MacMost Now 142: Common Mistakes Windows Users Make on Mac

Gary Rosenzweig looks at the seven most common user interface mistakes that Windows users make when first switching to Mac.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: MacMost Now 142: Common Mistakes Windows Users Make on Mac.

Hi, this is Gary with Mac Most now. Today lets take a look at the seven most common user interface mistakes that Windows users make when switching to Mac.
Understanding the major differences between Windows Mac is actually usually pretty easy. It's the tiny little things that give people trouble. Like, for instance, number one on the list is Windows users always end up accidentally renaming files in the finder. This is because that in Windows, you can select a file and then hit the enter key which then launches the program, but it doesn't work that way on Mac. So on Mac, if you select an application then hit enter, you're in a mode to rename that application. A confused Windows user may accidentally do that and change the name of the app.
So, number two is the maximize button. In Windows, this will expand the window to the full size of the screen, but on Mac it only expands the maximum ammount of size needed to view all of the content. So here, in Safari, we've got the Apple homepage. If we hit the green maximize button, we typically get a window that's large enough to contain all the content inside of the webpage. We don't expand to full screen. In order to expand to full screen you have to grab the bottom right hand corner and expand it manually.
Which brings us to number three, resizing windows. In Windows, you grab the edge of a window, and drag them to resize. On Mac, you grab the lower right-hand corner and use that to resize.
Another common mistake used is minimizing a window rather than hiding it. Minimizing a window actually minimizes just that one window the application. The application is still running and it puts that document in the dock. It's still using a lot of processing power to update what's shown in the dock and the app is actually still there. Other windows may be open. Hiding it is probably what most people want to do in this case, which actually takes the entire application and moves it away. It's still running in the background but it's not using as much system resources as minimizing does.
So to minimize, you press the yellow button and that would simply hide that single window and put it down here in the dock. Other windows are still there and you can minimize those as well, having several minimized windows from a single application. But hiding, which can be done by going up here to the main menu for the application or by pressing command h in which the applications will instantly and quickly remove the applications completely and it's easy to bring it back by using command tab for intance or just clicking on the application again in the dock.
So related to all this is the fact that Windows users are used to clicking on the top of a window to quickly maximize it. Well, in the Mac, it doesn't work that way. Instead, when you go to the top of an application and double click on the window it simply minimizes that window. It wont actually maximize it like the maximize button.
Windows user will often also close a window for an application thinking the application is closed. That's cause that's true on windows. If you've got one document application open and you close it, the application quits. But not so on Mac. You close the last document window or say word processor or your browser, the application's actually still running and ready for you to open a new window to begin something new.
And last, but certainly not least, is the difference in the keyboards between Mac and Windows. The main difference is the command key, or the Apple key as it is sometimes called on the Mac. This is used just like the control key on Windows, but, to confuse things further, there is a control, a ctrl key, on Mac. This is used like the right mouse button on Windows. So when you want to do something like issue a menu shortcut command, you, on Mac, would press the command or the Apple key and type the key for that command. The control key you use, you press control and you click somewhere to bring up a right menu. Of course, different programs will use both these keys in lots of different ways but for the most part, command is used to do keyboard shortcuts and control is used as a way to bring up a contextual menu.
Now, these are by all means no the only mistakes Windows users make when switching to Mac, and if you've got one you would like to list, please leave it as a comment to this post at Mac Most dot com. Thanks and until next time, this is Gary Rosenzweig with Mac Most Now

Comments: 9 Responses to “MacMost Now 142: Common Mistakes Windows Users Make on Mac”

    11 years ago

    One mistake i have made that u didnt mention was the Control, Alt, Delete to bring up task manager on windows, but on a Mac you have to open the App, through looking for it in either spotlight, the dock or where ever it located.
    At least thats how i know to open Task Manager, well Activity Monitor on the Mac.

    11 years ago

    Matt: Command+Option+Esc will allow you to force quit applications. Is that what you mean?

    Michael A.
    11 years ago


    Great list. I’ve watched new Mac users be frustrated by each one of those issues.

