Make Your PC Work (not look) More Like a Mac

Windows
I recently switched jobs and went from working on a Mac all day to working on a PC. It was (as you might expect) an unpleasant shock to the system. I’ve spent a bit of time over the past few weeks making my PC run a bit more like a Mac. Here are some of the solutions I’ve come up with.

Sharpkeys – I used this to switch my left ctrl and alt keys. No more pinky-aches at the end of the day from reaching over for ctrl shortcuts. The biggest downside I’ve found is that it makes “alt+tab” awkward at first, but I got used to it fairly quickly. I also physically removed the “Windows” key that sits between the left alt and ctrl keys to avoid accidentally hitting it and popping up the start menu, and losing focus from whatever app I’m currently working in.

Winroll – This is a feature that even OS X doesn’t come with, but that I found to be one of the most useful feature in pre-OS X Macintosh operating systems. It lets you to right-click the title bar of any window to “roll” it up, making the entire window the size of the title bar. Right click it again to expand it to normal size. If you’d like this functionality in OS X, WindowShadeX by Unsanity offers it.

Top Desk – You’re never going to get a perfect Exposé effect in Windows, but you can come close. I’ve tried everything out there and Top Desk is the one I’ve ended up keeping. It works smoothly and does not affect other applications,

Atnotes – If you like using stickies in OS X, Atnotes gives you all the functionality of stickies (and then some).

TaskSwitchXP – There are several alt+tab task-switching enhancers out there, I’ve settled on this one which is similar to the task switcher in OS X. As a side note, for OS X, check out Witch if you haven’t already.

PDF Creator- If you miss being able to print to PDF at any time, get PDF Creator. It lets you print to PDF anything you’d print anywhere else–and you don’t even have to reboot, imagine that. Make sure you download the file ending in AFPLGhostscript.exe.

Approcket – One of the most useful apps in OS X for productivity is, in my opinion, Quicksilver (or Launchbar if you like to pay). Approcket attempts to match some of the functionality and look good at the same time, and in many aspects, succeeds. Initially it isn’t nearly as smart as Quicksilver, but with some training can become a useful part of your windows workflow.

FlyAKiteOS – If you really want to make your PC look like OS X (personally I don’t care to do this), FlyAKiteOS is the way to go. It is fully customizable and uninstallable and adds about every visual OS X hack you can imagine (or only those you choose) to your windows system in one fell swoop. For example, if you’re a big fan of the Dock, there are a couple windows clones to choose from, it will make your boot and login screens OS X’ish, change your desktop, cursors, folders, icons, theme and more to emulate (to some extent) OS X. I find that while it’s a novelty to make Windows look like OS X, I always end up reverting back to the windows look to maintain some consistency across applications and because the speed hit you take with all the customizations isn’t worth it. Their site is always down, but you may be able to find it by searching.

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There are plenty of other resources out there that will make your system look like OS X (Konfabulator etc.) but these are the ones that I’ve found to actually be useful in increasing productivity in the Windows environment when I have to use it.

One last tip is to move your taskbar to the top of the screen. If it isn’t locked, you can just drag it up there. I set mine to auto-hide, otherwise applications get “stuck” underneath it. It doesn’t do a ton in terms of productivity, but it does at least feel a little more like home.

Hopefully these tips will help you become more productive in Windows. If you have other tips and tricks, feel free to post them in the comments.

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  • Cameron

    Man, you need to muscle those guys at work to get you a mac. 8>D

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  • bongi

    cant wait until the day when windows actually has the funtionality and ease of use of a mac, until then this is the best fix. What sad operating system windows really is, I mean copy and paste, file paths, all I want to do is drag a file and copy it.

  • Roshambo

    I know you don’t want to hear this, but the absolute best way to get a Mac-like environment is to actually purchase a Mac. I’ve worked on Windows for years, and its a losing battle. Trust me.

  • Wildestbeast

    I find it ridiculous that anyone really thinks that extraordinarily minor interface details make such a huge difference to creation/usability. Considering that standard content creation software is essentially identical across platforms, there is no good justification for the outrageous cost of Macs.

