Help for new Mac user
January 4, 2019 6:55 AM   Subscribe

I'm starting a new job on Monday and just learned that my computer will be a MacBook Pro. I'm a lifelong PC user who does not know how to do a single solitary thing on a Mac, not even a little. Help me.

Yes, yes, I know Macs are superior in every way but I've never had opportunity nor reason to touch one and PCs are just what I'm used to. On the few occasions I've had to do something on my husband's MacBook, I quickly get pissed and frustrated because I can't even figure out how to operate the damn trackpad, let alone anything more complicated than that. I'm sure I'll get used to it quickly enough, but in the meantime, I need help so I don't look like a complete moron unable to navigate the barest of Mac basics on Monday morning and leave them wondering why they even hired me.

I've signed up for a Mac Basics class at my local Apple store for Saturday morning (now I feel like my parents, haha). What else can I do to get up to speed before then?

Tips and tricks, especially from those that were diehard PC users and converted?
Your best source for online tutorials?
How will my personal Apple ID be affected?
General support and reassurance?

I know it's my mostly new-job nerves talking and I'm transferring them all onto this computer but I do appreciate your suggestions. :) Thank you.
posted by anderjen to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Jessamyn had a useful comment here and although the situation in that question is different from yours, there are probably some other useful comments in that thread as well.

I wouldn't worry much about making the switch. I got a Mac a few years ago after many years of using Windows and it was pretty painless (but I still prefer Windows File Explorer over Mac's equivalent Finder). You probably want to learn the basic keyboard shortcuts at least.
posted by exogenous at 7:04 AM on January 4, 2019

I was in the same position a few years ago when I started my job and they gave me a macbook. I was like lol what I haven't used a mac since I played Oregon Trail, do we have any PCs? And no. So I just used it. It was annoying for really only a brief period of time and then was fine. The only thing that gives me problems is trying to find where they hide shit in the mac version of excel.

Turns out you can google literally anything and it's already been answered. Just keep a tab open and feed it whatever you need (how ctrl f on mac, how install printer mac, how screenshot mac, etc), it's all there.

You'll get it eventually, I promise, and it'll be fine.

The only thing that's obnoxious to me at this point is switching back and forth between keyboards and trackpads since they all work a little differently on all of my machines. But it's also fine. It's fine.

And if anyone at work gives you crap about it just say I've never used a mac before I'm still figuring it out. If they continue to give you crap, they're the asshole and they've given you a valuable data point for the rest of your working life with them.
posted by phunniemee at 7:30 AM on January 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

I would suggest playing with a mac over the weekend and getting comfortable finding files with Finder, as it is slightly different than windows. Also get used to it's search behavior. If you will be doing work on the internet, either familiarize yourself with Safari's behaviors, or download one you are familiar with (Chrome or Firefox).

As long as you log in with a work email, it should not touch your personal AppleID.

In general, Apple software is polite, simple, and wants to get out of your way. Except Itunes, but that works for nobody at all.
posted by nickggully at 7:32 AM on January 4, 2019

If you aren’t sure how to even find or launch programs that aren’t already in the Dock at the bottom of the screen, look for the magnifying glass icon near the upper right corner of the screen. That will let you search for Chrome or Word or anything that you’re not sure how to otherwise get to. There are better ways to navigate to apps but that will at least get you started.

I can't even figure out how to operate the damn trackpad

Mice work exactly the same on a Mac as they do on a PC, as do trackpads. Left click on the trackpad is in the lower left corner. Right click is in the lower right corner. Sometimes right click functions are disabled because people who learned to use Macs over 20 years ago don’t understand the concept. You can turn it back on by clicking the Apple Menu (upper left corner of the screen) > System Preferences > Trackpad.

How will my personal Apple ID be affected?

Don’t do anything on your work computer involving your personal Apple ID. The things you might need to do at work that might make an Apple ID handy (like maybe Messages chat, collaborative work in Keynote…) should be done with a new ID using your work email address. Same goes for creating a Microsoft or Google ID; keep everything separate. It might seem more convenient to use a personal account but it is always more painful in the long run.
posted by bcwinters at 7:34 AM on January 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't worry too much about it - for one thing, every new model of Macbook adds some new interface feature that everyone has to learn (does your work computer have a touch bar?).

