21 Things Every New Mac User Should Know

1. Control is Command, Alt is Option, Enter is Return, Backspace is Delete

Mac Keyboard

The first thing you’ll notice after opening your new Mac is that some keys are different, and the Windows key is obviously (and depending on your history with Windows, thankfully) absent.

In OS X, Command (Cmd) is the equivalent of Control (Ctrl) and Alt is Option key.

Windows has both Backspace and Delete keys. OS X just has the Delete key that by default works as the Backspace key. If you want it to work as the Delete key, to delete a highlighted file for example, press Cmd + Delete.

RELATED: Check out our ultimate guide to the most useful keyboard shortcuts for popular services.

Just Switched to a Mac? Get our eBookThe Ultimate Guide to OS X Yosemite for a Mac Beginner. It is the perfect eBook for people who want to get a hang of a Mac and how to get the most out of it.

2. Clicking the Red Close Button Does Not Exit the App

In Windows, when you click the red X Close button, the app actually gets “closed”. Doing this in OS X will still leave the app running in the background. You’ll see a little dot below the app’s icon in the Dock, that means the app is still running.

Dots Mean Open Apps

To actually quit the app you’ll need to right-click the app’s icon in the Dock or go to the app’s menu and select Quit. Using the keyboard shortcut Cmd + Q is much easier.

If an app is being a nuisance, use the keyboard shortcut Option + Cmd + Escape to bring up the Force Quit menu.

3. Menu Bar Items Are App Independent

Menu Bar

In Windows, the menu items are attached to the app window and when the window is minimized or out of focus, the menu bar becomes inactive. That’s not the case in OS X. The menus show up in the menu bar that is stuck to the top of the screen. Even after you minimize the app.

4. How to Maximize, Minimize, Fullscreen an App

In OS X, the stop lights, namely Close, Minimize and Maximize are located on the left-hand side instead of right. While the minimize behavior is the same, the maximize button is weird.


In Yosemite, the green Maximize button makes the app fullscreen. To maximize an app on the same screen instead, hold the Option key while clicking the green stop light button (the icon on the green button will change from arrows to a plus symbol).

Buttons Plus

The reason Maximize button is weird is that the enlarge function is app based. For example, clicking the Maximize button while holding Optionkey in Evernote fills up the whole screen but doing the same in Chrome leaves out some vertical/horizontal space.

There’s a way to force a weird app like Chrome to actually take up the whole screen. Hold Shift + Option when clicking the green Maximize button.

5. How to Install Applications

One of the best things about OS X is just how easy it is to install apps, once you know how. Installing an app in Windows requires you to go through an installer, customize a bunch of options, click next a couple of times and evade toolbars or freeware apps.

In OS X, when you download an app from the internet, you’ll get a dmg orzip file instead of an exe. Clicking it will mount the install file as a disk. You’ll either see a window that expressly tells you to drag the app to the Applications folder or you’ll just see a new folder with the app file.

Install Apps

You can run the app from anywhere on your Mac storage, but for your sake and the Mac’s, drag the install file from the disk image to the Applications folder. Don’t forget to eject the dmg file.

Dragging To Apps Folder

When you launch a downloaded app, OS X will warn you that it’s downloaded from the internet. Skip over that, click Open to start using the app.

Open App Downloaded From Internet

WHAT ABOUT THE APP STORE? Hands down, App Store is the best place to download simple free apps. It will take care of the installation and update process all by itself, just like iOS. But some apps available on the App Store are limited in functionality compared to the ones downloaded directly from the developer’s website.

6. Install Apps from outside the Mac App Store and Approved Developers

OS X blocks app installs from unapproved developers.

To disable this, go to System Preferences -> System And Privacy -> General.

Security Mac App

Click the lock in the bottom left corner and enter your password.

Now from the Allow app downloads from section choose Anywhere.

7. The Best Way to Uninstall Applications

Dragging the app’s icon from the Applications folder and subsequently emptying the Trash is a rather ineffective way to uninstall an app.

App Cleaner 1

To do this better, download an app called AppCleaner. You can drag any app into AppCleaner’s window or check the app from the list and click the Search button.

Appcleaner 2 E1442213557319

This will not only bring up the app file in question but also small files related to the app. Click the Delete button to effectively uninstall the app and all the files related to the app.

