my experience navigating in a Mac world from a Windows map. Stay tuned.

73’s, Tom

3 Comments

  1. From Justyn at 11:30 am on June 1, 2009

    You have Home & End keys on your Mac? I don’t, nor do I miss them. I agree there is a learning curve when starting with the Mac (I used PC’s since DOS until about a month ago) – but once you learn the simplicity that is OSX, I couldn’t imagine going back.

  2. From Nerfgun at 7:14 am on June 11, 2009

    Point 1 – I always prefered the Mac way of doing this, as Close Window means Close Window, not Quit Program. Besides it doesn’t hurt anything to leave an app running in OS X, really.

    Point 2 is a celebrated feature of Mac since the earliest Finder days. Having a dedicated toolbar anchored to the top of screen works for Fitt’s Law, in that the screen edges are “infinte” therefore you can fling your mouse against the top of the screen and hit the menu easily. Windows menubars-on-apps requires a more finegrained target for the mouse to hit.

    Point 3 – this is just your habit speaking, they are simply different keys. I appreciate the fact that I can task-swtich both forwards and backwards on Mac (command-tab is forward, command-tilde is back… H or Q on a highlighted app Hides or Quits… very fast)

    Point 4- interesting observation, I am always bugged by the fact that Home and End seem to do nothing at all when browsing the web, or often only one works.

  3. From Juanger at 10:32 am on June 14, 2009

    @Justyn If you have a laptop (or one of those smaller keyboards), you can get Home, End, Page Up and Page down with the ‘fn’ key and the arrow keys.

    Regarding the 4th point, what I love from text fields (including text areas) in Mac OS X is that I can use Emacs-like key bindings so, to go to the end of the line, you can press Ctrl-E and to go to the beginning of the line you can use Ctrl-A. You can even use Ctrl-K to “kill the line” (something I use a lot) so you can make a Ctrl-A Ctrl-K to erase the URL in Safari.

    But since I love Emacs key bindings (I used Emacs a lot), maybe it fit’s my needs and not those of every Mac user. This is the technical document where Apple explains the way Cocoa applications use the default key bindings and how to customize them!

    http://developer.apple.com/documentation/Cocoa/Conceptual/EventOverview/TextDefaultsBindings/TextDefaultsBindings.html#//apple_ref/doc/uid/20000468-611005