Little adjustments - from Windows to Mac

There are a few little things that four weeks in to my Mac adoption are still presenting me with small challenges. Since I run parallel desktops; both a high powered Windows machine and my now trusty MacBook, I'm constantly battling with them.

Closing Applications
One of the little "gotchas" for me with my Mac has been closing down applications. In the Windows environment when I am done with just about any application I'll save what I've worked on and then click the little X in the upper right hand corner. My youngest daughter even uses that as a verb: "Just X the window..."

On my Mac the little X has moved from the top right to the top left of every window and is now under a little red orb. Much like under Windows, when I'm done with an application I'll find myself simply closing it by clicking on the little red orb. While this closes the window it does not close the application. The menu is still alive - and with it most of the memory for the application - until you actually quit the application (Command-Q).

It took me a little while to really understand this. If you've read my blog you can probably tell that I'm trying out a lot of applications now, seeing what will work best for me on my Mac. Early on I would load up and application, play with it for a little, then close the main window and try out another application.  Before long I had so many application still running that when I hit Command-Tab to switch to a different application it looked like an icon party on my desktop.

If you make the move to Mac from Windows it's a good idea to remember how to actually close down an application. Command-Q is your friend!

Keyboard Shortcuts
The keyboards on the machines continue to mess me up. While the secondary key for nearly every action is the same (C =  Copy, V = Paste, X = Cut, Z = Undo), the primary key is different. On Windows it's the Control key, on Mac it's the Command key. While I considered remapping the keyboard on one or the other to switch those keys I quickly realized that would be a losing battle. It's just something I've had to suck up.

Resizing Windows
On Windows I am used to grabbing any edge of a Window and dragging it to a new size. On Mac, the resizing only works in the lower right corner of most windows. That gets me all the time. While it's nice to have the "leaner" windows on Mac because there isn't area dedicated to scrolling, I find on Mac I am constantly grabbing the top part of the window, repositioning it, then grabbing the bottom right corner and resizing it. Seems like extra steps to me.

The other thing I haven't quite figured out is how to maximize a window, at least in Safari. On Windows if I hit the Maximize button, the application takes over the entire screen. Click it again and now you're back to the size it was before. Most Mac applications behave the same way, except for Safari. Click on the Maximize button and it simply make the window as tall as the screen is; it does not effect the width. Not sure about the logic in that decision.

Drag and Drop
While most Windows applications are pretty heavily drag and drop oriented - and there is integration between applications within Windows, drag and drop models on Mac are more elaborate. If you scan through some of my other posts you'll notice I like to throw application logos into things when I talk about them. I do that because it makes the post a little nicer looking and because it's so easy to do on Mac.

See a picture on a web page you like? If it's just an image and not a Flash object just click and drag it to your desktop. No Right Click, Save As, Select Directory, OK. Want to upload an image to a web page? Usually you get a text box and a Choose button on a web form. Just grab the image from your desktop and drag it over the Choose button. So much easier than Click Choose, Navigate to photo, Click OK.

It's little things like that that make Mac cool.


Brad D. said...

I use a logitech MX revolution with my Imac. Using steer-mouse, I mapped one of the thumb buttons to Command Q.

Now I just click the button with my thumb whenever I want to shutdown an app.

Vito Traino said...

Typically hitting the "plus" button will not "maximize" the window, but resize it to how it should be. So in Safari, its maximizing vertically because the webpage is longer than your monitors height, and it's resizing itself horizontally to fit the width of the webpage.

Thats what i've gathered from my personal experience.

I agree that you should be able to resize from all sides, but theres nothing we can do about it.

Brad- thats a great idea, but personally i would accidentally hit it too much :)

Robert said...

Back in the days of the classic Mac OS, you used to be able to resize the window from every side. That somehow went the way of the dinosaur with OS X, unfortunately.

Tom said...

Quick tip for closing a lot of apps, hit Command tab, then hold command while hitting Q when the switcher is over the app you want to quit. When I head home for the day from work, I have a few apps I don't want to leave running. Keystroke sequence usually is Command-Tab-Tab-Q-Tab-Tab-Tab-Q-Tab-Q until I've closed all the apps I want.

Also, don't worry so much about memory with 4gb in your Mac. It takes a bit to get used to, but you might as well just leave apps open if you plan on using them again sometime soon. I use a program called Spirited Away ( to auto hide apps I haven't used recently (normally Command-H). Works great at work to keep me focused on what task I'm doing, and not need to manually hide or minimize other apps I'm not currently using.

