12 Steps to OS X Acceptance for the Reluctant Windows Expatriate / by Daniel Ehrman

Jesus Christ pleads to Bill Gates at the Procession to Calvary.

No…there aren't really 12 steps. But sometimes coming from a Windows-and-Linux-only lifestyle full-bore into Macworld can feel as though it must come with such a process. So after using OS X for nearly 3 months, I've accumulated my list of tweaks that make this operating system, for me, something I can work with….

1. Red X Quits

For whatever reason, Apple decided that when a person sees this

the appropriate 21st-century interpretation is, "Hey, I'd love to hang out, but now's just not a good time. Mind sticking around for a while in the other room?" Click this button, and the OS will close the window but not the program itself.

The fix: As a Windows user, you know damn well what this little button means, and so you're going to need RedQuits to keep yourself from going crazy trying to figure out why ⌘ - Tab is showing 35 programs open when you only see 3.

2. Change Finder preferences to search in current folder

Ever lost something but you're pretty sure you know where you left itsay your car? The first place you start looking is…everywhere else, right?

For reasons I can't imagine, in implementing the search function in the Finder (i.e. Windows Explorer minus usability), Apple substituted unpredictability for context awareness. Try navigating to a folder, then search for a file and see what happens. Enjoy the wait while it scans all of your files.

The fix: In Finder, navigate to Finder->Preferences->Advanced, and change the Finder to "Search the Current Folder."

Search the Current Folder.png


3. HyperDock

For all its cute features, OS X seems to struggle in one of the most important areas of productivitywindows management. In OS X, all of the windows owned by a given app are grouped into a single icon. So in the common case of, say, having several Chrome windows open, the only way of getting back to one hidden in the background is to right click the dock icon and select the (text-only) title of the window you want.

The fix: install Hyperdock to get the Windows-style windows previews you know and love:

Note: the black and white look is an effect of my own retro theme and not Hyperdock itself.

4. Hyperdock (again)

Windows managementagain. OS X has no out-of-the-box support for snapping windows to the edges of the screen like Windows does. And as anyone knows, resizing windows manually can be a tremendous pain if done on a continuous basis.

The fix: Fortunately, if you've already completed Step 3, you're covered. In addition to providing Windows previews, Hyperdock also supports the Windows-like "Aero Snap" feature, which will snap your windows to edges (as well as maximize them if dragged to the top) via dragging and/or shortcut keys.

5. Alfred

One of the features I truly appreciate in OS X is Spotlight. For this one, there isn't so much a fix as their is room for improvement. At its core, Spotlight is really just an easily accessible file search box. (And it does a great job at that.)

But Alfred takes this concept so much further. A Spotlight-like feature, which can be accessed with ⌥ - Space, Alfred adds web search and math to the typical file search functionality. I think of it like an instant Google that has access to your Mac's disk too (in a non-creepy way):

Alfred math.png

6. Auto-hide the dock

I've found that the Dock feels like it takes up more space than it deserves. I think part of the cause is that, whereas in Windows the full screen-width task bar gives the impression of a clear lower boundary, the OS X Dock doesn't stretch to the edges of the screen. The result is that a Mac's windows will only consume space up to the top of Dock and leave inaccessible negative space on the bottom left and right corners.

The fix: Right-click an empty space on the Dock to open Dock Preferences, and select "Automatically hide and show the Dock." 

7. Learn the new hotkeys

There's software out there that will help you remap shortcut keys to those that you're used to from your former life as a Windows user (e.g. Enter to open a selected file), but it helps to know the keys that Apples wants you to use out of the box:

  1. Cut and paste a file: ⌘ - C, then  - ⌥ - V

  2. Delete a file: ⌘ Delete (Backspace)

  3. Open a file: ⌘ - O

Those seem to be the most annoying to get used to; for the rest, do as you would do with any new software, and check out the documentation.


And that about does it. Please leave comments and suggestions about what you find to be the most essential tweaks to making your Mac as useful as possible!