8. There’s No Need to Defrag a Mac’s Hard Drive/Solid State Drive

If you’re coming from Windows, you must be used to defragging your hard drive regularly. OS X uses Mac OS Extended Journaled file system from UNIX and it automatically defrags any fragmented part of your storage. If your machine is using an SSD, you should know that its flash based storage doesn’t require hard drive like defragging anyway.

9. Understanding Mission Control and Spaces to Better Manage Windows

If you’re new to Mac, words like Mission Control, Spaces, Launchpad etc can seem alien. But there’s nothing to be overwhelmed about, it’s just Apple-speak for some very useful navigation features.

Mission Control, accessed by pressing F3 on the keyboard or a 4-finger swipe up gesture on the trackpad, gives you an overview of all the different apps and windows running on your Mac.

Mission Control 1024X640

In Mission Control, you’ll see a bar up top showing different desktops and fullscreen apps you’ve setup. The official term for this is Spaces.

Add New Desktop1

To create a new Desktop, mouse over to the top-left edge of the screen and click the + button. Delete an unused Desktop by clicking the X on the top-left corner.

Remove Desktop

Swiping between different Desktops and fullscreen apps is as easy as swiping 4 fingers left-right or right-left on the trackpad. Desktops can be a good way to increase productivity and keep things organized. You can have one Desktop just for work stuff, one for writing, one for email, one for communication etc.

Launchpad was added in Mountain Lion and it brings iOS style homescreen to Mac. You can launch it by clicking the icon from the Dock or pinching in your thumb and three fingers on the trackpad.


Swipe left or right to switch between pages, drag one icon over another to make a folder. You can also delete apps directly from Launchpad but it takes a lot longer than just dragging the app’s icon to the Trash.

You’ll have to click and hold on the app’s icon until all the icons start to wiggle, tap the X key and then finally press the Delete button.

Just Switched to a Mac? Get our eBookThe Ultimate Guide to OS X Yosemite for a Mac Beginner. It is the perfect eBook for people who want to get a hang of a Mac and how to get the most out of it.

10. Your Mac is Not Partitioned

Macs, as they ship are not partitioned. Unlike Windows, there’s no partition for system files, recovery drives, etc. It’s one for all, and all for one.


And the fun part is that you don’t need to create partitions. It’s going to work just fine without it as I mentioned in the previous section.

11. Use Quick Look to Quickly Preview Different File Types

Mac has a great tool for quickly previewing the file that’s currently highlighted. Just press Space key on the keyboard and a window will open up with the preview of the photo, video, or PDF file that you’ve selected.

Quicklook With Finder

With things like images, you can use the left/right arrow keys to preview the previous/next item in the same window.

12. Disable Autocorrect

Autocorrect is a necessary evil on the iPhone. More often than not, it actually makes sense of what you want you type.

But on a Mac, you’ve got this physical keyboard and there’s no need for Autocorrect. When you’re done typing, you can easily highlight all the spelling and grammar mistakes by pressing the keyboard combo Cmd + ;(semicolon) anyway.

Disable Auto Correct 1024X912

Disable autocorrect by going to System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Textand uncheck the Correct spelling automatically option.

13. How to Change the Default App For a Particular File Format

If you try a lot of different apps, they can sometimes overwrite each other when it comes to the default status. This happens a lot with media files. It’s really annoying when you have awesome apps like VLC or MPlayerX installed and a video opens in QuickTime by default.

Change Default App 1

To change this, right-click on the file and click Get info.

Change Default App 2

In the Open with section you’ll see the default app in the drop-down menu. The drop-down will list all the apps on your Mac that are capable of opening the file format. If you don’t see your app here, click the Otherbutton and select the app manually.

14. Image Capture Lets You Quickly Import Photos from Your Phones and Camera

When you connect your iPhone, Android phone, camera or put in an SD card, OS X will pop up Image Capture. If it doesn’t, go to Applications and look for the Image Capture app.

Image Capture

What Image Capture allows you to do is quickly check all or specific photos from your connected device and imports the images to the Photos folder or the folder specified by you.

15. Use Three Finger Tap on Trackpad to Look up Any Word

OS X has a built-in dictionary and when your cursor is over a word in any app, tapping three fingers on the trackpad will instantly bring up its definition in a bubble over the word.