    For those learning the Mac, here’s some notes:

    1. “Accidental renaming:” To stop editing a name and cancel the changes, hit Escape. To open a file using the keyboard, hit either Command-O or Command-Down Arrow. (As Gary said, “Command” is the “Apple” key.)

    4. “Minimizing Windows:” The “Hiding” feature has been in the Mac OS longer than “Minimizing.” Like Gary I prefer to hide apps rather than minimize their windows, probably because apps can be “un-hidden” from the keyboard (Command-Tab), but “un-minimizing” requires the mouse.

    6. “Closing Windows to Quit:” This really causes confusion when you go to “re-launch” the application and it appears that nothing happens. If you look at the menu bar you’ll see that it has changed to show the name of the launched application, but since no new windows appear your first reaction is to think that the application isn’t opening. Some applications, like Safari, have been changed recently so that they open a new window automatically if you activate them and there are no open windows.

    For Mac users helping someone learn to use a Mac:

    * Have them subscribe to MacMost Now!

    * Before you get bogged down in explaining what the dots on the Dock mean, show them some of the snazzier features of the OS. My list of things everyone should try in their first five minutes on a Mac are (1) Dashboard, (2) Exposé, (3) Control+scroll wheel to zoom the screen, (4) Front Row, and (5) Quick Look.

    * Emphasize use keyboard shortcuts and point out keyboard combinations that work universally (Command-Tab, Command-W, “Return” to hit the default button in a dialog) or in more than one app (like “Space bar” to play or pause media).

    * Explain which symbols in menus correspond to Command, Option, Control and Shift (and apologize for it being so $%^@# bizarre and under-documented). The sooner they realize those aren’t just unintelligible alien riddles, the more productive they’ll be.

    * Though I cringe to suggest it, if you haven’t done it before try learning to do a few tasks on Windows. It helps to know where your audience is coming from. When people ask me why I use a Mac, I say it’s because I’ve used Windows.


    11 years ago

    When you have a folder with some contents, and another identically named folder with different contents on a different part of your hard drive, when you try to move the folder into the same place there are problems.

    In windows, you will get a prompt saying that any conflicting subcontents will be replaced with the contents being moved. It will then correctly merge the 2 folders contents, only overwriting the conflicting contents.

    In OS X, you get a similarly worded prompt, but instead of correctly merging the folders it completely replaces the entire directory with the one being copied/moved. I have made this mistake several times and deleted important files this way. It is also important to note that when you do this, the files are completely deleted on OSX and not moved to the trash (which would at least provide recovery options)

    10 years ago

    there is no cut option in finder when moving files/folders as one is used to in Windows, when moving files, interestingly better technique is provided by springloaded folders.

    Just drag the file/folder from the source, and hover it to the parent folder for few seconds, will auto open the folder to go deep inside the heirarchy to the place you want to paste the contents.

    If a + icon is accompanied, would mean your actually “copying”, hit command key to remove the + icon to mean you wish to cut-paste (this exists even on windows, but i never noticed it)

    10 years ago

    is there a feature in Mac like windows has to hide documents/files? Window has “Hidden files” option. The other feature I have been having problems with is spelling corrections, it was hinted upon in the video that the Control key is like the right click on the windows program, but I don’t get a suggestions list for spell corrections. thanks.

    10 years ago

    Will: You can have hidden files, yes, but usually the system does that with files that you shouldn’t mess with. How does Windows let you hide files that you need? And how do you get them back?
    As for Ctrl+Click for spelling, it should work as long as the work is spelled wrong and it is in a supported app like Mail, TextEdit, etc. You’ll see a red underline indicating that the word is wrong.

    10 years ago

    Hi Gary. Nice video. I have a macbook air and i just wondered if you perhaps could help me out with a problem. I accidently managed to use some kind of zoom function, which makes the screen smaller than the window. I cant find a way to change this back to normal. All replies would be appreciated.


      10 years ago

      You are in Zoom mode. Option-Command-8 to turn it off. Go to System Preferences and look under Universal Access for more.

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