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Welcome to the Mac-essential guide to make the leap from Windows to macOS

Welcome to the Mac: essential guide to make the leap from Windows to macOS

Users that change platforms are there every day. It can be from iOS to Android, from Mac to Windows or Linux and of course, vice versa, users who start using Apple products. If you are one of those who will make the jump, you know someone or just take a short time since you left behind Windows to use macOS X here we discuss everything you should know.

To begin, you must know that Apple offers a lot of information on its Apple support page. Still, next we will see some aspects that I hope will be useful. If you are knowledgeable users you can go jumping to other points, you still find something useful. And if not, you can propose any topic and I will discuss them in future articles.

From Windows to MacOS X: the Finder


Knowing the anatomy of macOS is basic to start using the system and to function with ease . Finder comes first, the macOS file manager that comes to be the namesake for the Windows file explorer.

Finder is the gateway to the Mac, the equivalent to the file explorer in Windows

Finder allows you to manage windows, files, move and copy them to other folders or locations … it is the basic application that will always be active . But there may be times when for some reason it gets stuck or does not respond as it should. Before launching for the power button and forcing the shutdown, it is convenient that you know the following methods to restart the Finder:

  • The first option is Command + Alt + Esc and a window will be opened to force the closing of applications or the own restart of Finder.
  • The second option, on the Dock, we right click on the icon keeping the Altitude key pressed. We will see the option of Restart.
  • Finally, through Terminal we can execute the code KillAll Finder

Next to the Finder it is important to know the structure of the macOS desktop . In the upper part you will see the application bar, which will always correspond to the active application (selected at that moment). This app can be Finder or any other one that you have open. And in this bar the different menus will appear.

Menu App

To the left of that bar we will see an icon of an apple , which offers access to the Software Update, System Preferences, Rest, Turn off the device and more.

Just to the opposite side, the right, we will see the icons of installed applications (some “live” there) and the status menu . In this menu we see things like the date and time, fast access to the Wifi connection, Bluetooth, Notifications, etc … If we press the Command key and click on one of those icons we can reorder them.

Status Menu

Finally, there we also find or we can find the Spotlight icon (magnifying glass) and the Siri icon . The first launches the search engine integrated into the system, one of the features that I value most in macOS. The second allows launch the Apple assistant that came not long ago to the Mac after seeing the light on iOS devices.

Then we have the desktop itself, space where the sales of the various apps appear and that we can manage through Mission Control, creating more virtual desktops, etc. And finally we see the Dock, where we can have quick access to applications, folders, units, etc. All those things that you access frequently.

System preferences


Knowing the preferences of the system is something vital. Every user of a Mac should know what options each of its sections offer to control their equipment. Even so, the basic ones that you must know yes or yes are:

  • Security and Privacy , especially your General and Privacy options. From them we can establish what apps we allow to install and use as well as the privacy settings that, for example, will allow an app to access our address book or accessibility options to modify or control certain aspects of the system. Something that you can complement with these tips to make your Mac safer.
  • Network , another of the key sections. It will allow us to configure the configuration of the various adapters to connect to the Internet available. That way we can establish a fixed IP, create locations, etc.
  • Mission Control , essential to work more comfortable. Especially for the configuration of active corners.
  • iCloud to manage our account and the services we want to use (notes, contacts, reminders, keychain, …)
Activating the right click in the System Preferences solves one of the classic problems of the newcomer to macOS X

A classic, in the preferences you will see options that affect the keyboard and mouse of the Mac. In the case of the mouse it is important that you enter to verify that the option of right or secondary click is activated. That more than one user has gone crazy thinking that his mouse was defective because he did not right click .

Managing windows in macOS X

Windows Macos

On Mac, windows work differently than Windows. When we click on the maximize button it jumps to full screen mode. If we want to take advantage of split screen or Split View mode, we will have to press the green button and keep pressed. We will see how we can drag one half or another to occupy all that space. On the side that is free we can place another application.

Mission Control is a powerful option to manage the windows of the applications, change or locate the one we want quickly

Another option is to do it using Mission Control, another macOS functionality that allows creating different virtual desktops that will help us better organize our workspace, applications, etc. This explanation for macOS X El Capitan is completely valid for the latest version.