Robert said...

Actually, dragging an image from Firefox in Windows XP to the desktop works just fine. :)

And you're not supposed to maximize an application. You're supposed to multi-task. ;)

Btw, I'm typing this on my MBP, as I'm a convert on my second year now, and have, during that time, managed to convert two of my colleagues, my mother and my girlfriend. :)

Chris said...

Originally—and it's been changing slowly, probably because of the influx of a lot of new Windows to Mac converts—pretty much all Mac applications worked like Safari. They would make their window only as big as the content inside of it.

This is because of the basic philosophy that drove the original Mac: The concept of the desktop.

Each window/document is an analogue to a paper on a desk. That's why all windows from all applications are always visible and can be shuffled around each other.

Windows took a different approach and became Application based; meaning, of course, that each Application has a main window and document windows are open inside the main window and windows from other applications never meet them.

Wesley said...

Chris' response is right on. I actually hate how maximizing in Windows makes something take up the whole screen. The whole point of a screen is to look at multiple things at the same time. I expect a window to resize to the content and let me utilize my desktop fully.

But I understand the reason in Windows. In Windows, a window is an application and vice versa. There really isn't the idea of an application that has multiple "regular" windows as part of it. Even apps like Photoshop originally had one big Application=Window and your individual files were all interior child windows. Maximizing is really maximizing an application. And for some reason you tend to need the whole monitor to use applications. They just seem to be designed that way.

I think you'll find yourself more productive after you get used to having windows that are only the size they need to be, instead of huge. (Billg uses an entire 20" monitor just for Outlook. How wasteful is that!?)

spvn said...

The thing about Macs is that windows AREN"T meant to be used in full screen. In fact, I spend 90% of my time in my web browser, and it doesn't take up my entire screen, instead on the left side of the screen is my list of MSN contacts (I use MSN messenger instead of AIM), but you could basically place any window you want there to keep yourself updated. It's the best way to make use of the Mac's widescreen, though on a Macbook you'd be hard pressed for real estate.

Oh and if you DO find a replacement for Microsoft Visual Studio, PLEASE post it immediately, I need such a program too :P Though I would suggest trying XCode, it's the Mac's development platform.

sgt-phail said...

Just a little thing-- I have the control and command keys mapped to each other on my MBP (and capslock deactivated), it's ridiculously easy to do and results in a major reduction of pinky gymnastics. hardly a losing battle.

David Alison said...

sgt-phail: I just started to "get" that yesterday. Someone else told me about holding down the option key while I was selecting a file and I would get slightly different options. Who would have thought that the Options key would give different options? :-)

Thanks for the tip!

Viswakarma said...

The metaphors used by Mac and Windows are different. Macintosh user-centric (i.e. document), while Windows is developer-centric (i.e. applications).

I use Windows for work and Macs for home use. Windows always irritates me by shutting down the application when I close the last document associated with it, and want start a new document associated with the same application. Further, in Windows the documents open as windows inside the application window and one has to look for the correct "X" button to close the document. The user interface in Windows is very confusing and requires more mental work to perform the correct action.

David Alison said...

@Viswakarma: Perhaps, though I think it's really just a choice made by each company a very long time ago. User behavior at that level starts to become pretty subjective. The thing that I have found that makes a UI useable is consistency.

At a minimum you need to be able to do the same actions on different objects and get results that you expect to have happen. That creates confidence in the user, and both Mac and Windows are pretty consistent at that level.

Where people have trouble and assume the UI is "hard" is where they are used to it performing one way in one environment and then getting a different response when they switch environments.

I'll be the first to agree that it can be frustrating though. My brother has a right hand drive car he imported from Japan that I love to drive, though I can't make a turn in the thing without activating the windshield wipers because they are on the "wrong" side, where the turn indicator should be.

Scott Koenig said...

I can't remember where I picked this up, but here is a trick for super-sizing your Safari windows. Using a bit of scripting (javascript:self.moveTo(0,0);self.resizeTo(screen.availWidth,screen.availHeight);) you can force Safari to expand to its fullest. I Googled this and came up with the web page: It has several little tidsbits to enjoy.

Oh... have you ever looked at Kensington products ? I have been using their "Orbit" trackball 'forever'. Since you like 5 mutton mice, you looked at their PilotMouse (