You shouldn't have to use your personal AppleID on a work computer; you can always create a new account using your work email address if you need to download something from the App Store or use iTunes to sync to a work phone or something.

What kinds of tasks will you be doing? Mostly email, spreadsheet, word processing? The basic shortcuts linked above are important (using Cmd ⌘ instead of Ctrl, etc). If you are a power user of Microsoft Office programs, there are some differences with the MacOS versions - mostly more limited features, though.

For the trackpad, I use macs all the time, and still use a mouse for my work computer (also Macbook Pro) because, personally, I find mice ergonomically better for my hands and wrists. The trackpad has some nice features, though, (I use it at home) if you want to learn; that's something you can ask about at the Apple Store and practice when you start working.

Congrats on the new job!
posted by bluefly at 7:35 AM on January 4, 2019

On the trackpad piece, note that you can customize almost all of the settings! I've used Macs for a long time, but at some point I got a new laptop and Apple had decided that dragging your fingers toward yourself (vs toward the screen) should make the scroll go up? I don't know. It wasn't intuitive to me at all. Turns out that was super easy to change! Lots of things are like that.

Good luck!
posted by CiaoMela at 7:45 AM on January 4, 2019

You'll do great after a few days. I'm a Mac user, but my last job - for 14 years - had me on a PC. Definitely don't be afraid to poke around in settings and customize things to make them work better for you, including the track pad.

As lots of folks have said, the finder can be annoying when you're used to the more straight forward (in my opinion) file system in Windows. Apple has a useful page on tips for Windows switchers.

Macsparky has a field guide called 60 tips for the Mac for when you don't feel like such a beginner. It's great stuff.

Good luck, you'll be a-ok!
posted by jdl at 8:02 AM on January 4, 2019

Make sure you get a keyboard protector. One drop of liquid can really affect these. I wrecked my MacBookPro keyboard this way, condensation on a glass dripped into it and now it's a $200 repair at my local tech place.

You can also use an external keyboard and wireless mouse, which is what I am doing until I feel like coughing up the $ for the keyboard replacement. I actually like it a lot better than the track pad.

Sometimes certain websites will lock up my browser (Chrome), some ad that refuses to load, and I get the spinning colored ball (the dreaded beach ball). The only thing I can do is go to the Finder and click on Shutdown, then it will say Chrome is not responding and do I want to force quit? I do, and that gets me out of that little hellscape. FYI.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 8:15 AM on January 4, 2019

I don't like trackpads on either platform. You're entitled to ask for a mouse if that would help.
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:46 AM on January 4, 2019

You'll be fine. The only thing that this requires is just using the macbook, you'll adjust in no time. If you're looking for something and cant find it, press command-space and type whatever into spotlight (the search bar that pops up) - macOS is pretty good at things like that. Thinking back to my own conversion so many years ago (8 i guess?) the biggest thing that tripped me up was the keyboard shortcuts for copy/paste - it's now command-c and command-v, vs control-c/v. Also if the trackpad / scrolling direction seems backwards to you, you can change it in System Preferences - under Mouse, toggle the "Scroll direction" box near the top.
posted by cgg at 10:38 AM on January 4, 2019

I run Windows on a MacBook Pro- it's good hardware, though I use external mouse and kbd, as you should. If that's an option, exercise it.

The most critical UI things I can recommend for a OSX user coming from windows: invert the mouse wheel in the mouse settings, because Mac mousewheel scrolls the screen in the other direction than Windows and most other OSes. Second, stop using the Home and End buttons if you were using them before-- they will not work like you expect; they go to the start and end of a document instead of the line you're on. Never found a fix for this.

If you're not sure how to do something, search youtube; since Macs are the choice of the young, status-seeking technorati, there are a million videos there about every goddamn little thing, begging for your views, so you'll be able to find specific instructions.

