Make the Mac great and again! With increased usability, especially for Windows users

Make the Mac great and again! With increased usability, especially for Windows users

It’s not a secret, that using a Mac as my main device in the Microsoft world is a little bit exotic. I have to admit:I love this device! It’s the best combination of hardware and software I have ever used. But this came a looong way.

How can you work professionally with that thing? (99% OF MY CO-WORKERS)

Apple’s macOS is not the most customizable system. If you don’t like the decisions, that Apple made for you, there are only a few built-in ways to change that. But there are some hidden settings and a bunch of amazing tools out there to make the Mac great again.

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When coming from the Windows world, the Finder can feel like a bad joke compared to the powerful Windows Explorer. At a closer look, it turns out, that the Finder can behave pretty similar after adjusting some settings.

My preferred Finder Preferences screenshot

With the finder opened, you can click Finder in the menu bar and select Preferences to open the Finder settings. Here you can adjust it for your needs. I usually choose the following preferences:

  • General: Show nothing on the Desktop
  • General: New Finder window show: Desktop
  • Tags: Disable all tags. Nobody needs the tags.
  • Sidebar: Hide Recents, iCloud Drive (if you don’t use iCloud), CDs and Tags. Nobody needs the tags
  • Sidebar: Show Computers, all hard disks, and the User folder
  • Advanced: Show all filename extensions
  • Advanced: Keep folders on top when sorting by name (Windows style)

Another thing, Windows users might be missing, is the option to go to the parent folder by hitting the Backspace key on your keyboard. This key combination is CMD + Up on a Mac. If you are looking for more keyboard shortcuts, take a look at the Keyboard Shortcuts section below!

You should get also used to the concept of Quick Look for files and folders. When a folder or file is selected, you can simply hit the Space key, to get an immediate preview of it. That is super fast and super handy!

Spotlight Search replaces the Start Menu

You will have noticed, that macOS does not have a start menu. At least not of the kind you might be used to from Windows. Macs do have the Launchpad app, which brings up a list of all the applications, you have installed, but you won’t find files or settings here.

Spotlight Search on macOS screenshot

That’s, where Spotlight Search comes into play. Just click the Magnifier Icon in the upper-right menu bar or hit CMD + Space and start typing. Spotlight Search will look for matches in your Applications, Files, Settings, Contact, E-Mails, the Web and more.

Copy, Cut and Paste

If you are used to the Copy, Cut and Paste shortcuts from Windows, you will quickly notice, that CMD + C and CMD + V work as expected, but the cutting and pasting files or folders with CMD + X does not work. Don’t ask me why, but for cutting and pasting files, you need to copy them with CMD + C and then paste them with the move shortcut CMD + Option + V. Cutting and pasting text, however, should work as expected.

Window Management

One thing I really love about Windows is its window management. With simple shortcuts like Win + Left or Right, users can snap windows to one side of the screen. MacOS does not really have these capabilities. It has a fullscreen view, that you can enable when clicking the green icon at the top-left corner of each window. Once you entered it, you can switch between the full-screen windows with CTRL + Left or Right or the Four-Finger-Swipe-Gesture on your touchpad.You can also bring multiple full-screen windows next to each other, by clicking and holding the green icon at the top-left corners to bring them to side-by-side view.

Built-in window management in macOS demo video

If you still need more control over your windows, and as a power-user with multiple or widescreen monitors you probably will, you should take a look a the Magnet tool, which brings back full window organization that even exceeds what you might already know from Windows.

Window Management with Magnet screenshot

With Magnet installed, you can assign screen real estate to windows by just dragging them to one of the hot corners or using hotkeys. That also includes splitting windows by thirds, quarters and much more.

Download Magnet

Default Apps

Another thing that is hard to believe until you see it is, how hard it is to change the default apps in macOS. You can always right-click a file and select Open with… > Other… to select a default app for it, but for advanced Scenarios like E-Mail, Calendar or URLs it gets very tricky.

You can change the default E-Mail application to a different one at the Settings of Apple Mail, but only after you have already set at least one account up in it. What the hell?