Again in the support pages of Apple you can find useful information about how to manage windows on the desktop. And as an extra bonus some applications that help the rapid positioning of the same through keyboard shortcuts, etc.

All this together with BetterTouchTool and the use of multiple keyboard shortcuts will make your productivity and comfort when using the operating system increase. Some combinations are simple, for others you have to know the system a little more . But do not forget that we can modify and create our own keyboard shortcuts.

Trying to memorize keyboard shortcuts suddenly is not productive, doing it little by little will improve your interaction with the system and apps in a remarkable way

If you want to know the keyboard shortcuts of the application that you are using download CheatSheet , super useful. However in Applesfera we have a multitude of articles where we talk and we show shortcuts of very interesting keyboards to know:

  • 61 keyboard shortcuts
  • Shortcuts to delete or move between texts
  • Change applications, windows or tabs quickly
  • 8 useful shortcuts for Finder

Drag & Drop: the magic of drag and drop

One of the things I like most about macOS X is the use of Drag & Drop . You can practically drag and drop on a folder, storage unit, application, etc … any file to interact. For example, a .jpg file on Affinity Photo and the image editor will be launched by opening it.

You can drag and drop to do almost anything on your Mac: move files and folders to new locations, add a photo to an email, or move a piece of text into a document. You can also drag items to the Dock or the Finder sidebar to access them easily.

Test key combinations, drag & drop and many other things are key to discover the great secrets of macOS X

Try, experiment and you may be surprised. The drag-and-drop feature helps a lot in your daily work when you want to take a file or information between applications. Also, use modifiers such as the ALT key. With it you can achieve the same copy and paste behavior of Windows . But do not just stay with that key (modifier) ​​others like the command key when releasing a file to another unit causes us to move it and not duplicate it (default behavior in macOS X).

Applications for Mac


When we are used to a platform the main problem when changing is to find applications equal or equivalent to those we used before. But first I want to explain how the macOS apps are.

In Mac we can say that there are two different types of apps : those that need installation and those that are containers. The first as you can guess make use of an installer to place files in various folders of the system necessary for proper operation. The second does not, simply drag and drop on the application folder the file that is normally contained in a .DMG or .ZIP file.

Therefore, when you open one of these files you will see that a kind of new unit is mounted. Well, inside is the app, drag it to the desktop or application folder. Then you can eject that image through the combination Command + E, with the Eject unit menu or by dragging and dropping over the trash that will change icon.


Why is it important to know this? Well, because when it comes to eliminating them, it will be important to do it well if we do not want to have “garbage” in the system . If it is an application type the Adobe Suite you will have to use its uninstaller. Here it is advisable to pay attention or in case of doubt go to the developer’s website.

If on the contrary they are container applications it is enough to transfer them to the wastebasket. The few files that will remain on the computer are of preferences and do not affect. Even so, the correct and recommended way is to use applications like AppZapper, Appcleaner or CleanMyMac . The latter is very useful for many other reasons and one of my few recommendations for all types of users.

Where do I find applications for the Mac

App Store

The recommended way to find applications for the Mac is the App Store . The Apple application store offers advantages over the traditional download of applications from the developer’s website or a third party. The main one: more security. Also, if they are paid applications, they are registered to your purchase history so you can download them and not worry about things like “where I saved the serial number”.

The Mac App Store is the safest way to get apps for the Mac but not the only one, do not confuse some “enlightened”

If you think or need to install applications downloaded by other means I would recommend you be sure that its origin is legit. It would not be the first or last time that a user installs a downloaded application and this, instead of installing the application, what it does is run a script or malware. But we talk about security a bit later.

The other thing that you need to know to install downloaded applications is that you will have to give permission if the system identifies that it comes from an unidentified site or developer . For this you go to System Preferences and in Security and Privacy click Open. If you are only going to use apps from the App Store, do not check the App Store option and identified developers.

Security on the Mac


macOS has always had a reputation for being a secure system. Still, it is not an infallible system . Therefore, it is good to know how you can be affected by security problems.

macOS is a very secure system but it is not perfect, knowing how to protect yourself and solve errors is key

As a UNIX system, macOS has the advantage that applications must be previously authorized to run and make changes. If you miss a message asking you to enter the security / administrator password and you have doubts, do not do it. Look in forums or consult with an advanced user so they can guide you.