  • Michael

    You had to physically remove the Windows key? Are you seriously so incapable of adapting to an extra key on the keyboard?! Did you really say Pinky-aches?!

    Windows lacks the elegance of OSX, but it surely isn’t as dramatically unusable as you portray it.

  • http://www.marcusvorwaller.com Marcus

    Wildestbeast and Michael. All I can do is just smile and remember back to 2 years ago when I would have made the same comments you just did. You’ll never know until you switch :).

  • http://www.jess3.com Jesse Thomas

    touche’ marcus

  • http://www.augmented-architectures.com cesar branco

    a pc is a pc – don’t make it a bigger pain adding too much mac OS X look a like work a like stuff – knock yourself out with a mac when you get home – or take a newton to work for a quick fix

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  • Cameron

    For Wildestbeast and Michael I would like to give some background of Marcus so you understand his position. I know Marcus will not try to justify himself, so i will do it for him :-) .

    Marcus and I have been friends for almost 5yrs now and we have worked on a number of web and graphics design, and other multimedia projects. Marcus and I used to go back and forth all the time about which OS was better. He had lots of problems with OS9 (spit) and preferred wintel. To this day I can’t see how I could have defended OS9, the only thing it had going for it at the time I got it was that it wasn’t Win ME (which was the prevailing windows OS at the time) and ran on some pretty sexy hardware. By the time Marcus bought his dell laptop though it came with windows 2000 and had far more stability and multitasking abilities than OS9. But when I bought OSX.0 (yeah i was one of those intrepid and a little disappointed owners of 10.0) his interest perked up a bit. By 10.2 much of his concerns with Macs had been abated and he had a healthy respect for OSX and a growing frustration with the virus and malware proliferation of Windows.

    By the time the G5’s and Panther was out Marcus finally got a Dual 2ghz G5 for his new workstation at home.

    Marcus still has to work on wintel machines at work. The point of this blog entry was to show how to get some of his favorite functionality of OSX into Windows so as to have his productivity be as symmetrical as possible with his G5 at home. I, being his Mac proponent friend also have to use a PC at work (IT technician and help-desk manager), and find his suggestions impartial and informative (note: he mainly suggested apps to retain OSX functionality not image). It is also worth noting that Marcus has a working knowledge of Linux as well.

    I know this is a little more information than necessary, but I felt it was important to point out that Marcus’ rants are always derived from experience, and he is just as critical of OSX if you read his other blogs.

  • steven

    Interesting stuff. I’ve always found the idea of owning a mac off putting. I would feel like I’ve succumb to something in a pretty box. I find the appeal to style cheezy. Anyhow, I do have an Ipod and found it to be less than impressive. Anyhow, I like the window rollup program you posted a link to. That seems a rather handy function. Cool post!

  • http://battlebazaar.net Dave Bacher

    I’m not going to disagree that MacOS X is better than Windows, however I do want to share with you:

    In Windows Explorer, File Manager, or MS Dos Executive, it has always been possible to move or copy files with drag and drop, since Windows 1.04.

    To move a file, press and hold shift while dragging. Move is (and always has been) the default operation if you don’t leave the current device.

    To copy a file, press and hold control while dragging. Copy is (and always has been) the default operation if you do leave the current device.

    And of course, the delete key removes a file.

    Similarly, shift clicking a file name, on all versions of windows, enters edit mode on it. Or you can click the name once, pause long enough not to register a double click, and click it again.

    Ctrl-Escape is a safer key to do the same thing the Windows key does. On OS/2 and old versions of NT, alt-tab excludes full screen processes, and alt-escape toggles between full screen processes. On newer versions of NT (2000, XP) alt-tab and alt-escape are equivalent.

    At one point in time, this was documented in the Windows manual, however the XP manual is only 16 pages, versus the 300+ page manuals that both Microsoft and Apple used to give out.

    Again, I am -not- slamming MacOS X, or saying its not easier, etc. But you most certainly can move/copy files by drag and drop, etc. and have been able to for as long as Windows has existed.

