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Switching from a PC to a Mac

Updated on April 28, 2011

Switching from a PC to a Mac

So you have decided to make the switch from your PC to an Apple computer, have you? Well, whatever reason you have for doing so, keep it to yourself. I personally have to use both: one for work, one at home, and I will not explicitly tell you which is which because I don't wanna participate in THAT fight. So anyways, here is some helpful stuff to know about making the switcheroo:


Command = Ctrl

Your life just got easier, you're welcome.


You cannot totally maximize the screen using the middle button on the top left (the equivalent of the top right on your PC).

You're welcome again. I just saved you lots of minutes of frustrated googling and thinking, "This just cannot be!" It can be, and it is. According to one little bloggity blog talking about the mac philosophy, the idea is that the Mac operating system makes it easier to multi-task. I will not elaborate on what exactly that means. That blog writer didn't bother to either.

THIRDLY, but not necessarily thirdmost, there is no start menu!

You access everything from the "Dock" at the bottom or from your desktop.

The "Dock" looks like the picture below, and contains various programs. As you can see here, they all are indicated by pretty little icons all lined up like first graders going to recess.

The Apple Dock
The Apple Dock

So let me tell you ABOUT THE DOCK

You will occasionally see your little icon children jumping up and down. Don’t worry, you did not do anything wrong. It just wants your attention. Click on it, pet it, feed it some apple juice.

Now, you will also notice a little blue light underneath some of the icons, such as those you can see under the square blue smiley face, the Firefox symbol, and the cloud-like Microsoft Word "W".

It means that that application is awake. It’s on. Mac keeps it on so it does not have to take the time to reload it, which is nice. In order to turn the blue light off, you must “Quit” the application by going to the top left hand corner of your screen where you read the name of the application and click on it. The drop down will… drop down. Click “Quit”. As you can see from the drop down menu, you can also elect the quick key option, “Command + Q”.

You will essentially start everything from the Dock, unless you have it saved in a specific file saved on your Desktop. Think of it this way: the Dock is your handy dandy toolbelt, and the desktop is your work table. You keep your hammer and your nails on the toolbelt and your and the rocking horse you’re building on the work table.

Everyone’s dock, like everyone’s toolbelt, contains different stuff. Most likely, you will have some sort of word processor, Internet browsers, iTunes, a printer, and Excel. If you are curious about what some of the fun little bubbles mean, just hover your pointer overtop of it, and the name of the application will pop up.

Mac also gives you “Finder”, which is the square blue smiley face guy on the bottom left. He is your friend. He searches the computer and any server you tell him to for a specific file or application, as long as you know all or part of its name.

About Finder

As I said, Finder is your friend. When it is open, there is a little white bar at the top right hand corner of your window with a magnifying glass icon on it. You can type the name of the file or application you want in here.

You can access Finder from several locations on your computer. For instance, you can access him from the dock. You can open him from here by clicking on the icon or by hitting “Command + F” on your keyboard. You must hold down “Command” and then hit “F”. Finder will pop up and show you all of your base locations on the left side of the window. You can select folders for him to search in or you can let him look at your whole computer or server. If you are at work, it is a good idea to tell him to look in specific server, because many servers save documents separately from your Mac (called “This Mac” in Finder), and he will not find your document in “This Mac”. Think of it as working on making your rocking horse with a friend and leaving it at her house – you’ll have to look for it there. When you are working on something, just remember whose house you leave it in.

If you opened up a file location and still cannot find the file, you can also access Finder from there. Click on the mother folder, or the folder that you want to search in, and again type “Command + F”. This will put the files into “Find” mode, which means that you can now type the file name into the white bar with the magnifying glass.

Once your file name comes up, if you click on it, the location of the file will show up on the bottom bar. It is a good idea to note where it is in case you have to come back to it or save a supplementary file.

!!IMPORTANT!! When your window is in Find mode, you will notice it looks a little different. Notice the bar at the top just underneath the white bar with the magnifying glass. It should say “Search:” in gray, and then several names, such as “This Mac” and other folder or server names to which you have access. Make sure you have the correct location selected. Remember, you have to remember that you left your rocking horse at your friend’s house.

