Two months with OS X: A Windows user’s tale

I recently landed a great job at a local web development company, Niche Studio, and I’m loving it. What I’m not loving so much are the PCs. They’re Apple Macs, and other than occasionally using one when visiting someone, I haven’t had any serious contact with the Mac OS.

So when starting my new position, it seemed a great opportunity to document my progress with this alien operating system. Being an experienced Windows user (if I do say so myself) may have prepared me a little.

This post was first filled with many things a long-time Windows user took for granted. It didn’t get posted in it’s original form for various reasons, and I’m glad it was postponed. There were many gripes about how Macs handled certain tasks, but now that I’ve had two months to become accustomed to this OS, many of those initial problems have been overcome through learning.

But there are still some issues. Some of them I’ve seen veteran Mac users encounter. And they are certainly annoying.

First off, menu item separators. Why does clicking them make the whole menu close? This is still present in the newest OS X release, Lion. Neither of the other two major operating systems do this (Windows or Linux). In what situation would a user want (or even more importantly, expect) the whole menu tree to close upon clicking a separator between menu items? None.

Resizing windows from any side. I realise this has been addressed in Lion, but really? Why did it take this long? By the way I’ve still got to deal with it because my machine is running Snow Leopard.

The mouse cursor’s hotspot. It’s almost three pixels from the tip of the cursor itself. Many times I have attempted to scroll horizontally with the scrollbar, only to click on the window under it.

Keyboard navigation. A confirmation dialog pops up. I’d like to press the arrow keys to highlight “Yes”, then press enter to confirm. I don’t mind being forced to use tab to select the controls. But then the Enter key still does the default option (“No”), not the one I highlighted. The spacebar is used to confirm your selection on Mac. Still catches me out.

Another with keyboard navigation. Command-tab (equivalent of alt-tab on Windows) doesn’t open minimised application windows.

Viewing file properties. I want to check how much space these thirty files are taking up. Highlight them, select “Get Info”. Thirty windows open up, one for each file. Oops, looks like I forgot to hold the control key. This is not what a user wants. Ever.

Keyboard shortcuts, or rather, long-cuts. Go to start of line: Command-Left. End of line: Command-Right. Why do I have to press two keys to do the equivalent of the Home and End keys in Windows and Linux? Also print-screen takes a three or four-button combination, compared to one or two on Windows.

Maximising windows. That little green plus isn’t very consistent. Sometimes the window will fully expand, sometimes only vertically and yet other times it takes me to a “mini” version of the application.

Searching for files. There’s no wildcard searching. Very odd.

No ability to type a filesystem path straight into Finder. I gotta click and scroll my way through.

A nice-to-have would be the right-click context menu appearing at the end of a drag operation. On Windows you can drag files with the right mouse button, and at the end of the drag you are presented with options such as “Move here”, or “Copy here”. I miss that.

Well, that’s all I came across (worth mentioning) during my first two months.

8 thoughts on “Two months with OS X: A Windows user’s tale”

  1. As a long time Windows User (over 2 decades) and only having used Macs previously very sparingly at school during that time, I too, felt a lot of frustration initially. In 2007, I took the task of switching over to a Mac by choice, wanting to better understand what ever other developer understood that I didn’t.

    I have to admit that the first several weeks was brutal. However, the moment I stop trying to treat it like it should behave as Windows does, and started utilizing it the way a Mac is suppose to be (i.e. not being bias base on how my habits have been formed from being a Windows user which i’m sure is agonizing from a heavy Mac user trying other OSes as well), it became extremely easy to adjust.

    Now, I can’t imagine using Windows anymore once I understood the Mac inside and out. While some of your gripes are valid, many are just habitual issues. While its true that taking a screen shot takes several keys, it’s also true that you have the option of selecting the area you wish to screenshot (something that Windows didn’t get until Windows 7 and even then its a hidden option).

    I don’t seem to have the mouse issues you described as well so many its just how I use the Mac. Again, a lot of these are habitual and not really necessarily a problem with the Mac itself. You just need to stop treating it as if it was designed to work the way you’re use to doing things, and start fresh.

    1. I agree with you that I just need more time to adjust, although I don’t feel I’ll ever be able to “start fresh” as you say, as I use Windows at home.

      I still prefer Windows, mainly for the amount of perceptual control. From the start OS X felt as if it were hiding in the background, I didn’t feel as though I could access every folder, file, setting and such. I realise this is by design, to enable simplicity and ease of use for non-technical users, but there should be a way to remove those barriers for the people who want to.

      And I stand by several of the above stated “problems”, as they cannot be “fixed” simply by prolonged usage. They are simply design flaws (not to say Windows doesn’t have flaws, but that’s not what this post is about)

      1. You can fully control the Mac once you understand how to. A lot of it is also understanding how to do things via the command line and terminal. But I will acknowledge things will be hard if you are alternating between Windows at home and Mac at work. I was only able to get use to the Mac faster as it was my only machine 24//7. Best of luck

  2. “No ability to type a filesystem path straight into Finder.”

    That’s ??G (command-shift-G) in Finder for “Go to folder…”. You could make it globally available with Quicksilver and Applescript, I think.

  3. 1. Resizing windows from any side: Part of the history, plus, because Apple want to tech people, like “just drag right down corner”, that actually has ~16x16px that’s more easy to click, than corners. But most of because it’s just history.

    2. Keyboard navigation: In Mac OS X all popup windows with questions has shortkeys. If window has buttons Save, Cancel, than Save = Command + S, Cancel = Command + C. Or Delete, or whatever.
    But actually not all app developers use this right. Plus, some important questions, like delete or replace something could ask you to move mouse instead.

    3. Viewing file properties: If u open a lot of windows, just click option + red close button. You can use option also with batch minimise.

    4. Searching for files: open any folder, click Command + F, select Search in this folder and you can also add some filters. Search in Mac OS X a lot better than in win.

    5. Maximising windows: it’s not very handy, it’s just actually your windows habits. After many years of Mac using, i can’t use windows in full screen even after Apple add this function to Mountain Lion.

    P.S. It’s your old article, but i still want to comment it. Also, you using windows for a long time, just try to completely switch on Mac and after years try to do something in Windows and only than you realise how damn useless this system are! :)

  4. sorry for this errors. correction

    “1. Resizing windows from any side: Part of the history, plus, because Apple want to tech people, like “just drag right down corner”, that actually has ~16x16px that’s more easy to click, than corners. But most of because it’s just history.”

    *teach people
    * that more easy to click than borders!
    also note that this resizing corners still here for text area web inputs ;)

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