Tips for migrating from Windows to Mac

As Apple sees more business users of its iPad tablets, so it has seen growth in its Mac personal computer range. The company has just launched new Macs, and made its operating system and productivity software free – a notably different approach to Microsoft. As a result, many users find themselves making the move from a Windows PC to a Mac.

In this guest post, Victoria Ivey offers a few tips to ex-Windows stalwarts making the move to Mac.

You have just bought your first Apple Mac – or you’re at least planning to do so, otherwise there is no explanation why you’ve decided to read this article. Moreover, the use of “migrating” in the headline betrays a good old Windows user in you, who suddenly – or eventually – has converted to Mac OS.

No matter how broad-minded and liberal you are, such a change is sure to be frustrating, at least at the beginning. The more time you spent in front of PC, the more difficult it will be to get used to seeing a black-framed polished Apple screen, and working with it.

The situation gets tougher if you were a bit of a pro Windows user, like those who disdain a mouse and prefer keyboard navigation. Giving up your deep-rooted habits, which have almost become natural reflexes – like Ctrl+C or Ctrl+Z combinations – is sure to bring a little bit of stress.

The good news is that when you become a Mac newbie you are in safe hands. Like so much Apple kit, Mac has that incomprehensible power of turning its users into passionate evangelists. Owning a Mac immediately makes you a part of global Mac community. Mac brethren from all over the world are always eager to help you, and that’s why you can solve most of your problems by typing a word or two about what troubles you in Google.

You are sure to find a blog post or an article written by some Mac apostle willing to anticipate any discomfort you might face. However, one of the things which unites most Mac followers is intolerance to other operating systems and devices. So when you admit you were actively using something else but Mac OS, you’ll probably be left with your transition problems alone. But no worries – rescue is available.

So you have this new Mac after years of using PC, you open it and of course your hand starts searching for the Start menu button, “My computer” folder or anything so typical for Windows and so never-existing on Mac OS. The first thing you need to do is relax and approach the Mac not as a “different Windows” but as something absolutely new, with another psychology and philosophy. Be ready for that, and do not try to understand Mac. Just love it, like its users do.

A typical Mac freshmen’s list of complaints starts from basic system navigation issues. Where are logical disks? Where is the right mouse button? Why can’t you create a file in a folder? First, just accept it, that you won’t ever find any of these on Mac. Second, if you were an active keyboard-combinations user, be aware that Mac will ignore them all, so the only thing you can do pull yourself up and learn the list of new combinations exclusively for Mac (graciously available here).

Still, you won’t be able to do everything you want with the help of a keyboard. Keys are considered nerdy and too complicated for Mac’s “make it simple” philosophy. Mac is more visual and mouse-oriented, I’d even say sensation-oriented. Only with Mac you can interact in its exclusive “gesture” way. So the second list you should learn is the gestures list – every gesture is demonstrated in a short video here.

However it is possible to find some software solutions, which, due to their purpose, logic or nature, help make the transition to a different operating system world not that painful. The basic principle of their functioning is they satisfy your needs in a similar way as Windows did, by organising information on the screen in accordance with your post-Windows anticipations. Some of these programs are listed here.

B1 Free Archiver

This application will solve a lot of your file navigation issues in addition to its basic function – compressing and decompressing things. The way the app integrates into the Mac system makes it a perfect file manager which allows you to browse your files in the same way you used to do on Windows. With B1 Free Archiver you will be able to see the file path to your file, which is similar to Explorer’s logic, and if you want to create a new archive in a folder, you can do so without leaving that folder. In addition B1 Archiver is free which is a rare pleasure for Mac users. And yes, the app performs its primary function perfectly – at least much better than the in-built automatic Mac unzipper – it compresses stuff, unpacks archives of more than 20 different formats and allows users to make password-protected archives.

