Five Mac Features I Wish Windows Would Adopt

Five Mac Features I Wish Windows Would Adopt
Image: Microsoft

A couple of days ago, put up a list of five things I wish Apple would steal from Microsoft when it comes to their main personal computing operating system. Now it’s time to turn the tables. Although both macOS and Windows are no very mature operating systems with over three decades of development, there’s plenty of things that macOS has that could make Windows 10 better.

1 – Messages

I receive a lot of text messages each day. Apple’s Messages app makes it easy to receive SMS messages as well as texts using Apple iMessage system so I can deal with the messages directly from the device I’m working on.

It might not seem like a big deal but, for me, this is a massive benefit. I only wish it could integrate WhatsApp so I didn’t need a separate app for that service.

2 – Spotlight

Spotlight’s search capability is brilliant. On a Mac, a simple press of Cmd-Space brings up the search window and I can access applications, files, settings or almost anything else on my Mac.

A system-wide search function is not new but I find Spotlight’s keyboard-based search to be far quicker and more user-friendly than the Windows approach.

3 – Quick View

Scrolling through a list of files, looking for the right one is a pain in the butt. Apple’s Quick View provides a preview of a file’s contents by simply hitting the space bar when the file is selected. And once a file is being viewed, I can use the arrows on my keyboard to go down the list and see a preview of each file in the folder.

The implementation is simple, the previews appear quickly and it makes life really easy.

4 – The Preview app

It is beyond me why Microsoft insists on using Edge as its default PDF viewer. Apple’s Preview app, which can be used to open and edit PDFs and images is a very handy tool. In fact, I can’t recall when I last bothered to install a third-party PDF viewer on a Mac I’ve used.

As well as viewing and some basic editing, such as filling in PDF-based forms, I can create a signature stamp that is easily applied to forms. That’s a super useful feature as I keep working on reducing the amount of paper

5 – Mail and Calendar apps

Although, as I mentioned in the first instalment of this two-part series, I think the user interface for Microsoft’s mail and calendar applications look better, Apple’s are functionally superior.

With Mail, Smart Folders make it super easy to file and find messages. And the availability of a single, unified Inbox straight out of the box is really handy. I know I can do that with Microsoft’s app but it’s easier, in my view, on a Mac.

Calendar has greatly improved over the years. For me, it’s ability to support multiple time-zones out of the box gives it a leg up over Microsoft. And Apple seems to handle shared calendars better as well.

Do you regularly switch between Mac and WIndows systems? What do you wish Microsoft would learn from Apple and apply to Windows 10?


  • The default search in Windows 10 (the one from the start menu) is system wide, so I don’t know why Spotlight is so special in that regard. As for messages – the only reason Apple can manage this is because of tight iOS integration, it’s one of the major features of iOS. There’s no equivalent for Windows.

    Edge is awful as a PDF viewer though, I’ll give you that.

    • Yeah I was about to mention the Windows default search…like, it’s right there on the start menu. Just press the Windows key, or if for some reason your keyboard doesn’t have a Windows key, Ctrl+Esc.

      Edge is awful for everything though, let’s not kid ourselves. You use Edge to download Chrome or Firefox, and unless you are a web developer, you never touch it again.

    • Messages work fine for me on Windows 10. Just install Cortana on your phone and sign into the same Microsoft account for Cortana and your Windows 10 desktop and you get your messages and can reply to them from the notification center.

  • iMessage was a great implementation of an over-the-top messaging service. Now there’s a huge number of OTT messaging apps – too many in fact. Still, nothing beats SMS because it works on all phones, all networks and needs no set-up.
    It’s good to see the industry finally starting to do something about it with Rich Communication Services which, if it gets agreed/rolled out, will have the ubiquity of SMS and free us from having to install many messaging apps just to be able to contact everyone.
    And yes, Edge as PDF viewer ain’t great.

  • Windows has a quick to access search but from my quick testing it’s useless (though that may be because I’ve turned indexing off). Hit Windows Key + S and it displays the “Search everything” form. The form itself sucks in Windows 8.1 because it’s a non-sizeable/movable app. Meaning you can’t open it and have it displayed next to an explorer window. At least not as easily as you should be able to (friggin’ tabletification of Windows has a lot to answer for).

    Interestingly windows had a great quickview tool back in Win 95 (I think) called – surprise, surprise “Quickview”. I think it lasted into Win98 but got removed because of a licensing issue. It’s something I quite miss.

    Though Windows does have basic previews for a lot of file types built into Explorer anyway. It is pretty hit and miss though for example it won’t recognise a lot of files that are simple text (like a .cfg file) but it happily displays .txt, .htm and .xml files. And for some reason if you select “always show icons never thumbnails” in the folder view options it applies that to the preview as well as the file list *sigh*. It’d also be nice if it listed Zip contents if you picked them. And you’d think it’d preview Word/Excel/Powerpoint but nope.

