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This was sent to me via the weekly Circuits e-mail:

Tips for Crossing Platforms

Whether it's Mac OS X, Windows XP, or Billy Bob's System-Software Special, every operating system has pretty much the same job description. It must somehow represent your files and programs so that you can organize them; permit adjustments to things like your speaker and mouse; interact with external gear like printers, cameras, and scanners; and so on.

Truth is, you could summarize the chief difference between the two operating systems in, say, a single e-mail column -- like this one. Clip, save and pass along to your platform-crossing friends, no matter which way they're switching:

1. A Windows mouse has two buttons. You use the left one for selecting things, and the right one for making shortcut menus appear.

An Apple mouse, on the other hand, has only one button, which you use to click and select things. To simulate a right mouse button click (that is, to open shortcut menus), you hold down the Control key as you click things. (And if that's too much effort, cheap two-button Windows mice work fine on the Mac.)

2. On the Macintosh, there's only one menu bar. It's always at the top of the screen. In Windows, a separate menu bar appears at the top of every window.

3. In Mac OS X, the "home base" program -- the one that displays the icons of all your folders and files -- is called the Finder. In Windows, it's often called Windows Explorer.

4. The Command key (bearing the Apple logo) on the Mac does many of the same things as the Ctrl key in Windows. So you press Ctrl-S to save a file in Windows, Command-S to save on a Mac.

Similarly, the functions of the Windows Alt key are often assumed by the Mac's Option key. For example, in Microsoft Word, the keyboard shortcut for the Split Document Window command is Alt-Ctrl-S in Windows, but Option-Command-T on the Macintosh.

5. In Windows, you switch from one open program to another by clicking buttons on the taskbar. In Mac OS X, the equivalent entity is the Dock, a tiny row of photorealistic icons at the bottom or side of the screen. A key difference: On the Mac, the Dock also offers quick access to the icons of things that aren't currently open, rather like the Windows Start menu.

6. Here's a time-saving keystroke: You can cycle through your open programs by pressing what amounts to the same keystroke in Mac OS X and Windows: Alt-Tab in Windows, Command-Tab on the Mac.

7. Most Windows fans refer to the row of tiny status icons at the lower-right corner of the screen as the ?tray.? On the Mac, these so-called ?menulets,? or Menu Extras, appear at the upper-right corner of the screen. Either way, the little icons are both status indicators and pop-up menus (for adjusting your speaker volume, screen resolution, and so on).

8. Whereas Windows is designed to show the names (letters) and icons for your disk *drives,* the Mac shows you the names and icons of your *disks.* You'll never see an icon for an empty drive, as in Windows. As soon as you insert, say, a CD, you see its name and icon appear on the Macintosh screen. In Windows, you open the My Computer icon to see it.

9. On the Mac, you never eject a disk by pressing a button on the disk drive itself, as you do in Windows. Instead, you press the Eject key on the keyboard or use the Eject menu command.

10. There are a few Windows/Mac terminology differences, too:

Program Files = Applications folder
My Documents = Home folder
My Pictures = Pictures folder
WINDOWS or WINNT folder = System folder
upper-right Close box on a window = upper-left Close button
Control Panel = System Preferences
Properties = Get Info
Recycle Bin = Trash
Search command = Find command
shortcut menus = contextual menus
shortcuts = aliases.

Those aren't the only differences, of course. In fact, there are enough profound design philosophy differences between Microsoft and Apple to provide fodder for a nation of zealots on both sides. But if your mission is to set aside the emotion and, for whatever reason, to cross the chasm from one platform to the other, may these pointers make those first steps easier.

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by tmpchaos See Profile edited by JJ See Profile
last modified: 2005-01-18 00:16:30