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4 ways Windows people get MacOS wrong

MacOS is often misunderstood by users coming from other operating systems. Here are four things you need to know if you're considering making the switch.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor
Person using Macbook Pro
Image: Apple

Back in the day, there used to be a lot of debate about which operating system was better. Linux, Windows, and MacOS all had their staunch fans. But over the years, as each OS just got better and better, the fanboy battles seemed to fade away. Thankfully.

Personally, I use all three -- each for its own purpose. Today, my main productivity computer is a Mac, mostly because I use a few software tools that only run on Macs. 

I use my Windows machine to run my CNC and for applications that don't run well on Macs. 

When I had time for gaming, I also used a Windows machine for those Triple-A gaming titles that only work well on PCs. And I use Linux to run my servers -- both at home driving my 3D printers, and in the cloud hosting my websites.

Folks coming from other operating systems don't always have the ability to see everything that's available to get their jobs done, especially when those capabilities come from the wider ecosystem, rather than the OS vendor.

MacOS, with its very rich developer community, is often the subject of misconceptions and misunderstandings. I recently read an article from a Windows user entitled, "I wanted to love macOS for a change, but I now appreciate Windows even more," that spotlights some things users miss when they first try Apple's OS.

Also: Did an SOS satellite icon just appear on your iPhone? Here's why

For the record, I don't "love" any of the operating systems. Some days, I wish I could escape away from computers completely, disconnect from all things digital, and go live in a nice yurt in the woods. I'm betting my editor is, right now, trying to decide whether to leave this paragraph in, all the while nodding in agreement with the sentiment. We've all felt that way.

Let's get started.

Claim: Missing app preview

App preview is a handy Windows feature where, when you hover over a dock icon for an actively running application, a little preview is shown. In the case of media apps like Spotify, the preview window also provides playback controls.

The article's writer says, "When I listen to Spotify, I am so used to using the play, pause, forward, and backward buttons from that tiny thumbnail preview. It is so convenient that way versus how macOS does it."

The article complains that this feature is not available on the Mac. This is technically true, in that the feature doesn't come with MacOS itself. But as Stardock demonstrated back in the Windows world, folks will often pay for add-on tools that customize their computing experience. I think I bought every utility Stardock ever sold.

Also: Cool things you can do with the Linux desktop that you can't do with MacOS or Windows

In the Mac's case, there's a little $10 add-on called HyperDock. Once installed, it just works. As long as you visit an application once, HyperDock can display a thumbnail. Below, you can see how ZDNET, my development environment, and Spotify all have very nice previews. And Spotify even has those playback control buttons.

Using HyperDock to view multiple windows

If you have multiple browser windows, HyperDock will show them. From left to right, Chrome, PhpStorm (a coding tool), and Spotify.

David Gewirtz/ZDNET

Claim: Missing clipboard history

Another point the writer laments is the lack of a clipboard history feature in MacOS. They say that Windows keeps a record of items you cut or copy, so you can go back later and paste a previously cut item, even if it's not the most recent.

The writer says, "Windows saves them in the Clipboard until you turn off your PC. In macOS Ventura or any previous version of the OS, you can only see the most recent text you have copied. Despite being exorbitantly priced, it is a shame that a Mac does not offer a decent first-party clipboard management tool."

As it turns out, there are quite a few excellent clipboard management tools for the Mac. If the writer has already blown their budget on an "exorbitantly priced" Mac Mini (which is what the writer bought), I'd recommend a fine add-on called ClipTools, which is a free download from the Mac App Store. 

Also: How to buy Apple's new MacBook Pro and Mac Mini and skip the line

And, for the record, an M2 Mac Mini can be had for as little as $599, which provides a whole lot of bang for the buck compared to most any PC at that price and performance point.

Clipboards that are saved

ClipTools has a ton of settings. So if you want more saved clipboards, you can have them.

David Gewirtz/ZDNET

The Mac has long had a bunch of really excellent clipboard management add-ons. When I need to cut and paste a sequence of items, I use a $12.99 tool called Pastebot. Another tool I use is Unclutter. This $20 add-on provides a very quick way to manage notes, clips, and files. I use it to jot down notes while I'm coding and because the notes drop down from the menu bar, they're never in the way.