    As for the default PDF viewer, I don’t see that as a problem at all. Choose your favourite PDF veiwer Acrobat, Foxit, Firefox, Chrome, whatever and set that as default. I’d much prefer being able to choose my favourite one. I see the OS role as providing a *basic* level of service and extra functionality being something you add to it. PDF viewing is extra functionality.

    I also view the mail and calendar apps in the same light. They’re extra functionality so just install the ones you like. That said, I think the Mail apps supplied from Windows 8 onwards have been a step backwards from their older versions. Dumbed down and feature poor.

    • Can’t remember for 8/8.1 but searching in 10 is one keystroke easier – just press the Windows key and start typing.
      Windows Explorer preview pane also previews Office files now (but I’m pretty sure it also did in previous versions – can’t remember, I don’t use it).

      • It could be the same for Windows 8.1 but I’m using Classic Shell to replace the start menu. Hitting just the windows key for me brings up the start menu with the cursor in the “search all programs and files” box. In contrast Winkey+S brings up the dedicated windows search app.

        Hmm, maybe you need MS Office installed (I don’t have it, I use OpenOffice) to get the Windows Explorer preview. I don’t think it’s built in by default.

      • Is this aimed at me? I assume so since it’s in reply to my comment. Though I’m not sure since your ‘quote’ is not actually what I said. You’ve paraphrased, and paraphrased wrongly.

        I said the Windows 8.1 search form sucks. The windows “modern” app that doesn’t behave like a regular windows form and is unsizeable and can’t be moved around properly. Here’s the ACTUAL quote;

        The form itself sucks in Windows 8.1 because it’s a non-sizeable/movable app.

        • Yes, although it looks like this article is a repost. I just found it amusing that you stated search sucked, then immediately afterwards mentioned you’d turned indexing off.

          • Nah I just think the search form sucks, and it does for the reasons stated above. Windows search itself is ok *if* you need it. Though, even with indexing turned on its still a little flaky about what it does and doesn’t find.

            I have indexing turned off because I don’t need it. I’m the sort of obsessive person who manually organises everything I do. I even change all the windows default directories (like my documents and my music) to folders I choose. I have separate physical HDDs (or SSDs) for data, apps, games and the OS.

            The only problem I have is the odd time when I make backups, then backup the backup back to the original HDD 😛

  • Messages:
    For as long as I can remember my SMS’s on my phone (was a Windows Phone) would also appear on my Windows PC where I could read them, reply to them and create new ones.

    I’ve recently switched to a Samsung Android S9 and I still get my SMS’s on the phone appearing on my other device / Windows 10 PC where I can still read them, reply to them and create new ones from my PC which go out through the mobile device as a normal SMS.

      • It might be Cortana doing the work behind the scenes. I have it installed on both devices and I think she/it handles the sharing of the info between the devices.

        Someone more familiar with how this works may be able to add more value … but from an end-user point of view (me) it’s just there 🙂

  • provides an array of options for SMS

    Spotlight is very messy when it comes to server platforms due to all the little poops it strews in every folder it touches. They’re invisible to Mac users, but believe me their shit goes everywhere.

    I suspect that Adobe have put restrictions on where Microsoft can put its PDF-viewing capabilities. For many years it has uniquely special-cased its licensing where Windows platform is concerned.

  • I know this is a repost and a lot of the issues were addressed in other comments, but here’s my summary:
    1 – Only an issue for iOS users. Cortana and Pushbullet are both options, Android Messages app now has a web interface if that’s your thing, and MS will be introducing a new app for this next release in case Cortana isn’t good enough.
    2 – From what I can tell, start menu search (press win key, or cmd+esc) is pretty closely matched to spotlight, including system-wide search and its keyboard-friendly nature.
    3 – Fair enough Windows doesn’t have quick look, but I’m not sure what advantages this has over a preview pane anyway. As mentioned in other comments, there are some nice alternatives on the Windows store now.
    4 – I don’t really see anything wrong with using Edge as a pdf viewer, even if you don’t use it as your default web browser. It fills out forms and everything. Doesn’t have a signature stamp, but you can use the markup/inking tools to sign by hand.
    5 – Mail and calendar points seem like minor gripes, especially when you can just use better 3rd-party options, but everyone’s opinion is different.

  • Microsoft could copy if these weren’t patented, I guess.
    Here’s to reciprocate – Windows features I am missing on a Mac.
    1. Full keyboard. I do like my PrtSc, Break, Backspace, Insert, Home, End. PgUp. PgDn and many others… Separate row of media keys could be useful in some “loud party” situations. I do not like the TouchBar, as it is a different and inconsistent experience.
    2. Themes, the automatic accent coloring taking cue from the wallpaper tones (Win 8.1)
    3. Live Tiles! Yes, bring them to iOS first please. Having to go into every app is a chore
    4. Security features. Yes, I mean BitLocker, TPM, EMET. Nothing beats having to enter PIN to boot my PCs or access the HD content.
    5. Common protocols. DLNA, Miracast, wireless projection, printing (mDNS).

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