    Now finding a machine that could run two instances of MS Dos Executive under Windows 1.04 well enough to do drag and drop, well that’s another story altogether… Two instances each getting half the screen at 320×200 doesn’t give you a lot of space. My tapwave has double that amount of screen realestate.

  • Mario

    Faça o Windows parecer e funcionar como Mac OS

  • Mike

    You could also mention Firefox which is a whole lot closer to Safari than IE is, although who hasn't already switched to Firefox?

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  • Virus

    Next Class: Make your Mustang V8 work like a toaster and next week, Make The Beatles sounds like good charlote.
    See you!

  • http://www.faceinacrowd.com Adam Simms

    i’m interested to see that you didnt list a dock app, such as y’z dock or objectdock… im not exactly sure if they are still being produced for pc since i’ve made the switch over a year ago, but i know if i ever need to use pc again i will be lost without the dock

  • Bruno

    Virus,
    see this is the thing, I’m on a Mac, so your comments didn’t affect me… great isn’t it, you should try…
    Marcus, great post… hang in there.

  • goetsu
  • ed

    i’ve got to admit. i was a hardcore pc fan. i said all that crap. but once you switch. there is no way you can go back. at least not alll the way back.. i mean i still use my pc.. as hard drive storage. this pbook owns.

  • Poltergeist

    If you think that MAC is better than a PC. Buy a MAC and stop to try make it! Windows is good, but you need to know how to use it. Try to learn it before say that stupid things!!!

    Think different! Buy a PC!

  • http://none Chris

    Get rid of AppRocket and use MSN Windows Desktop search instead. It can do all that AppRocket can do and much much more.

    BTW, if u drag a file with the right mouse button then you are given the choice to move or copy it.

  • http://www.michaelefford.com.au/journal michael

    so by removing the Windows key you removed the following functionality, some of which you then replaced?

    Win+D = Expose Equivalent of minimising all windows (press again to get them back)

    Win+E = Opens explorer(finder) window

    Win+R = Run

    Win+L = Lock computer

    Win+F = Search

    Win+M = Minimise all windows (more expose style behaviour)

  • http://www.orature.com Automatt
  • http://www.marcusvorwaller.com Marcus

    Michael – I only removed the Windows key on the left, the one of the right is still there… I don’t fat finger that one as much. I also left the right ctrl and alt keys in their normal positions.

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  • mark

    i once had to use a mac for a week after using a PC for years, and i have to say that windows is an easier interface by a mile. i swear to god, i find mac SO clunky. simple things like being able to copy and paste a network address in a folder make it a much more pleasant experience. one day it won’t be so cool to own/use a mac and ppl will start to admit it…

  • Allerbe

    [...]simple things like being able to copy and paste a network address in a folder make it a much more pleasant experience.[...]

    I can drag pretty much any IP address or URL into a folder (on a Mac). Am I missing your point here?

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  • Jerry

    I never owned a mac,I have never used a mac,I have never even seen a mac, so I can’t really compare the two.

  • http://www.dailyegyptian.com gus bode

    I wish I had a PC. I get all these really cool software programs emailed to me every day and I can’t open any of them. It’s a real bummer.

  • dee

    I’m a graphic designer who is “supposed to” use a Mac, but windows just feels so much easier to me. Macs are probably far more stable and resistant to viruses and spyware, but I can’t stand all the clutter on the screen!! I wish each application had its own background so i wouldn’t have to manually drag the window so it fills the screen. I HATE working in Photoshop or some other app and I can see my desktop behind all my palettes. When I click the “maximize” button, I mean MAXIMIZE!

    Or maybe I haven’t worked on a mac long enough to know that there’s a solution to that…

    Also, the acceleration of the cursor on macs drives me nuts too. I’ve tried to mess with the preferences but could never get it right.

    Other than that, macs look cool and are more stable.

    And I would suggest StickyNote 9:
    http://www.tenebril.com/consumer/stickynote/

  • http://blog.rblevin.net RBL

    Checkout STARDOCK’s Object Desktop, and TGTsoft’s StyleXP. One-button conversions to the Mac GUI. Many Mac GUI behaviors as well.

