How is OS X Different than Windows?

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For better or for worse, Windows works differently than OS X – and it’s no wonder that Windows-trained users face a small amount of frustration when they work inside of OS X. I’ve scribbled this list for the benefit of Windows folks who have switched, are switching, or are thinking of making the switch.

How does OS X “think different” than Windows?

  • Object / Field Sorting – The Finder’s auto-arrange option may not work to your liking in OS X. Moreover, you can’t sort folders before all other object types in the Finder. “List view” does not automatically adjust field width, so expect to see horizontal scroll bars frequently.
  • Window Close Button – In Windows, the close button typically exits the application altogether (unless otherwise toggled). In OS X, the close button only sometimes initiates a complete exit of an open program. To be fair, Windows Mobile has suffered from the same problem for years. Bottom line: you can always use the Command+Q shortcut to Quit an app.
  • Object Rename – For some reason, there’s not a Rename option in the context menu for a file or folder (nor is there a simple keyboard shortcut for the routine). You can pull open the Info panel or select-and-click an object title to rename it (much like you can in Windows in lieu of tapping the F2 key).
  • Object Tooltips – Sometimes, you’d like to surface a few details for an object – and by hovering over an icon in Windows, important metadata can be viewed without clicking. OS X”s Info panel is (in many cases) overkill – and pulling it up is certainly not as convenient as a simple hover. Quick View may also not show as much metadata as you might like it to show. Don’t expect InfoTips in OS X.
  • Window Resize – The only way to resize a window in OS X is by clicking and dragging the lower right-hand corner of a resizable window. Every other window border or corner is locked into position.
  • Window Maximize – I never really use this feature in Windows, but when you need to “zoom” an app in OS X, it doesn’t always go full screen. TextEdit will do it, but Safari will not – why? Again, there seems to be no consistency in window control behavior. Be prepared.
  • Object Icon Titles – With Leopard’s Grid Spacing option set at a tighter level, icon titles can often be truncated to the point of illegibility. You have no true overflow formatting options available to you – truncating the middle of a title vs. truncating the end of it is not your decision to make. The most usable desktop object layout seems to be at the highest grid spacing level with 32×32 icons and the title flanking.
  • Copy / Move Objects – When you need to move or copy a file / folder from one point on your system to another, if a similar object is already in the destination folder, Vista gives you far more detailed metadata about the pending transfer. OS X’s copy / move dialog is ruthlessly anemic, leaving you to guesswork and a potential “oops.”
  • Title Bars – In Windows, when you double-click a title bar, the window typically maximizes. In OS X, the window minimizes.

The list goes on and on…

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