From Windows to Mac: A Beginner’s Guide

If you grew up using Microsoft Windows, switching to Mac can be confusing at first. Although the designers designed Mac to be simple, user-friendly, and efficient, there are differences compared to Windows that might take some time to get used to. Switching from Windows to Mac can feel like when you first learned how to use a computer. However, once you get used to it, you’ll appreciate your decision on why you choose Mac over Windows.


It is easy to learn on how to use Mac, but you might still get tripped by some of the quirks of OS X. Aside from learning new shortcuts, you also need to get used to the different Mac features. To help you become acquainted with your new device here is an easy to follow user guide for long-time Windows user.

How to Close an App

In Windows, all you have to do is click the x button to close an app. However, in Mac, clicking the red x button doesn’t totally close the window. It doesn’t totally quit until you specifically tell it to stop. Clicking the x button merely closes the window, not the app. This means that it is still running in the background.

You have two ways to totally close an app. You can either tap the Command + Q keys or you can choose quit from the program’s drop-down menu.

From Right to Left

If you’ve been a Windows user for a long time, you have the tendency to look for the close, minimize and maximize buttons in the upper right of the window. However, you’ll find that all these buttons are instead found in the upper left corner of the window in Mac. It is a bit confusing at first, but you’ll get used to it in the long run.

The Command key is Equivalent to Control

Growing up with Windows means being familiar with the various Control shortcuts like Ctrl+C, Ctrl+X, Ctrl+V, and Ctrl+Z for copy, cut, paste, and undo tasks respectively.

In Mac, the Control key is mostly used for shuffling between browser tabs and switching between desktops. Most of the commands are under the Cmd key.

So instead of Ctrl+C, Ctrl+X, Ctrl+V, and Ctrl+Z, you need to use Cmd+C, Cmd+X, Cmd+V, and Cmd+Z. Alt+Tab becomes Cmd+Tab. Any shortcut on Windows involving Control probably has an equivalent OS X shortcut.

Copying Files

Copying files is a lot more complicated in Mac because there is no Cmd+X shortcut to copy the files or a ‘cut’ option in the right-click menu. In Windows, all you have to do is press Ctrl+X to cut and Ctrl+V to paste the file in another location. To cut and paste files on Mac, follow these steps:

  1. Select the files you want to copy and tap Command + C.
  2. To paste the files, tap Command + Option + V. This will also delete the files from the original folder.

Virtual Desktops

If your work involves a lot of multi-tasking or you just want to do things on a limited amount of time, then you’re going to love the virtual desktops on Mac. Virtual desktop opens when you activate Mission Control. When you open Mission Control, you’ll see a set of rectangles at the top. These are all the running apps, widgets, and desktop on your computer.

You can add another ‘virtual desktop’ by clicking the plus icon that appears when you hover the mouse to the upper right corner. This lets you create another home screen where you can run a separate set of apps from the ones you are currently running on your desktop. This is very useful when you’re working on multiple projects that need their own sets of windows.

Searching Through Spotlight

One of the useful features of Windows is its search function. You can find whatever files, applications, emails, or folders by typing in the name of what you want to find in the search box. OS X has that feature in the form of Spotlight. To activate Spotlight, just hit Command + Space or click the magnifying glass icon in the top bar. Just type in whatever you want to find and it will pull up all relevant results. Aside from finding files, Spotlight is also an easy way of launching apps, searching Google and Wikipedia, and doing basic computations.

Deleting Files

If you want to delete a file, you have to drag the file to the Trash (Recycle Bin in Windows) which you can find in the Dock. You can also press Cmd+Delete to make deleting easier. You can also clean up old files from your Mac by running Outbyte MacRepair, a 3rd party cleaning tool. It empties all your trash and deletes unwanted files, unneeded log files, broken downloads, old iOS updates, and temporary files from your entire Mac system.

The Dock is Your Friend

Windows users are familiar with the Taskbar located at the bottom of the screen. This is where you can access commonly used applications, the Start menu, and the Windows System Tray. OS X’s Dock works the same way. It provides a customizable menu where you can access common files and folders, Launchpad, Trash, Finder, and System Preferences.

You can auto-hide the Dock if you don’t want it getting in the way of your screen. Just go to System Preferences, choose Dock, and select Automatically Hide And Show The Dock. You can also adjust the size, magnification, and animated windows minimization settings in System Preferences.

Installing Applications

Installing new programs in Mac is very different from Windows. Installing new applications in Windows means being involved all throughout the installation process. Your installation won’t proceed unless you click the Continue or Next button. Installing new apps on Mac is a lot easier. All you have to do is download the software and drag the downloaded icon to the Applications folder and that’s it!

Switching from Windows to Mac requires a learning curve. But with this user guide for Windows user, we hope it will help make things easy to explore and get familiar with your Mac.

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