  • Jim

    Sarah Lane is a little hottie! Attack of the Show-ed

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  • http://www.basseq.com John Whittet

    A lot of these comments are getting into the good ol’ OS war, and the fact of the matter is that you should use tools that you’re the most comfortable with. Most accountants aren’t even going to consider a G5 or a Linux box, just as most graphic designers would much rather see an Apple at startup than a Windows logo. Of course, those are stereotypes, and it all comes down to what you like.

    Dee, for example: “I wish each application had its own background so i wouldn’t have to manually drag the window so it fills the screen. I HATE working in Photoshop or some other app and I can see my desktop behind all my palettes. When I click the “maximize? button, I mean MAXIMIZE!”

    It’s funny, because I absolutely hate that functionality in Windows. I tend to layer windows and applications, so not being able to select other applications without going to the start bar is huge hassle.

    This article is “Make Windows work like a Mac” not “Make Windows Better”.

  • Andrew

    Look, PC’s are the best systems arround, combine them with macs and they rulz. Though PC’s are still better then macs, more practicle, and more usefull, and more commn. Compare macs with PC’s not PC’s with macs.

  • http://www.anotherparadise.com Bui from Iceland

    Well i have one small question.. I am a PC worker. but I have had my share of mac as well.

    Both computers have their + and – like everything else..

    But the question is:
    By putting all this software into the PC to just change the look and how you work on it. Does that not flod you memory a bit… All these small programs running in the background… must take the share of the RAM…

    Well that is all folks.

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  • Andy

    I’m all for keeping the handy shortcuts you are used to. At work i use both Mac and PC, somethings are better on the Mac some on the PC. But they are different and thats a good thing, embrace your PC or you will never learn all the sneaky user-interface shortcuts.

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  • Misomina

    It’s been documented ad nauseam that Macs actually cost less than comparably equipped PCs, but why should that stop PC zealots from making “there is no good justification for the outrageous cost of Macs” statements.
    Not mentioning ( again ) all the points where Macs beat PC soundly to a pulp – more stability, usability, better made and serviced product by a wide margin ( Consumer Reports – yet again, whatever year this is in a row ), …
    The only area where PCs beat Macs is games and if you are into solitaire, …

  • Mack

    I totally disagree. I use a PC. Windows XP Pro, in that matter. Macs are less common, and less programs are made for them. PCs are more common, are standard, and more programs are made for them. Pcs are more multitasking.

  • Ed

    Wow, the guy posts some ideas that help him through the day and it turns into a MAC vs. PC war.

    I’m a PC user, always have been – it doesn’t bother me that others like MACs, to each his own.

    Why does it bother so many people that someone is customizing their PC or Windows OS??? He’s not telling you to do it, just saying that it’s helped him…Lighten Up ;-}

  • Daniel

    I totally disagree with Misomina.
    Solitaire is *way* better on the Mac :)

    Try Eric’s Solitaire and you’ll never go back.

  • Nil

    So, If I could make a Windows Kernal based PC look exactly like Mac OS X, even putting a USB Mac keyboard on and mapping the same keys. What else makes the Mac different besides the interface?

    Especially, now that Macintosh will be an Intel based platform. Just seems like a whole lot of sound and fury signifying nothing.

    If the interface is that important I can think of about 10 interfaces on Linux/Unix that I like better than both Windows XP and Mac OS X.

    It sounds like a lot of people buy into marketing and the cult of Mac personality. I wish I had a widget that was worth $5 that I could sell for $50. I’d make a killing.

  • http://www.marcusvorwaller.com Marcus

    Nil:
    The only thing I can say–like I said above, is that “You’ll never know until you switch.” Seriously, I felt the same way you do not too long ago. Its’ not something that can be summed up in a paragraph or something that can be truly appreciated until you’ve used a Mac on a daily basis for a month or two.

  • Nil

    Dual processor G5 Mac equipped as identical as possble to a Dual Processor P4 DELL –

    $3195 vs. $1675

    But I’d imagine you’d say the G5s are faster and to that I’d simply say then why is Apple going to be using Intel processors in their new Macs. Why was the Intel based Mac at the developers conference so much faster than our top of the line G5 systems?

