Like any other Apple product, OS X prides itself on the little details. When, earlier last week, I used my professor's Mac briefly to give a quick project presentation (mine decided to do a chkdsk at the wrong time, heh), I got the distinct feeling some were put intentionally to make the uninitiated look stupid.

What are the small usability details that Windows and Linux users will trip on when their friends lend them their beloved Mac for some quick web browsing?

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    Please do not use the "one answer per item" format. Real questions have answers, not items, so I'm going to create a CW answer with the list itself you can add items to. – badp Feb 23 '11 at 9:53
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    See Apple's Switch 101: On Windows, I used to... – Arjan Feb 24 '11 at 10:12
  • You've bought a Mac ergo you will have less beer money – Linker3000 Feb 24 '11 at 10:17

Window management

  • The third (green) window button is used to zoom windows. Sometimes that means maximizing it to fill the screen as you might expect. More often, it will resize the window to fit its contents, or restores it to a predefined default size.

  • Double-clicking the title bar minimizes the window instead of maximizing it.

  • Scrolling while holding ⌃ control zooms the whole screen, not the document.

  • On Windows, Alt-Tab cycles between open window. On OS X (and Unity), ⌘ command-⇥ tab cycles between open applications. You can use an upwards three-finger gesture to switch between windows of the same program, although there's probably some sort of keyboard combination for that too.

  • Usually, closing the last open window in an application doesn't quit it.

File management and Finder

  • There is no way to cut items in Finder. (However, since 10.7, ⌥ option-⌘ command-V will move a previously copied item to the current folder.)


  • The traditional Mac equivalent to right-clicking is a left click while holding ⌃ control. Most pointing devices sold by Apple now have a right button, but right-clicking is still disabled by default in System Preferences.


  • In most contexts, the ⌘ command (located where the Alt key is on the Windows keyboard) is used instead of ⌃ control (Ctrl)

  • Similarly ⌥ option (Windows) is used instead of AltGr.

  • If an OS X program mentions the alt key, that's again really ⌥ option (Windows)

  • home and end move to beginning or end of document. Use ⌘ command- or ⌘ command- instead to move to beginning or end of line.

  • ↩ return is commonly used for renaming items, not for opening them.

  • In most applications, ⌫ delete doesn't actually delete items — you have to use ⌘ command-⌫ delete or ⌦ delete (the smaller key next to end) instead.


  • There are no mnemonic keys on the menu bar or in dialogs.
  • Use the edit link to add items. – badp Feb 23 '11 at 10:34
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    @mick Feel free to edit the answer and add your details – Sathyajith Bhat Feb 23 '11 at 11:08
  • There's an alt labeled key. Writing you quit applications using Alt-Q is just plain wrong. The keys are in different order. Not a huge issue for people with eyesight. The same with "Alt-↓". You currently use Alt for both Option and Command (see window switching) -- Users will trip over your key names just as much as the actual issues. – Daniel Beck Feb 24 '11 at 5:13
  • @dan I thought the Command key is where the Alt key would be on a person using a computer normally, without looking at the keyboard -- so it would be easier for the occasional user to just memorize that. At any rate, it's CW. Please fix it. – badp Feb 24 '11 at 8:04
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    Except for the German keyboard hint, I took a shot at changing the key combinations to their Mac usage. I can't think of an intuitive way for people to "translate" their keyboard shortcuts from system to system, though, so more clarification there would be welcome. – kate Feb 24 '11 at 10:11

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