Claim: Missing multitasking

So this one is baffling. And I'll be honest. I can't figure out where the writer got this from: "macOS Ventura does not allow you to use more than two apps at the same time."

Okay. So. Wow.

You can use so many apps at once on the Mac that it can freeze your brain. Obviously, the amount of RAM you have in your system has some influence on this, but I used a 16GB M1 Mac as my main development machine for a few years and often had ten or more applications open at once. Coding requires a lot of tools to run, and even a Mac with 16GB gets it done.

Also: Apple Mac Mini (2023) vs Mac Studio: Is M2 really better than M1? 

I'm now running a Mac Studio with 64GB RAM and haven't found anything that slows me down, not even doing multi-stream 4K video editing while also doing 3D modeling, image editing, and coding -- all at once.

Multiple apps running on Mac

So let's see. My PhpStorm development environment is running way in the back. Photoshop is open. There's an FTP client and a terminal window. There's also the screenshot program running which grabbed this image. And this is tame compared to how crazy it can get. Yeah, the Mac can run more than two apps.

David Gewirtz/ZDNET

Even iPads are no longer limited to two apps. The Apple Silicon iPads allow two side-by-side apps to be open, and a third through a slide-out sidebar. With Stage Manager, Apple Silicon iPads can run four apps at once.

Also: How to split-screen on iPad for multitasking

I've been trying to figure out how the writer might have been so wrong about the number of apps that can run on the Mac and the only thing I can come up with is he used the side-by-side Split View interface exclusively.

But Split View doesn't happen organically when you open an application. You have to explicitly tell the apps to tile. So I can't imagine the writer never figured out that multiple windows open up since it's nearly impossible to not open multiple windows.

Claim: The missing link

Windows supports a helpful feature called Phone Link that allows Samsung Galaxy phones and Windows PCs to talk to each other. It allows messages, calls, notifications, and files to sync. Microsoft says the feature is limited to Samsung phones, but the writer says that a subset of features is available to other Android phones as well.

The article does acknowledge that "macOS and iPhone work great together, too," but states, "I strongly feel Apple should also make necessary compromises to let Microsoft bring the 'Phone Link' experience to the Apple ecosystem."

Apple's version of Phone Link is Continuity. Continuity provides a ton of features that work across the entire ecosystem. Perhaps the one I use most is a shared clipboard. I'll often cut or copy something on my iPhone and paste it on my Mac. But there are a bunch of shared features. The most notable addition to Ventura is the ability to use the iPhone camera as a webcam.

Continuity features with descriptions listed

Apple's list of Continuity features.


What the writer is saying, though, is that there is a form of ecosystem lock. This is true on both Mac and Windows. Windows doesn't support Phone Link for iPhones, for example. And Apple doesn't support Continuity for Android phones.

Also: What is Security Keys for Apple ID and why does it matter?

I think most users wish that wasn't the case, but competition being what it is, I don't expect we'll see any substantial cross-platform cooperation any time soon.

Final thoughts

We're no longer in the fanboy OS wars, and so I don't think the writer of the article in question made these claims to cheerlead Windows users. Instead, I think the writer genuinely wanted to learn to love MacOS, but due to lack of domain-specific knowledge, didn't know how to get some things done.

This goes to one of the great benefits of the Mac. It has a very rich library of aftermarket developer-created tools that modify and extend the user experience. Every time I find I need some new functionality, there's usually a great little utility that can get it done for me. Yes, ten bucks here, twelve bucks there, and twenty bucks over there add up, but when I'm trying to save time or get a deliverable to a client in an impossibly short period of time, it's well worth the cost for the extra minutes each tool buys me.

Also: Comparing the best Macs: Is a MacBook or Mac Studio right for you?

With the exception of programs that only run on one operating system or another, you can get everything you need to get done on each of the three main OSs. What you use is a matter of your own personal choice and needs.

But before you dismiss any OS as incapable, do some research. Perhaps with a bit of Googling, our forlorn Windows writer could have found more about the Mac to love. 

Or maybe we should all just give it up and go live in a yurt.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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