The 5 Things You Must Know When Converting From Windows to Mac

Converting from the Windows to Mac ecosystems can be a bit of a challenge. Some things will feel familiar, while others may not. Even the most basic of tasks have very small, but very noticeable differences.  In this tutorial I will demonstrate the five things you must know when making the leap from the Windows to Mac operating systems.


In this tutorial, I will demonstrate how to:
  • Find and open applications
  • Properly close those applications
  • The “Dock” and how to use it
  • “Spotlight” and all of its powerful search features
  • The “Dashboard”
Let's get started!


I will demonstrate each of the aspects, listed above, in this screencast which may be view in conjunction with the rest of this tutorial.

The 5 Things You Must Know When Converting From Windows to Mac

Finding and Opening Applications

In Windows, opening an application means going to the start menu in the lower left hand corner of the screen, then to the application menu.
Opening an application in Windows
On a Mac, everything has its place within the file system. You access the file system by clicking on the Finder icon.
Note: The Finder icon is the left most one that looks like two smiling blue faces.
Opening an application in Mac OS X
So I'm going to click on Finder and then Applications. Here is the complete list of every application on my Mac. To launch one, I will simply double click on the icon of the app I would like to launch.

Closing Applications

In Windows, closing an application usually means clicking the red x in the upper right corner of the screen. Even though this same idea of “click the red button to close" does carry over to the Mac, there are a couple of key differences worth learning:
  1. On a Mac, the red close button is in the upper left corner of the application window, not the upper right.
  2. Also, clicking that aforementioned button will only close the window; not the entire application.
To close the application completely, you need to either:
  1. Click on the name of the app in the top left corner of your screen, then choose the quit option. Or
  2. Use the handy Command Q shortcut
I would recommend learning the shortcut, as it is much more efficient
Properly closing applications you are not using will free up system resources and allow the apps you are using to run much faster.

What Is the Dock?

Now that you understand how to open and close applications, I want to show you how to identify the applications that are currently running.  Any application that is currently running will most likely appear in your dock with a small white dot below it.  Based on this screenshot, you can see I have Open Office and Screenflow running.  I also have Finder running, but Finder is always running.  It is a key part of the Mac OS.
Apps running the dock have a little spotlight beneath them
As well as showing me what apps I have open, the dock also acts as a bit of a shortcut bar. If I know I use a particular application more than others, I can simply click on Finder, navigate to my applications folder, and drag that app from my applications folder to the dock. This has effectively 'pinned' that application to my dock for easier access.
How to pin an application to the dock
Later on, if I decide I'm not using that application as much, I can remove the pin by clicking and holding down on the icon until a menu appears. From there I will go to options and then click to remove the check next to keep in dock.
Alternatively, I can just click and drag the icon over to the trash can where a remove from dock option will appear. By letting go, I have removed the application from my dock.
Note: Removing applications from your dock does not remove or uninstall them from your Mac. It simply removes the shortcut to the application.
Changing the behaviour of apps in the dock


Spotlight is the Mac's built in search feature. Entire trainings could be devoted to all of its different uses, but for now, I will point out just a few.
First, imagine that I would like to find a document on my Mac, but I can't remember what folder it was saved to. Well, I would simply launch spotlight with the Command Spacebar shortcut and begin typing the title of that document.
Notice that, as I type, suggestions already begin to appear. I can simply arrow key down to the document I'm looking for and hit enter. Just like that, the document has been found and opened for me.
Using Spotlight can improve your efficiency
Suppose I have an application I would like to launch, but I don't want to go to the trouble of clicking on Finder, then Applications, then searching for the app.  I can simply do a Command Spacebar shortcut to bring up spotlight, then begin typing the first few letters of the app. As soon as it appears in the search results, I can arrow down to it and press enter to launch.
Spotlight can also be a great way to quickly search the web. Suppose I would like to see what a bitcoin is. I'll just Command Spacebar to bring up spotlight, then type what is a bitcoin and arrow down to search the web for "what is bitcoin". Spotlight fires off a web browser with the search results already open.
Searching the web from Spotlight

The Dashboard

Last, but not least, I want to show you around the dashboard. The dashboard can be accessed a multitude of different ways. On my macbook air, I use the shortcut fn + f12. On a magic mouse or trackpad, a four-finger swipe to the left will most likely get you there as well. It may be a bit different for you depending on the year and model of your Mac.
Once there, I find a set of four existing live widgets that show me date, time, a simple calculator and a seven-day weather forecast. These are not the only widgets I can have on my dashboard though.
Widgets -- oft underused functionality on your Mac
By hitting the plus button in the lower left corner I can add even more widgets ranging from ski reports to digital sticky notes. If these aren't enough, I can even click the more widgets button to be taken to the Apple site. This site contains many widgets that I may download and install. I can really make this Dashboard my own.
Discovering new widgets


Any change can be a bit scary at first, but learning these basic differences will make the transition from Windows to Mac a breeze! With a little practice, and the information in this tutorial, you will be opening applications, managing them, closing them properly and enjoying your personalized dashboard in no time!


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