That is the first step to enjoy the security of the Mac. The second is that you will not need antivirus as such . HUID of any notice or publicity about MacKeeper.

Run away from MacKeeper, do not install it

That mentality inherited from Windows here does not make sense. However, there are situations where it is recommended. But not for your own need but for the safety of third parties.

If you are in a network with PC Windows computers a malicious file will not affect you but you could serve as a propagation channel. And of course, if a person receives a file from you, the last thing they will think is that they may come infected. So pay attention. But as I said, the use of antivirus in macOS is not necessary in 90% of cases. And where it usually is, there are other measures to control work environments.

macOS X: do I need drivers for my devices?

Windows users have very assumed the need to install drivers so that the devices they install work optimally. At least until not long ago.

In modern operating systems, such as the latest versions of Windows and for a long time on the Mac, there is a base of universal controllers that allow numerous devices such as cameras, printers, etc. to work correctly.

When you connect a new USB device to your Mac only rarely, you will have to perform an installation. Moreover, on these occasions the system usually launches an assistant to download the necessary driver. So do not worry. Unless it’s something very specific, for an accessory to work on your Mac you just have to connect and go .

Time Machine, save your data

Time Machine

Time Machine is one of the macOS X star functionalities for years. This backup utility will not be perfect but it is practically transparent to the user, it has the ability to save versions so you can navigate through the history to find the file you needed at the exact point.

Time Machine, that utility of macOS X that is only valued when we resort to it or we can not do it because we do not use it

To use Time Machine you only need an additional storage unit . It can be an external USB hard drive or even network drives. This last option to use network drives is not the easiest to configure but following the steps that Apple itself offers on its support page, everyone should be able to do so.

If you want to enjoy this option, as well as many others, I would recommend you to do with a Syonology NAS or QNAP. There are WD options that also support but for potential I prefer more for the first two. But hey, let each one choose the one he likes the most.

Some good NAS options that we have analyzed in Weblogs SL:

  • Synology DS418
  • Synology DS216 +
  • Synology DS116
  • QNAP TS453b
  • QNAP TS251C

If you want to go deeper into the subject of the NAS, you can have a look at a purchase guide. And two recommendations, naseros.com and culturanas . Specialized websites where also in format, podcast, text and video tell interesting things to get the most out of them.

The Mac and the file formats


Taking advantage of the fact that we are talking about Time Machine, let’s talk a bit about the file formats. As with Windows, macOS has its own file format . Until the arrival of macOS X High Sierra was HFS and HFS +, now we add APFS.

These file systems are the natives with whom the system works. A unit formatted in one of them can not be read by a Windows computer . Nor for other devices such as televisions or multimedia players.

If we are going to share a storage unit with other users, we need to use a compatible format. Some time ago I wrote about it here: file systems for storage units, what to use?

Basically it is choosing between the following:

  • HFS + , the format of OS X. Besides being used for the operating system, it is the only format compatible with Time Machine. Hence, if we want to use a disk to make backup copies, it will have to be in HFS +. This limits its use to Mac computers but then we will see that thanks to third-party applications we can use Windows systems.
  • NTFS , the Windows format. OS X can read discs that use that format but can not write so if we want to do it we will have to resort to third-party applications. In a world where most computers use the Microsoft system, having the disk in NTFS format can be a good option if we are going to need to connect it from computer to computer.
  • APFS , file system used in the latest version of the system . It has important advantages such as better management of available space. And it is designed for flash storage units. It’s the future, so making the jump is highly recommended.
  • FAT32 , everyone’s friend. It is the most compatible format, all systems recognize it and despite its limitations, it does not support files larger than 4GB, it is the best option to use in Flash memories. It will allow us to read and write in OS X, Windows and Linux but in turn connect in other devices how televisions, DVD players, etc …
  • exFAT , the rookie. It’s the renewal, so to speak, of FAT32. It improves the limitations of the FAT32 format by allowing larger partitions and eliminating the top of 4GB files. The only downside is that it is a recent format so only the latest versions of the operating systems support it. OS X 10.6.5 or higher; Windows XP SP3, Vista SP1 and 7 also support it. Therefore, only if we know that we are going to connect it to updated equipment is it advisable to use it.
  • ext3 is the format used in Linux. OS X does not have support for it but it can be obtained thanks to third parties, just like we can do with NTFS.

