Tips For A Mac Switcher

There have been a lot of guides to help swicthers moving across from Windows to the Mac recently, but a lot of them seem to focus on 3rd party applications for OS X that have Windows equivalents. Well I thought that someone should list some of the things about OS X that are different, like where to change preferences, how to delete applications, how to search for files, how to add printers etc.

I hope you find my list of tips for a Mac switcher helpful!

  1. System Preferences
    If you’ve moved from Windows then you’ll be used to the Control Panel. System Preferences serves the same function as the Control Panel, except it is better organized in my opinion. Using it is simple, especially with integrated Spotlight search. Pretty much any system-level preference is managed from System Preferences, and with Spotlight you’ll find it easy to get to where you need to go.
  2. Expose
    Managing windows in OS X is super easy because of Expose, a feature introced in 10.3. Press F9 to show all windows, F10 to show all the open windows for the application currently in use or F11 to clear the screen and show the desktop. It is very simple and elegant, once you try it you will see huge gains in your productivity.
  3. Spotlight
    Search in Windows XP is very poor, although software such as Google Desktop Search or Yahoo Desktop Search do help to an extent. However, these tools are not tightly integrated into the operating system and there have been complaints that they are process intensive. Spotlight is Apple’s integrated search solution that can find any file anywhere on your hard drive. To access Spotlight quickly simply hit Command-spacebar and type your query in. You’ll see your search results appear at the top right of your screen, organized by file type. If you would like to search in more details then hit Command-Option-spacebar. You can then organize your search results by date, type and information on a file easily. If you would like to exclude a folder and keep it’s contents secret, go to the Spotlight panel in System Preferences where you can also adjust the keyboard shortcut to access Spotlight.
  4. Software Update
    Windows Update’s OS X equivalent is Software Update, an application that is tightly integrated into the system to manage updates to various Apple-only software such as iLife apps (iTunes, iPhoto, iMove, iDVD, iWeb, Garageband) and pro apps (Final Cut Pro, Motion, Aperture etc.) as well as downloading OS updates and security updates. You can check for updates quickly by clicking the Apple at the top left and selecting Software Update. Alternatively, open the Software Update pane in System Preferences and set it to automatically check for new updates periodically.
  5. Dashboard
    Apple introduced Dashboard with Mac OS X 10.4 to a controversial reception, mainly because Konfabulator did basically the same thing. No matter what it’s background is, you’ll find Dashboard handy. Basically it allows you to keep an eye on a lot of information, it does it all from RSS feeds and news, webcams to traffic reports, world time through language translation. To activate the Dashboard hit F12, mouseover a hot corner or squeeze the sides of your Mighty Mouse. You can change the settings for Dashboard in System Preferences. You can download new Widgets from Apple, MacUpdate or Dashboard Widgets.
  6. Setting Up New User Accounts
    If you want to setup an account for friends or family then head to the Accounts pane located in System Preferences. Here you can asign the new account a name, password and picture. You can also manage settings for Fast User Switching from this pane.
  7. Managing Printers
    Adding a new printer with OS X is a cinch. Go to the Finder, then Applications, Utilities and finally Printer Setup utility. Once here you can easily find your new attached printer (whether connected via USB or on a network). You can also change the default printer and make changes to the printer’s settings. If you need to delete a printer, do it from here.
  8. Installing Applications
    The process of installing an application on OS X is pretty different when compared to Windows, but it is easier. Many applications, such as those downloaded from the internet, are a .dmg (DIsk Image) file. Once downloaded OS X will automatically mount the disc so you can view the contents. You can then just drag and drop the application to any location, I mostly keep my organized in the Applications folder. However, some applications (Photoshop and Dreamweaver for example) use an installer that takes you through the installation by the hand.
  9. Uninstalling Applications
    There is quite a difference between Windows and OS X in this regard. In Windows you’ll be used to uninstalling an application from Add / Remove Software in the Control Panel. In OS X, just select the application, drag it to the trash and delete it. However, deleting an application this way will leave any preference files associated with it. The best way to totally delete an application and any ancillary files is via Spotlight. Hit Command-Option-spacebar to open the Spotlight window, then search for the application. You’ll see a list of files, but before you delete them all just check in case you delete something unnecessarily. You may want something to make this even easier, in this instance we recommend you try App Zapper – the uninstaller Apple forgot!
  10. Sharing Files With Others
    Sharing files with OS X is very easy. Just go to the Sharing pane in System Preferences and allow your system to share files with others. Bonjour will take care of everything when you are looking for another computer. Just click on Network on your Finder sidebar and browse the list of available discs to access.
  11. The Home Folder
    Each user has a folder where that user’s files are stored. This is where your music, photos, movies, documents are all kept. The Home folder is the equivalent of My Documents in Windows, only better. 😉
  12. No Internet Explorer?
    If you have switched from Windows then you may well be wondering where Internet Explorer is. Well, Microsoft stopped development of the venerable IE for Mac some time ago. Safari is now the default browser with all new Macs, but you may also be interested in the free and very good Camino or Firefox.
  13. Finding System Information
    Finding out all the information pertaining to your Mac is easy. Simply click on the Apple up at the top left and select About This Mac from the menu. Then click More Info to find out just above everything you’ll need to know from the size of your hard disk, component manufacturers, software versioning etc.
  14. Buring CDs
    Got some files you would like to backup to CD or DVD? Easy! Just insert your disc and select the Open Finder option. To change the name of the disc, click on the label and type in whateveryou want. Now drag and drop your files onto the disc. Then click File and select Burn Disk.
  15. No Right Click?
    For Windows users the right click has been an integral part of everyday computing for years. For Mac users, it has (until recently with the introduction of the Mighty Mouse) not. If you do not have a Mighty Mouse or a mouse with more than one button, then all you need to do is hit Control before clicking.

If you have suggestions please make them in the comments and I’ll add them here. Let’s try and make this as thorough as possible! 🙂

9 thoughts on “Tips For A Mac Switcher

  1. William

    MacBook owners (this should work under MacBook Pro as well) can go to “Keyboard and Mouse” under System Preferences and tick the box beside “Tap trackpad using two fingers for secondary click.” Your trackpad will now function as a two-button mouse, so to speak. It can interfere occasionally with the dual-finger scroll, but it’s an excellent feature nonetheless! And it saves me from having to carry an external mouse or use the Control key (both of which are counterintuitive, but for differing reasons).

  2. Reese Hyde

    Being a Mac user, I knew exactly what you meant on number 15 when you said “Hit control before you click,” but to a Windows user, they might think that you just press control, let go, then click, where you actually have to hold it down while clicking.

  3. Anthony

    Regarding item 15:

    It is best to adjust the right mouse setting in system preferences so it performs a righ click.

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  6. higgins


    I love Windows search because I can specify the folder where I want to search in (to exclude noise in the end results), then I can define the part of the file name I want to search inside from and then I can specify the keywords I’m searching inside the files.

    Can I do the same in the Spotlight? I tried to, but failed since there’s only one field of text I can enter my query. I couldn’t make Spotlight distinguish file and file content when writing a query.

    I’d like to make the switch, but I need to know to do this kind of search under mac.

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  9. roy traies

    We have just made the switch so we are still feeling our way around with the the help of the instructions one thing that we miss is being able to use the game smallballs from and now products are we able to download this to a mac it appears to only load in script form but i must say we love Mac
    Regards Roy

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