    Because Apple has been charging a premium for its hardware. Not to mention that we spend far more time supporting our 60 Macintosh systems here than we do our other 500 Intel based PCs.

    ….and don’t even start saying buy and iMac because a comparable PC can be had for even less than the cost of one of them…..

    ….Mac Mini —- by the time you add eternal hardware to it to make it functional and more memory you could have built a much more Intel based PC.

    Oh, wait but it’s all about the pretty interface isn’t it and the one button mouse so you won’t get confused. I especially like the lack of LCDs to signify drive activity. wouldn’t want to confuse the user with feedback about disk access would we?

  • Nil

    I’ve used and supported Macintosh systems for years since about 1988 stating back on the Mac plus. The switch and you’ll see argument sounds a lot like a cult. Just try the red koolaid, you’ll see its great we are all going to go up on the spaceship after we take a nice little nap.

    Assuming someone hasn’t used Macintosh long enough to buy into the currently overpriced hardware doesn’t discount their arguments. We’ll see if Apple can turn out price comparable OS X Intel based systems soon.

    I personally am not in the Mac OS or Windows XP camp. I prefer Linux kernal OSs since I migrated away from Amiga which used to use to run Amiga/Mac and Windows software.

    So, as for the idea that I haven’t used them enough try again.

  • http://www.marcusvorwaller.com Marcus

    When I say I like Macs and feel more productive on them, it’s not for lack of experience elsewhere.

    At work I’m on an XP box with a 3.0ghz pentium which is also fast, and probably cost my company a lot less than the Mac, but I’m not even going to get into the price wars here. I still have a Dell laptop and Gateway desktop at home, and use the laptop ocassionally.

    I know Linux as well–this site is served on a RHEL server (which I manage from the CLI) and I’ve also had various Linux desktop boxes at home which I’ve used extensively. I’ve even written articles on desktop Linux for OSNews and if you search this site you’ll find Linux articles here as well.

    I really am not trying to sell anyone on OS X though, it’s your choice and if you like something else, go for it, I hope you get the best from your experience. The point of this article was to say “I feel more productive on OS X, here are things that I’ve been able to emulate in Windows to be more productive there as well.”

  • http://www.marcusvorwaller.com Marcus
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  • Allerbe

    blockquote cite=”I HATE working in Photoshop or some other app and I can see my desktop behind all my palettes.”

    Photoshop may be the worst example you could have given…

    – There’s a button near the bottom of the tools palette that will allow you to grey out anything apart from your Photoshop window. No desktop.

    – You can save and restore your preferred workspace set up. Adobe’s default workspace maximizes Photoshop on your monitor.

    – In (pretty much) all Mac apps Alt-Command-H will hide all ‘clutter’ from other apps (though not the desktop). If you keep your desktop empty (no mounted disks, no files, no folders; there are better places for all those) and neutral, this helps enormously.

    If you really want to emulate Windows’ maximize behavior try Applescript.

  • Tom

    I’ve found PrimoPDF (www.primopdf.com) to be better than PDF Creator. Maybe it’s a personal preference though. PrimoPDF is also free (but not open source)

  • Grover

    “Dual processor G5 Mac equipped as identical as possble to a Dual Processor P4 DELL –

    $3195 vs. $1675″

    How convenient that you used a sale price. That same mac goes for $2,299.00 on sale and is has more standard features that your $1675 Dell.

  • Lava

    Ill tell you which shortcuts I miss in windows – Create new folder and Find original. Any utility for these ones? If there is, all its left to fix is Calculate folder sizes :)

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  • me1000

    I have just done a compleate windows change, my PC looks and works like a mac and I love it. Ive even downloaded a safari skin for fire fox… Im really thinking of buying a mac for my next computer!

    I HATE WINDOWS it hangs all the time and is …
    Ive used linux because it’s very stable, but its not user friendly, i use it as a server and just to play around on.

    Mac on the other hnd is stable and user friendly.