Text editing

Another thing that disappoints former Windows-users is the lack of a decent inbuilt text editor in Mac. The default utility is called TextEdit and it hasn’t advanced much further than Notepad on Windows. What you can do here is download Microsoft Word for Mac or try to get in with Mac’s native iPages.

Microsoft Word is a better option for those who switch from PC to Mac, but it costs much more than Mac’s iPages – for comparison: Office Word – $109.99; iPages – $19.99 (although Apple has just made its iWorks suite free with every new Mac purchase).

Word has almost the same interface on Mac as on Windows, and all frequently used features are available too. It has also acquired Mac’s typical stylistic features, like offering numerous templates, however the basic “Blank” document looks the same as the one on Windows. Word is definitely a better solution for those who need to exchange documents with others, as Word is still considered the global standard and wouldn’t open the “pages” documents if they weren’t primarily saved in a Word document format.

With iPages you can open and edit most documents created by Word, but the program stumbles over some of the document types and is not always able to open documents with complicated structure created in Word. However, if your work doesn’t include some unified format of shared documents, you should think of using online solutions like Google Docs. It will cost you nothing, but all functions are available and the interface is similar to Word, just much simpler.


Surprisingly enough, you can find plenty of complaints about Paint missing on Mac. If for some reason you miss Paint too, download a nice alternative for Mac called Paintbrush. As soon as you open it you can choose the size of your future artwork. After that you have a canvas of a chosen size and a toolbar similar to the one in Paint. Even the instruments look the same. The similarity of interface will contribute to your soft transition to Mac as well as to your personal economic health as the app is free.

Print screen

Bloggers and journalists of the world get petrified when they don’t find the “Print Screen” button on Apple keyboards. First, here is another key combo for that – press the Apple key ⌘ + Shift + 3, (Shift+Command+4 to select a specific area). This is how you take screenshots on Mac.

What is really nicer here than in Windows is that you don’t have to open Paint afterwards and insert the picture there and save it. Mac OS saves your screenshot on the desktop with the “Scree nshot (date)” or “Picture 1” file name depending on the version. You can do basic editing with Mac’s inbuilt Grab – crop, add some arrows, text, etc.

File sharing

In case you share things a lot (like a true Apple user) you can use Skitch. It’s a free application from Evernote, which delivers some basic editing features and is perfect for spreading what’s going on on your screen all over the net. To use it you need to sign up for Evernote primarily. Than you launch Skitch, take a screenshot hitting a “Screen Snap” button and then save your screenshot in any of the most popular formats – like PNG, JPG, BMP, TIFF. After that you can send it to your Evernote account, and share it on Facebook, Twitter or email. 

Windows for Mac

Let’s say you have tried everything, but you still feel homesick and long desperately for your beloved Windows. You will hardly return Mac’s hardware if you have been captivated once and forever. Well, there is solution even for such difficult cases – you can resort to finally installing Windows on your Mac and try working on such a hybrid. Moreover, many Mac users who migrated from Windows, still use their PCs to play computer games as there are much more games available for Windows, and additional gaming hardware is more widely available and much cheaper for PCs. In this case you can also try to run your favorite shoot-em-ups on Windows installed on Mac. You need Boot Camp – a free multi-boot utility which lets you install Windows on your Mac and use it line with Mac OS. But beware that if you are looking for gaming perfection, buying an xBox will be still a better option.

Sooner or later you are sure to get used to your Mac, it’s inevitable. Your fingers will take to Apple’s branded “gestures” faster than you can imagine, and you will forget double-clicking and searching the right button. Your palms will no longer be able to rest on anything else but matt lukewarm aluminium, and your ears will habituate to the gentle sound of pecking delicately on the keyboard. Simplicity engulfs quickly and irreversibly. At least, you are lucky not to move from Mac OS to Windows (or to Linux) as that is two (five!) times harder.

Even the most orthodox users will eventually enjoy the pleasure of smooth transition from Windows to Mac if they approach their new operating system with open minds and a few Windows-style solutions. 

Enhanced by Zemanta