Switching from PC to Mac is no longer as monumental as before. You’ll find that many of your programs are cross-platform (Google has made sure of that) and much of what you already do on Windows translates cleanly to macOS. And yet, Mac is fundamentally different from Windows, which means there will be features missing from your new Apple machine that you’ll want to find there. These apps can help fill in the gaps.
There are tons of tips for navigating macOS as an old Windows user. (The Control key on your PC is actually the Command key on your Mac, for example.) This discussion is more focused on utilities you can use to introduce Windows-like functionality to your Mac. Whether you’re missing window snaps or your clipboard manager, these are the apps for you.
As great as macOS is, one of Windows’ undeniable strengths is its window management. It’s so much easier to quickly rearrange and snap windows on Microsoft’s operating system, via keyboard shortcuts and click-and-drag. To its credit, Apple tried to play catch-up a bit here: when you hover your cursor over the green button in a window, then hold Option, you’ll have access to three “snap” options. But it is still far from what Windows offers.
Luckily, that’s nothing a good utility can’t fix. My personal app of choice for Mac window management is Magnet. Once installed, it is very easy to resize and align your windows to any space on the screen, whether by keyboard shortcuts or click and drag. We’ve even covered the app in the past.
Magnet is a bit pricey at $7.99, especially for a free Windows feature. If you don’t want to shell out, there are free window managers for macOS, like Rectangle, that do a passable job.
As Lifehacker writer Khamosh Pathak notes, the window switcher shortcut on Mac is a bit simple compared to Windows. All you see are your app icons, which is fine. But compared to Windows, it’s lackluster – since there’s no preview, you really have no idea what you’re about to open when you switch to a new app.
That’s where AltTab comes in. AltTab recreates the window-switching experience from Windows right on your Mac, window previews and all. Once installed, you’ll need to press Option+Tab instead of Command+Tab, but when you do, you’ll see a pop-up with all your apps open, complete with window previews. Now you can scan your windows and choose the one you really want to see.
How in the year 2023 does the Mac not have a native clipboard manager? Like someone copying and pasting a plotit’s so frustrating to use an out-of-the-box Mac, having to jump from window to window to select text repeatedly.
If there’s one app you need on this list, it’s CopyClip. The free utility adds a simple, but essential, list of recently copied text to your menu bar. You can customize the number of entries CopyClip remembers (mine is set to 80) and you can set exceptions so that CopyClip doesn’t save text from specific applications.
CopyClip is not the only option available. You can choose to pay for apps with more features, like Paste, Maccy, or even CopyClip 2.
Mac handles external drives a little differently than Windows, and it might take a minute to get used to. To ease the transition, familiarize yourself with Disk Utility, macOS’ built-in HQ for all connected disks. Whether you’re looking to partition a drive or factory restore a drive, you’ll find all your tools (and all your drives) here.
Another common headache when switching to Mac is flashing SD cards and drives. When trying to create a bootable USB, you can usually turn to Rufus, but Rufus is not available on macOS. Instead, check out balenaEtcher, which should also meet your needs. balenaEtcher even has Windows and Linux applications, if you prefer to work on multiple systems with the same application.
When working on a computer, there are potential audio sources everywhere. You can log in to Spotify, play a video on YouTube, encounter video ads on websites, manage system notifications and sounds…the list goes on. on. Controlling all those audio sources on a Mac isn’t ideal. Apple has a “Now Playing” icon in the menu bar that should works well in theory, but not in practice. Moreover, it only allows you to play and pause these different sources, rather than, for example, controlling their volume as well.
BackgroundMusic and similar apps can help. BackgroundMusic in particular is a free utility that shows you a list of all audio sources on your Mac. You can quickly adjust any of the volumes of these sources, as well as quickly adjust the output device in question. If you’re looking to take this idea further, SoundSource is even better, giving you the ability to customize which audio outputs different sources play on, among other useful customizable features.
Parallels (for the literal Windows experience)
Listen, you’ve tried all of these apps, but you still need to be running Windows. Before adding a second computer to your setup, try Parallels, an app that literally lets you run Windows right on your Mac. With it, you won’t need AltTab, CopyClip or Magnet, since all these functions are already present in the Windows operating system.
The best part about Parallels these days is that it lets you run Windows on both Apple silicon and Intel-based Macs. When all Macs were Intel-based, Apple had a built-in solution for running Windows on Mac called Bootcamp. But once they moved to their own M-series chips, we lost Bootcamp. If you have an M1 or newer Mac, you’ll need an app like Parallels to run Windows.
It’s not cheap, however. After a two-week free trial, Parallels will charge you $100 for a license or $120 per year for the Pro version. Students can get Parallels for $50, just FYI.
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