Spotlight: all your Mac within reach


Spotlight, as I said before, is without a doubt my favorite feature of macOS for years. Thanks to this powerful search engine you not only find everything you need, no matter where you saved it, it also serves to launch applications, make inquiries on the internet, exchange currency and much more .

Spotlight can be configured from system preferences to index only those directories and files you want. With these options you can achieve absolute control of every file stored on your Mac.

Start using it because in a short time you will fall exhausted to its power. And to give you some tips, here some shortcuts to get more out of it .

  • CMD + Space: Open Spotlight
  • CMD +,: Open Spotlight preferences
  • CMD +.: Clean what is written in Spotlight
  • CMD + R or CMD + Enter: Displays the file in the Finder
  • CMD + T: Open the item in a new tab
  • CMD + T: Open the element
  • CMD + K: Find what you have written in Wikipedia
  • CMD + B: Find what you have written in Safari
  • CMD + I: Provides element information in Spotlight
  • CMD + D: Open the result in the Dictionary
  • CMD + L: Force the search in the dictionary
  • CMD + Arrow down or up: Jumps in the search results to the first of the following category

If you think that Spotlight does not offer everything you need, that you want to go one step ahead, the recommendation is to use Alfred. A powerful application launcher and much more with which you can be a productivity ninja, wrkflows and keyboard shortcuts.

The basic applications that every Mac should have

After many years writing about Apple and its operating systems, services, etc. It is difficult to establish a list of basic or essential applications. The profiles and uses of each one are different and therefore their needs. Still, I launch and dare to recommend some that in my opinion should be in all Mac.

  • The Unarchiver or Keka , two good file decompressors. macOS offers support for .zip files but for another type and even some in particular better to use these apps.
  • CleanMyMac , utility for system maintenance, also allows you to uninstall apps, locate heavy files that we did not know we had in a folder and are occupying a valuable space in our unit, etc. It’s paid but it’s worth it.
  • Franz , if you use WhatsApp, Telegran, Trello, Todoist, Slack, Hangout … this application is THE APPLICATION. A, let’s say, concentrated that allows to have all these chat and messaging services as well as some other in a single place. It is much more convenient to open Franz and have them all open by application by application.
  • VLC , media player with support for different formats without the need to install codec packs or similar.
  • Transmission , client for downloading .torrent files
  • Handbrake , multimedia file converter

From here and taking into account Apple applications that brings as Photos (which in its latest versions is not only a photo manager but also a good image editor), Mail, Pages, Keynote, Numbers, iMovie, etc … It is a matter of seeing necessities and searching the App Store or recommendations of other users with more time on the platform. Right here in Applesfera you can find a crowd.

Plan B: Bootcamp


Finally, you should know that Windows can also be installed on a Mac . On the one hand there is the option of virtualization through applications such as Virtual Box (free) or Parallels and VMware (payment). Although the most efficient option if you do not want possible “messes” by mixing files or squeezing the maximum hardware of the team is to install Windows through Bootcamp.

Bootcamp is the most effective way to squeeze the maximum performance from the Mac using Windows as OS

Bootcamp is Apple’s tool that allows you to create a partition on the hard drive after space allocation and install Windows and all its drivers necessary for proper operation on the Mac. It is a simple process.

Being curious is the beginning of everything


Now that you have read everything, I hope you find it useful, at least something of everything shown. However, when you are new to an operating system, there is nothing better than curiosity. See what each option offers, search for the adjustments and consult all the doubts that come into your head is the key to advance and learn.

I will continue writing more articles like this one, with a clear didactic vocation so that between all we make the most of our Apple products. Some will be for newcomers, others for those who have been on the platform for years. But all for us to move forward and improve our workflows and how we interact with the Mac, iPhone or iPad. And of course, any suggestion or doubt will be well received. So leave it in comments or, for those who already know me a little, even raise them through my profiles on social networks .

About Nick Fury

Hi, I am Nick! Apart from being a loving husband and a father of one, I dedicate myself to manage a company full time. Writing is my passion, I started writing a blog some 10 years ago, now reviving this passion again, I would love to express my views and takes on day to day stuff, hope you guys enjoy! Do share your thoughts.

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