!!TIP!! You will also notice that the “Search:” bar in gray has the words “Contents” and “File Name” to the right of a line that looks like this: | These two things are sorters. If you would like Finder to search the TEXT of each file for the name you indicated, select “Contents”. If you would like Finder to search the FILE NAME only (which is often much faster and creates less confusing results), then select “File Name”.

Also note that in Find mode, you have limited capabilities for manipulating your files. If you discover you cannot do something, make a note of the file location and enter into it that way.

(See below for more.)

You can remove an application from the Dock by right clicking on it and selecting “Remove from Dock”.

When you minimize something, it goes into the Dock. Anything that you manually minimize and are working on goes down into the right side of your dock as a tiny thumbnail image of your work. (To minimize, click on the small yellow dot in the top left hand corner of your current application screen. It will show a line when you put your cursor near it.) You can also close it directly from the dock.

OTHER THINGS You Want to Know

Here are some other little tidbits you will want to know about using your new Mac computer:

When Mac displays an application, all of that application’s functions are in the same place as other application’s functions. In other words, every application may look the same to you until you get used to the names of its functions on the top left hand corner of your screen. See the pictures right there--->  to see what I mean. These two pictures look the same, but are different. Notice the name of the application at the top left hand corner of the screen is the only thing that is different.

To turn off your ‘puter in a pinch, type “Control + Shift + Eject”. Make sure to hold them down together and to hit “Eject” last. To turn it back on, hit any key. (Girls, note that this makes a great mirror for a quick check before you walk by the office hottie.)

To turn off your Mac completely, click on the little Apple icon in the top left hand corner, and select “Shut Down”. It probably will ask you questions about your open documents or programs, so try to hang around for a few seconds to protect your work.

You have a little thing called a “Dashboard” with Widgets. The Dashboard is a see-through layer that pops up on your screen. Widgets are tools and games which make your computer cooler. Some keyboards show a little sign that looks like an odometer, and you can hit that key. You can get more Widgets by clicking the plus sign on the Dashboard, then clicking “Manage Widgets”, then clicking “More Widgets”, or by going to Get out of the dashboard by hitting the odometer again.

You can often run iTunes from your keyboard. Check to see if you have the little arrows, pause, volume, and stop icons on your function keys. This is great when the bosswoman steps into your cube.

Mac allows your open window to go partially off the screen. This is useful if you wish to push something aside but still have it partially in view, such as the last column of Finder.

Mac thinks in terms of open applications/programs, not open documents. A “Window” to Apple contains all of that application’s open and running documents. WHY THIS MATTERS: This means that when you switch between windows, you switch between applications. When you pull back up an application, say, “Word” and want to go back to the Word document you were working on, it will go back to all of your Word documents. The document you worked on most recently is on the top, and the others are underneath it. If you were working from two or three Word documents at the same time, but you made the your most recent document the biggest, you’ll have to realize that the others are hiding underneath it, whereas in Windows they typically itemize themselves in the tray on the bottom of the screen and you can see them all at the same time. You can minimize or move the document on top to see the others, just like you would when you rifle through a stack of papers. ***If you would like to see that itemized list, right click on the icon in the Dock. (Yes, you can right click on most desktop Macs, even though there is technically only one button. Go ahead, try it!)

You can view all of your open applications at the same time with the key on your keyboard that has a bunch of little rectangles inside of another rectangle. You can use the mouse while in this mode and pick which application to use. Remember the above pointer when you are looking through your work. To close it, hit the rectangles key again.

Many Mac versions of applications use a little toolbar, frequently known as the “Formatting Pallette”, which can be put away. Remember that pencil box you kept in your desk in elementary school? Think of it like that. It moves around as a separate little box o’ tools for that particular application and holds your highlighter, your underliner, and your compass. You can keep it out or put it back in your desk to get it out of the way. Sometimes, however, it is see-through, which I’ll bet your pencil box couldn’t do. When it is like this, just click on it if you want to use it.

Just curious...

Do you like Macs or PCs better?

See results

Using your new Mac isn’t so scary, see?! Being afraid of it won’t help, and getting frustrated just slows down the process. Certainly there is a learning curve, but the important thing is to have fun with it!


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