    I want to share this small bit of code with you that I found…

    Source Code to Windows 2000

    /* Source Code to Windows 2000 */
    #include “dos.h”
    #include “win31.h”
    #include “win95.h”
    #include “win98.h”
    #include “workst~1.h”
    #include “evenmore.h”
    #include “oldstuff.h”
    #include “billrulz.h”
    #include “monopoly.h”
    #define INSTALL = HARD
    char make_prog_look_big[1600000];
    void main()
    {
    while(!CRASHED)
    {
    display_copyright_message();
    display_bill_rules_message();
    do_nothing_loop();
    if (first_time_installation)
    {
    make_50_megabyte_swapfile();
    do_nothing_loop();
    totally_screw_up_HPFS_file_system();
    search_and_destroy_the_rest_of_OS/2();
    make_futile_attempt_to_damage_Linux();
    disable_Netscape();
    disable_RealPlayer();
    disable_Lotus_Products();
    hang_system();

    }

    write_something(anything);
    display_copyright_message();
    do_nothing_loop();
    do_some_stuff();
    if (still_not_crashed)
    {
    display_copyright_message();
    do_nothing_loop();
    basically_run_windows_3.1();
    do_nothing_loop();
    do_nothing_loop();
    }

    }

    if (detect_cache())
    disable_cache();

    if (fast_cpu())
    {
    set_wait_states(lots);
    set_mouse(speed, very_slow);
    set_mouse(action, jumpy);
    set_mouse(reaction, sometimes);

    }

    /* printf(“Welcome to MS-DOS”); */
    /* printf(“Welcome to Windows 3.1″); */
    /* printf(“Welcome to Windows 3.11″); */
    /* printf(“Welcome to Windows 95″); */
    /* printf(“Welcome to Windows NT 3.0″); */
    /* printf(“Welcome to Windows 98″); */
    /* printf(“Welcome to Windows NT 4.0″); */
    printf(“Welcome to Windows 2000″);

    if (system_ok())

    else
    crash(to_dos_prompt)
    else
    system_memory = open(“a:\swp0001.swp”, O_CREATE);
    while(something)
    {
    sleep(5);
    get_user_input();
    sleep(5);
    act_on_user_input();
    sleep(5);
    }
    create_general_protection_fault();
    }

    i fyou have any code know how at all you can tell that its is funny!

    Best regards to you,
    and hope you ocmputer doesnt hang when tring to access htis page( windows users)

    Me1000

  • SmurfSnork

    I loved mac os since day 1, sad to say I never got to own a REAL mac.:-( But there iss an EXCALENT program called basaliskII and it will run ANY mac os upto 8.0. My friends (mac owners) and I used it and LOVED it one of them even said he got it load rite as soon as windows loaded as so you NEVER even saw win-explorer, just went right into mac os. I hope they port Aqua into darwin someday. Long live the mac, and may apples break windows.

    Laters
    SmurfSnork

  • james

    Glad someone realises that osx isn’t abou looking better than windows its about it working better.
    The functionality in the interface of osx makes windows look like a toy. There are so many shortcuts you can do, even simple things as cmd+tab and then pressing q to quit an app so at the end of the day i hold cmd then tap two fingers on tab and q to close all my open apps.

    Then perhaps one of the best things is that windows have selective click through, on XP if i click my text editor window then the caret jumps to where I just clicked which is incredibly annoying if you are changing something like a css value and refreshing a page because you then have to find the value again. On osx its click anywhere in my text editor window then hit backspace then the value i want, which is much less tedious.

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  • FMC

    I am really familliar with the PC background. I know a lot of how to fix PCs and get them running right and such. I have to say, after using a PC for about 9 or 10 years now the Mac OS looks much cleaner, is simpler, & I’ve just fallen in love with it. The problem is I don’t have the money to get a decent Mac. Sure I could get a peice of crap with like a 1GHz Processor & 512MB of Memory. Believe me, after have this Dell with 2.16GHz processor & 2GBs of Memory, a cheap peice of crap Mac like that won’t do me any good besides for showing off how much cooler my OS is than WinXP. Anyways, I’m sticking with my Dell Dimension 8400 (now discontiued) until I can fork over the Big Buck$ for the Mac O$X