How to Switch from a PC to Mac

So you finally decided to do it. Make the big plunge and take the advice of those obnoxiously trendy commercials. Smart move. Macs are actually fabulous computers that work very well. They’re not perfect (and nothing is), but they are very well designed from their hardware all the way up to their OSX operating system. The jump from PC to Mac can be daunting, though not as much as one may think. With a few tips, the jump from PC to Mac can be a lot less of a hassle.

Right about here is where you probably expect me to start listing tips and tricks, and we’ll get to that, but first I’m going to tell you something I wish someone had told me when I made the switch. There  are a TON of “How to Switch from PC to Apple” articles out there. But none of them tell you this, and it’s simple…

“Don’t listen to anything the Apple fanatics say.” Tell them to put a sock in it. You know who I’m talking about. It’s all those Apple users out there shouting, “It’s so Easy!” and “It just works!”

Forgive the following metaphor, but it really applies. Imagine a garage with a vintage Corvette and a brand new Honda Accord. The Corvette is your PC. It’s powerful as heck, it’s fun, and you’re really able to get in there and tinker with it. The Honda Accord is your Mac. You just get in and you drive. Sure you may need to take it in for servicing now and then just like the Corvette, but all in all, the AC is cold, it gets decent mileage and for day to day purposes the Honda Accord is just going to do its thing. If you’ve been driving your beloved Corvette your whole life, you might be surprised by how relaxed you are once you get into the Honda Accord and not have to think about it. Okay, with all that out of the way, let’s get into a few tips that’ll help get you started. Before you even turn your Mac on, you’ll probably notice a few obvious differences. Fear not, they can all be explained.

The Command Button – Down by your spacebar you’ll see a button with what looks like a mutated four-leaf clover on it. Beside the “clover” there’s also an apple. That is your command button. It functions much the same way the ctrl button functions in windows. Copy is “command + c” Paste is “command + v”.

Little history lesson, Windows copied this from Mac, not the other way around.

The Delete Button – This is actually the backspace key. If you’re on a keyboard that only has that button for removing text, the way to forward-delete is to hold down the “fn” button while you push delete.

Right Clicking – Aw, that pesky one button mouse. Ironically, it’s quite confusing compared to the six button mouse I have on my PC. How does one “right click” with a one button mouse? Easy. Hold down “ctrl” on your keyboard when you click. For touch/track pads, holding ctrl down works too, but there is a better way. In system preferences go to your keyboard and mouse settings. Click on the “trackpad” tab. In there you’ll see an option that makes it so when you have two fingers on your touch pad the one button counts as a “right click”. You can also make it so dragging two fingers on your touch pad scrolls like a wheel mouse.

How to Eject CD’s – The eject button for your CD drive is probably on your keyboard in the top right corner. You can also eject CD’s by right clicking” their icon on the desktop and selecting “eject”. Once you get your Mac turned on you’ll notice even more differences. Once again, these can all be explained.

Task Bar
– On the Mac, this is the “Dock” at the bottom of the screen. It works differently though. Whereas the Windows taskbar only displays what programs are currently running, the dock shows this as well as the icons for your most popular programs. Any program currently running will have a symbol beneath it (either a black triangle or a white dot).

Start Button – Macs don’t have one. Instead, double-click on the hard drive icon. It’s probably labeled, “Macintosh”. This is your “finder window”. Once it’s opened, double click on “Applications”. That’s where all of your programs are. You can drag the ones you use the most down to your “dock”. You’ll also notice there’s a link to the finder window on your “dock” too.

Menu Bars – In Windows, every window has it’s own menu bar. On a Mac, there is only one menu bar. located at the top of the screen and it changes depending upon what program you’re currently using.

Searching – Click on the magnifying glass at the top right-hand corner of your screen. That is “Spotlight”, the Mac’s search function.

Control Panel – Click on the Apple at the top left-hand corner and click on “System Preferrences”.

Device Manager/Properties – Click on the Apple at the top left-hand corner and click on “About this Mac”.

Close, Minimize, & Zoom – Those are the red, yellow, green buttons respectively at the top left-hand corner of each window. Macs do not have a “maximize” button. The zoom button instead resizes the window to what the computer feels is best for that program.

Quitting Programs – Note that the red button in the top left-hand corner of each window “closes” the program, but it does not “quit” it. The program will keep running in the background. Fight the urge to be annoyed by this. Macs are A LOT less cluttered with multiple programs running than Windows based PC’s. If you have enough RAM you won’t notice any slowdown. And even better, programs will “open” much faster (instantly) since they’re already technically running.

Switching Programs – Keyboard shortcut users can push “command + tab” which acts like “alt + tab” in Windows, but there’s a better way. Go into system preferences. Click on “expose”. Make sure the expose tab is selected. You’ll see a picture of your Mac’s screen. Select one of the corners of the picture and set it to “all windows”. Now, whenever you bury your mouse cursor into that corner, your screen will display all programs currently running. Click on the one you want.

Spellcheck – Just a little heads up. Spelling and Grammar check are built into Apple’s operating system. This means that anything you type anywhere on the machine will be underlined if it’s misspelled. IM’s, emails, you name it. Not just in your word processor.

Installing Apps – Some installations will emulate a CD or a “Drive” on your desktop. Double click on the “drive” and drag the icon of the program your want to install into your applications folder. That’s it. When you’re done “right click” on the emulated CD or “drive” and “eject” it.

So there you have it.

With those tips and tricks in tow, you should be good for a much easier switch from Windows to Mac. Once you’re up and running be sure to checkout How to Switch Email from a PC to a Mac and How to Switch Pictures and Music from a PC to a Mac. One more tip… check out Bootcamp. It will let you install Windows on your Mac for any PC programs you can’t live without.

Have fun, and good luck!

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