Mac OS: first steps


I m really familiar with windows (20 years now) also professionaly but not at all with Mac OS.
I ll buy a MacBook pro soon, so please advise on first steps ... as a Windows guy.
What should I need to know?
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I wouldn't really consider Windows 3 to be a copy of Mac OS6.  Microsoft may have used some "look and feel" elements, but they certainly don't work the same way.  Windows is not as intuitive to an average user as a Mac, because a lot of the elements are somewhat hidden.  Note that I'm talking about average users, not power users, techs, or systems administrators.

You'll also want to double your RAM requirements for a Mac, because of the way things swap.  When a Mac goes to swap, it's significantly slower because it seems that the entire program is swapped out to disk.  The equivalent apps that I run on a Mac just needs more RAM because they're all 64 bit.

If you're getting close to your total RAM use, you should run the purge command in to release some RAM.  Because of the way I use my computer, I need to still reboot about once a week or 2 to clear out swap space, even if I purge my RAM.  I need 20 GB to 24 GB of RAM partly because of my Parallels VM.

Windows starts all programs partially to swap, so there's actually less to swap in and out.  There's also still a lot of 32 bit programs out there that use less overall RAM.  It will always swap if you have to switch between multiple programs, unless you just have a 2 or 3.   I had 3 GB out of a total of 4 GB RAM in use, but it would still swap on me.

Some elements are easier to do on a Mac, but some are more annoying.

The basic Mac interface for the average user has remained the same throughout versions.  The one big change for a windows user is that Macs don't like to use the function keys, you'll have to switch them in the preferences if you want to use them for Boot Camp or Parallels/VmWare/Virtual Box, or just want function keys over the Media keys.  It's one of the first things I changed since I use a windows VM and a lot of open source software.  I don't use the multimedia keys as often.

You'll also want to turn on the 2nd mouse button in the mouse preferences if you connect the mouse.  It's dumb to press the control key while clicking to get the 2nd button.  Also, turn on all the extra multi-touch and swipe features on your trackpad.  It's the only thing that makes trackpads slightly more usable than the old Thinkpad Trackpoints.  I wouldn't have switched until these additional features became available.

To do Page Up, Page Down, Home, and End, you'll need to press the "fn" key and the arrows.

Anytime you think Control key, just switch that to the Command key.  I guess Steve Jobs prefers to command, rather than control his keys.

If you decide on installing a Windows Boot Camp or virtual machine, the Command Key is the Windows key.  Unfortunately, unless you hook up a Windows USB keyboard, you get only one control key.

You'll also have to get used to the annoying fact that you'll lose wireless if you're not logged in.  If you run services on your laptop, you'll need to use a wired port.  When the computer goes to sleep, you lose wireless.  Wake on network activity takes too long.

If you use open source software, you should install Xcode, or just the Xcode Command line tools and install Homebrew/Mac Ports/Fink.  There's a a lot out there that can be easily installed that way with one of those package installers.

OSX is a type of unix, so you can run many unix commands that are more convenient than what's available via the Command Prompt.  I also find them simpler in many ways than powershell.

It won't matter to you now, but prior to Lion, you were forced to reboot when you patched your system through the GUI.  If you used the command line installer, you could list the patches first and patch all the ones that didn't require a reboot first.  You can then patch the rest when you were ready.  You could also just patch them and not reboot until you were ready to reboot or you figure which system service is in use and just stop and restart it.
The Mac OS is very similar to Windows in many ways, since Windows 3 was a copy of Mac OS 6.

For instance, almost all your usual keyboard shortcuts will work if you replace the control key with the Apple Command key (The key on either side of the space bar with the cloverleaf on it.)

For instance, copy is command-c, cut is command-s, paste is command-v, save is command-s.

A couple of other useful shortcuts are command-w to close a window and command-q to quit an application altogether.

Command-tab is the equivalent of alt-tab.

Unlike Windows, applications do not automatically quit when you close the last window, so you have to command-q if you want to close the app and release its memory.
Macs also come with wealth of utilities, most found in /Applications/Utilities. is the equivalent of the command line utility is the equivalent of Windows Event Logs.
Activity Monitor is similar to Task Manager
Disk Utility will run the equivalent of CHKDSK and also mount, initialize and partition drives.
KeyChain Assistant keeps track of passwords and certificates.
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Pulling down the Apple Menu to About this Mac will give you system information such as the amount of RAM, type of processor and OS version. Clicking More Info and System Report will give you a comprehensive list of all hardware and software together with information about it.
Apple has numerous instructional videos here:

In particular you should look at

PC to Mac - The basics for switchers:

and Anatomy of  a Mac:
Typo in my first post - cut is command-x, not command-s.
Alan HendersonRetired marine engineerCommented:
I found David Pogue's book very useful:

and there are a number of excellent online resurces for switchers:

Just Google "switch to mac"
Also, Mac equivalent of the Windows backspace key is DELETE.
Mac equivalent of the Windows delete key in Fn-Delete.
Also, very useful - Command-z = undo.
Mac equivalent of Control Panels are System Preferences (found under the Apple Menu)
If you have not yet purchased your MacBook Pro, be aware that you have to order the Retina models with the desired amount of RAM--you can't change it later, as they are soldered in. The solid state hard drive is replaceable, but it's a new form factor so you'll need to wait for the market to respond with larger sizes.

I found this blog page by Other World Computing to be pretty insightful on how to buy a MacBook Pro. I just bought two 13" for my kids (long story), and was glad to have my thinking confirmed. 

The AC adapter is prone to fatigue failure after a few years of use. Use a generous loop extending beyond the adapter when you start wrapping it up for travel. I kept one at the office and one at home to avoid failures.
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