As for your apple ID, create a new one based on your work email so you can keep things separate from your personal ID, iCloud, and so on. I keep a personal dropbox linked to my work PC, but that is it.

If you don't have one already, the start of this job is the best opportunity to start using a password manager; I use keepass on Windows/Android/OSX, but you might do better with LastPass; better OSX implementation. You can use the ungainly (IMO) keychain, but I turn that off.

Lifehacker has good app lists for the major useful functions on various platforms, and I've had good luck with listed apps. Here's their most recent Mac App list.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:12 AM on January 4, 2019

Clicking can happen anywhere on the trackpad, to correct a comment upthread. Click with one finger = left click. Click with two fingers = right click. No need to worry about trackpad buttons.
posted by emelenjr at 11:54 AM on January 4, 2019

The #1 thing to get used to is looking at the menu bar - thats the very top line of the screen, next to the apple logo top left. Most Windows users are blind to that, thinking it's just some system status bar - but it contains two very important things 1) the name of currently active application and 2) All the menus for that application.
posted by Lanark at 12:43 PM on January 4, 2019

In the end, all computers do pretty much the same thing with a slightly different but, frankly, also almost identical interface. Folders are folders on a Mac the same as they are on a PC. Desktop, the same. Files, the same. It's largely the same across the board for the most basic stuff. You'll miss right-click being enabled by default, but just open System Preferences and change it. You'll be fine. If you hate it, remember, it's not worth the energy. It's just different.
posted by smallerdemon at 6:38 PM on January 4, 2019

The most critical UI things I can recommend for a OSX user coming from windows: invert the mouse wheel in the mouse settings, because Mac mousewheel scrolls the screen in the other direction than Windows and most other OSes.

There's an app called Scroll Reverser that fixes this without changing the trackpad direction.

Second, stop using the Home and End buttons if you were using them before-- they will not work like you expect; they go to the start and end of a document instead of the line you're on. Never found a fix for this.

On some apps (Terminal I guess, heh) Home and End work as expected (fn+left/right on Macbooks). Most text editors like Sublime use command+left/right though.
posted by neckro23 at 7:31 PM on January 4, 2019

I was required to switch to using a Mac at work a few years ago. MacOS and Windows are really quite similar in function these days. If you have a smartphone and can recognize how to click on an application, and use Google, you’ll be up and running in an hour. You’ll be comfortable within the week.

One thing I did was to set my preferences on the trackpad so that a two-finger tap on the right side acts like a double-click. My MacBook has a touchbar, but I personally never use it because it’s a lot more effort than just typing a keyboard shortcut.

So: Finder is where you’ll find your files and settings, the command key works like the control key, and and your desktop will function a little differently. If you’re searching for files on network servers, you’ll be using back \ slashes instead of forward / slashes when typing out the network address. But apart from that, and some basic cosmetics, there’s really very little difference between the two in terms of how you’ll do your work.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:29 PM on January 4, 2019

smallerdemon: You'll miss right-click being enabled by default, but just open System Preferences and change it.

This isn't accurate. Right-clicking is not something you'll need to enable on your Mac unless you specifically want right-clicking to work exclusively on the right side of your trackpad. In the Trackpad section of the System Preferences, there are some options for choosing how you'd like right-clicking to work (click/tap with two fingers, click in the bottom left or right corners) but the functionality isn't something you need to turn on. Mac OS and Mac OS apps have had contextual menu items accessible via right-clicks for ages.

Sunburnt: The most critical UI things I can recommend for a OSX user coming from windows: invert the mouse wheel in the mouse settings, because Mac mousewheel scrolls the screen in the other direction than Windows and most other OSes.

Counterpoint: If you've ever used a touchscreen device, moving your finger up to go down the page will feel very natural.
posted by emelenjr at 5:28 AM on January 5, 2019

Thank you all. I feel calmer already and am off to my Mac Basics class in an hour so hopefully I'll be up and rocking in no time!
posted by anderjen at 6:46 AM on January 5, 2019

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