The same functionality is available in iOS as well and for writers like me, or anyone that’s constantly coming across new words, this quick gesture starts to mean a lot. So much so that when I switch to Windows for a part of my job, I miss it ( I miss the trackpad more, to be completely honest).

16. Yosemite Has a Dark Side

Dark Mode

You might have noticed that Yosemite is a bit too white and bright. The old and new users who don’t like the look can switch to the Dark mode. It reverses the menu bar, Dock, app switcher, among other things. So now you have white text over black background. To know more about the Dark mode, check out our guide.

To enable it, go to System Preferences -> General and check Use Dark menu bar and Dock.

While you’re at it, you can get rid of the transparent sidebars as well. Go to Accessibility and check Reduce Transparency.

Reduce Transparency

17. You Can Use Your Mac to Make and Receive Calls and SMS from Your iPhone

If you have an iPhone running iOS 8.1 or higher, you can answer calls and reply to SMS right from your Mac. Both devices need to be on the same Wi-Fi network though.

To enable this on your iPhone, go to Settings -> General -> Handoff & Suggested Apps, and enable Handoff.

Calling Mac

On your Mac, open the Messages app and sign in with your iCloud account. When your phone is on the same network, you’ll be prompted to turn on the SMS feature. Put in the code in question and you’re done.

To get the calls to working, go to FaceTime app and sign in with the iCloud account. For a more detailed explanation on this subject, check out our guide.

18. OS X Has Built-in Version Control

In apps that support it, you can easily revert to a previous version of the file you’re working on. Apps like Pages, Numbers and even Preview keep track of all the different save points of a file. To revert to a previous version of the file go to File -> Revert to -> Browse all versions. 

Version Control

Here you’ll find two windows, the one on the left is the current version, the one on the right shows a scrollable view of all the previous versions. On the right edge you’ll find a timeline for all the edits.

19. Use The Search Feature In Help to Help Yourself

As we’ve established before, OS X has great search features. It also has great documentation. Combining both gives you the search box in the Help menu. This search box is contextually aware and works in all the default apps plus some third party apps as well.


Here, type in the thing you’re looking for and the app will not only list the relevant Help article, but will actually highlight where the feature you’re looking for resides.

20. iCloud Drive Is Yosemite’s Cloud Storage Solution

I Cloud Drive

iCloud was integrated with OS X and iOS devices in 2011 but it was always kind of limited. With iCloud Drive, it finally became the cloud storage solution you’d actually want to use.

iCloud Drive allows you to backup the usual data like contacts, notes, reminders, photos from your iPhone or iPhoto library but it works on an app basis as well. For instance, any app that’s compatible with iCloud Drive get its own folder. You can put files in there and they will be accessible from all the Apple devices you own, even the iPhone.

When you open an app like Pages to make a new document, just choose the save location as iCloud Drive and you’re all set.

Of course, iCloud Drive isn’t as feature rich as Dropbox (it doesn’t have an Android app for instance) but if all you’re using are Apple devices, iCloud Drive might be more than enough for you.

Oh, and you can manually drag in any file or folder to iCloud Drive as well, just like Dropbox.

RELATED: We’ve written a detailed explainer on iCloud Drive, in case you want to read more about how it works and if it suits you.

21. Safari is the Default Browser and it’s Not That Bad


Safari 8.0 in Yosemite is fast, smooth and good looking. It’s much better than Safari used to be a couple of years ago. The best argument for choosing Safari over a browser like Chrome is not features but reliability.

Safari was written hand-in-hand with the rest of the OS and is deeply integrated with the hardware. That means that while Chrome will max out the RAM after you open a couple dozen tabs, Safari will not. Safari also doesn’t have Flash installed and is much more energy efficient than Chrome.

When compared to Chrome, Safari usually gets an hour or two more battery life and it doesn’t heat up the Mac nearly as much.

But is that enough to make you switch? I keep going back and forth between the two but currently I’m using Chrome because of the sync features with Windows, iOS and Android apps and the excellent extension library.

THE SAFARI ADVENTURE: If you’re interested in exploring Safari as your default browser, we’ve written about all the major changes in Safari 8.0 and also highlighted the best productivity extensions.

Last updated on 03 February, 2022

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