Rubicode Default App tool screenshot

If you want to get full control over your default apps back, the Rubicode Default App tool is your friend. It lets you fine-granularly choose a default application for every type of file, URL or media.

Download Rubicode Default App

Clean up the Menu Bar

What the Tray in Windows is, that's the Menu Bar in macOS. Currently opened Background Applications go here. While Windows has the option to hide those icons that you don’t want to see all the time, the Mac doesn’t. Some Applications offer to disable their Menu Bar Icon, but sometimes you just want to hide it for now and access it later.

Bartender for macOS screenshot

The Bartender tool fills that gaps and lets you manage, which icons to permanently hide and which ones to show in a secondary bar. You can also set rules on when to bring icons to the front. Totally pleases my OCD, maybe also yours!

Download Bartender

Scroll Directions

I really like, how Apple introduced “natural scroll direction” on their trackpads, so that I can scroll down by moving my fingers from bottom to top. When using a mouse instead, I prefer the other direction. So scrolling down with a mouse feels more natural to me when I scroll the mouse wheel down as well.

Hint: I highly recommend, learning the most common touch gestures presented in the Trackpad menu. They make your life a lot easier and are a core concept of macOS.

Default Mouse and Trackpad Settings for macOS screenshot

There is a way to customize the scrolling behavior in the System Settings but only for both, mouse and trackpad! Yes, you read this right: Once you change the scroll direction in the Mouse Settings, it will also be changed for the Trackpad and vice versa!

Scroll Reverser Screenshot for macOS

Fortunately, Scroll Reverser for macOS let you individually change the scrolling behavior. Make sure, to also setup Autostart for Scroll Reverser and hide the menu bar icon.

Download Scroll Reverser

Prevent a MacBook from sleeping, when the lid gets shut

What is an absolute standard on all other operating system is completely missing in macOS: A useful power management. As a user, I want to decide what should happen when I close my laptop. Especially when moving around in the office or using it as a build host for development, as I often do, you might not want your computer to go to sleep when you close the lid. InsomniaX is a simple tool that prevents that and lets you decide, how your laptop should behave!

Download InsomniaX

Automatically switch to Dark Mode

With macOS Mojave, Apple introduced a Dark Mode to the Mac. Unfortunately, it doesn’t switch to it automatically once it gets darker around you (like Night Shift). You have to switch manually or stick with one mode. NightOwl closes that gap for you and switches modes by schedule or sunrise and sunset.

NightOwl switches to Dark Mode automatically demo video

Download NightOwl

Sound Control

The default sound control system of macOS is quite limited. You can not set individual volume levels per app, can not control volume of HDMI or other digital outputs and can not let the system automatically switch to a specific device, once it gets plugged in.

Sound Control does all that for you. Even after the free trial expires, you can continue using it for controlling HDMI volume, which is something macOS does actually not support.

Download Sound Control

Calendar next to clock

I always found the tiny calendar very helpful, which appears after clicking the clock in the Windows taskbar. To bring a similar experience to the Mac, you can download and install Dato, which brings a richer clock experience to the toolbar.


Download Dato

Keyboard Shortcuts

The best tip for any operating system or tool always is to learn the essential key combinations and shortcuts.

  • Spotlight Search: CMD + Space
  • Quick View: Select any file + Space
  • Navigate back in Finder: CMD + Up
  • Show/hide hidden files and folders: CMD + Shift + .
  • Lock Screen: CMD + Shift + Q
  • Cut and paste files: CMD + C, then CMD + Option + V
  • Paste clipboard content without formatting: CMD + Shift + V
  • Emoji: CTRL + CMD + Space
  • Screenshot: CMD + Shift + 4
  • Advanced Screenshot and Recording: CMD + Shift + 5

You can find a list of all keyboard shortcuts in the official documentation

Special characters (on a German keyboard layout)

  • |: Option + 7
  • [ and ]: Option + 5 and Option + 6
  • { and }: Option + 8 and Option + 9

Other honorable mentions

What did I miss? What drives you crazy in macOS? Any handy tips and tricks that you want to share? Make sure to leave a comment and let me and others know!

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