apple_computer_logo.jpgMacintosh for Windows Users

If you're a lifelong Windows user, sitting down in front of a Mac for the first time can be daunting. But Macs are easy to learn to use. In this mini-session we'll cover some of the basics You can click

The Desktop:

  • Where's the Start Menu? There isn't one. The closest thing to a Start Menu on a Mac is the Apple Menu (click the Apple in the upper left corner).
  • Why is there a menu bar across the top of the screen, even though I haven't opened any files or launched any applications? In Windows, menu bars appear at the top of the application window. On a Mac, the menu bar is permanently attached to the top of the screen. The menu bar will change depending on which application is running in the foreground.
  • What is that row of icons along the bottom of the screen? That's the Dock. It contains shortcuts to applications and files you frequently use. If you hover your mouse pointer over an icon, a short description of that item will appear will appear.
  • Can I add an application shortcut to the Dock? Yes. Open the Applications folder (see How do I launch an application?) and drag the app to the Dock. If you want to remove an app from the dock, drag the shortcut from to a blank area of the Desktop and it will disappear in a puff a smoke (although the app will still reside in the Applications folder).
  • Where's the Recycle Bin? On a Mac it's called the Trash. It's the wastebasket at the far right end of the dock. If you want to get rid of a file, drag it to the Trash.
  • I inserted a USB drive or a CD/DVD. How do I play or open it? An icon will appear on the desktop. Double click the icon to open/play.
  • How do I eject a USB drive or CD/DVD? Drag the icon to the Trash. The Trash icon will change into an Eject icon. For a CD/DVD, you can also press the Eject key in the upper right corner of the keyboard.
  • Where are my files? Double click on the Macintosh HD icon in the upper right corner of the Desktop. You'll see a window similar to Figure 1 below. In the left column, click on User. You will see premade folders to store your files. To create a new folder, click on the Action button at the top of this window (it looks like a little gear with a down arrow next to it) and click on New Folder.
    Fig. 1: Click on "User" in the left column and you'll see where to save your files.
  • How do I launch an application? If the application shortcut is in the Dock, click on the shortcut. If the shortcut isn't in the Dock, click Go in the Finder Menu and then click Applications in the dropdown menu (see Figure 2).
    Fig. 2: The Go dropdown menu.

Working with files, folders, or applications:

  • What are those three buttons (red, yellow, & green) in the upper left corner of the window?
    • The red button closes the window of the application, folder, or file (however, depending on the application, it may not quit the application).
    • The yellow button minimizes the window and sends it to the Dock. It will appear as a thumbnail near the right end of the dock. To maximize the window, click on the thumbnail.
    • The green button is somewhat mysterious. Generally it will try to resize the window so all the window's content is visible.
    • There is no button on a Mac that will instantly resize a window so that it completely fills the screen (like the maximize button in Windows). If you want a window to fill the screen, grab it by the lower right corner and drag it until it fills the screen. If the Dock is in the way, you can hide the Dock by clicking Apple Menu>Dock>Turn Hiding On. Restore the
    • File_Open_window.jpg
      Fig. 3: The File Open Window.
    • Dock by clicking Apple Menu>Dock>Turn Hiding Off.
  • What is that white button in the upper right corner of the window? Click it to hide any menus or toolbars at the top of the window. Click it again to restore those menus or toolbars.
  • How do I resize a window? Unlike Windows, you must grab the window by the lower right corner (three diagonal lines mark the "grabbing area"). You cannot grab the window by any other corner or the sides to resize.
  • How do I open a file? There are at least three ways:
    • Double click on Macintosh HD, double-click on User, double click on the appropriate folder, and double click on the appropriate file.
    • Launch the application that you used to create the file. From the application menu at the top of the screen, click File>Open. Click User, then click the appropriate folder and file. Click Open. See Figure 3.
    • From the Finder menu click the Spotlight icon in the extreme upper right corner of the screen (it looks like a magnifying glass). The Spotlight window will open.

When I open a folder, how do I change the view of the files? At the top of the folder window you will see the View buttons. You can view files as Icons, List, Columns, or Cover Flow** (you shuffle through your files).
Fig. 4: The View Buttons.

Mouse & Keyboard:

  • How do I right-click? Mac mice and trackpads on Mac laptops have only one button. To right-click, hold down the cntrl key and click. If you connect a two-button mouse to a Mac, you can right-click the Windows way (by clicking the right mouse button).
  • Where's the Backspace key? What Windows calls the Backspace key is the Delete key on a Mac. When you press the Mac Delete key, you will delete backwards.
  • How do I delete forward? Hold down the fn key (lower left corner of the keyboard) and press the Delete key.
  • How do I carry out basic keyboard shortcuts (like Control + C for copy in Windows)? See this list of Mac keyboard shortcuts. Many basic shortcuts (like Cut, Copy, and Paste) involve the Command key (sometimes still called the Apply key). The Command key is just to the left of the Spacebar. It will have a square with squiggly corners on it. It may also have an apple on it. For example, the keyboard shortcut for quitting an application is Command + Q.
  • If an applications freezes, how do I Force Quit (the Mac version of Control+Alt+Delete in Windows)? Press Command+Option


  • Where's Internet Explorer? Microsoft's Web browser, Internet Explorer, is not pre-installed with a Mac (although you could download it and install it yourself). A Mac comes with two Web browsers:
    • Safari, whose shortcut is on the Dock (it looks like a compass).
    • Firefox, which is in the Applications folder. If you are familiar with the basic tools of a Web browser, you can easily learn to use Safari or Firefox.
  • How can I scroll on a MacBook? If you put two fingers on the trackpad and move them simultaneously, you can scroll up and down. Moving one finger allows you to move the mouse pointer around the screen.
  • I have several open applications and Finder windows. How do I organize them? Press the F9 key to reposition your windows so you can see all of them. Click the window you want to bring to the foreground. You can also use a tool called Expose. Here is a tutorial on Expose.