Whether you’ve just switched to Mac or you’re secretly a little jealous of Windows 7 features, there are some things Mac OS X just doesn’t do that Windows handles beautifully. Here’s how to get Windows’ best features on your Mac.People talk about “Mac Envy” a lot, but you hear a lot less about Windows jealousy — even though Windows has some pretty drool-worthy features. Whether it’s the productivity-boosting Aero Snap or the ability to fully maximise windows with the click of a button, here’s how to get some of our favourite Windows features on OS X. (If you’re a Windows user, too, be sure to check out how to get Mac OS X’s best features on your Windows PC, too).
A lot of the apps mentioned in this post are, unfortunately, shareware. I looked for free options and found a few where noted, but almost everything here is a paid app. As such, you may not want to rush off and buy all of these, but check out their free trials and see which ones actually make your life easier. And remember: $US7 may seem like a lot for an app, but if it’s something you’ll use every day and makes your life easier, it might not be so bad.
True Window Maximisation
One of Mac OS X’s most annoying features is the lack of true window maximisation. That is, when you click the maximisation button — the little green one in the corner of your windows — only some applications actually maximise to fill up your monitor. Instead, many just stretch to fit the contents of the window. This can be nice, but if you want to focus on just one thing, or if you just need more space for whatever you’re working on, you have to resize the window manually.
Previously mentioned RightZoom is a simple tool that changes the behaviour of the green button, causing it to always maximise the window. It isn’t perfect (since it then gets rid of the old behaviour, which is sometimes good), but it’s the best free option we’ve found (and you can customise it to get the best of both worlds). You can alternatively grab Flexiglass, will maximise only when you right-click on the button, but it’s $US7.99. It also has a few other window management features though, which we’ll talk about in a moment.
When you hover over a taskbar icon in Windows 7, it shows a tiny preview of all the windows open in that program, which is great for quickly bringing one into focus (or un-minimising it). In OS X, you can right click on a dock icon to see the open windows, but the lack of thumbnails makes it hard to distinguish between them. (You can also click and hold on an app to get an Exposé of its windows, but that isn’t quite the same). If you’d prefer a more Windows-like behaviour, the previously mentioned $13 Hyperdock will give it to you. You can hover over dock icons, close windows right from there, and get a ton of other window management features (which we’ll talk about in a moment) right from its preference pane. This is one of my favourite OS X enhancers — easily some of the best $13 I’ve spent in the Mac App Store.
Aero Snap’s Window Snapping (and Then Some)
Windows 7’s Aero Snap feature is a godsend for anyone who needs to work in multiple windows at once. By clicking and dragging a window to the edge of the screen, you could “snap” them to fit half the screen and use them side-by-side. You can also drag a window to the top of the screen to maximise it. There are a number of different tools that do this for OS X, but they all have a different mix of features, so you’ll want to pick the one that works best for you. Here are our favourites:
- Hyperdock: This brings window snapping to OS X by both clicking and dragging windows and keyboard shortcuts. In addition, it has the window preview feature mentioned above, as well as the ability to move and resize windows from anywhere — not just the titlebar or window corner (another feature we miss from Windows).
- Flexiglass: Flexiglass is also $13, but has a slightly different feature set than Hyperdock. It too can snap windows, as well as move and resize them from anywhere. However, it also adds the ability to fully maximise windows by right-clicking the green plus button, as well as quit apps by right-clicking the red x button, two features that Windows users on OS X will probably miss. It doesn’t, sadly, have the window previews in the dock, so you’ll either have to buy both apps or decide which features are more important to you. Again, both should have free trials available.
- Cinch: If you’d rather not buy an app, you can grab Cinch. Cinch is technically $US7, but it’s nagware, meaning you can run it forever for free as long as you don’t mind a request to buy every time you launch it. Cinch adds the drag-and-snap feature to OS X, but doesn’t include keyboard shortcuts. For that you’d need…
- SizeUp: From the same developers as Cinch, SizeUp is a program that lets you snap windows, maximise them, move them to different monitors, and otherwise manage them with keyboard shortcuts. It doesn’t include the drag-and-snap features of Cinch and the others, but if you’re only going to use keyboard shortcuts anyways, it’s perfect. Again, it’s $US7, but runs free as nagware if you prefer.
Cut and Paste in the Finder
In Windows Explorer, you can cut and paste files all you want, but for some reason Mac OS X’s Finder only lets you copy and paste files — no cutting allowed. There’s a very easy way to get this functionality on OS X, though: previously mentioned MoveAddict will add keyboard shortcuts for cut and paste to the Finder, and as long as you only want to move one file at a time, you can do it for free. If you want to cut and paste large batches of files, though, you’ll need to shell out $10 for the program.
Get a Better Window Switcher
Cmd+Tab is a fine app switcher for something that’s built-in, but if you’re more used to how Windows does it, you’ll probably get frustrated pretty quickly. It only switches between apps, not windows, and if you have any windows that are minimised or hidden, Cmd+Tab won’t open them up unless you learn some hand-cramping new shortcuts. If you’d like a more powerful window switcher, Witch is a pretty good choice — although not exactly cheap at $US14. However, it does give you a more Windows-like switcher, with a full list of open windows, thumbnails of each one, and some serious shortcuts (not to mention configurability). If you use Cmd+Tab a lot but aren’t satisfied with the built-in offering, you’ll probably find Witch is a very powerful program well worth the cash.
Get Windows-Style Keyboard Shortcuts
If you just feel that your hand is too cramped reaching for Command instead of Control, or your Windows muscle memory is too great, you can use DoubleCommand to remap some of your keys in OS X. It can remap a whole host of things, some of the most useful being Ctrl, Cmd and Alt. So, switching Cmd and Ctrl, for example, means that you’ll go back to the Windows-style Ctrl+C shortcut for copy, Ctrl+V for paste, etc. They’re small tweaks, but if you’re used to Windows (or if you’re forced to use Windows at work), it’s nice to get back to the keyboard shortcuts that you’re used to.
You’ll never be able to get Mac OS X working exactly like Windows, though I don’t expect most Mac users would want to. Thankfully, with just a few simple tools and tweaks, you can get the Windows features that do matter on your Mac. Got any of your own favourite features we skipped over? Let us know how you brought them over to OS X in the comments.