Sleeping with The Enemy: Learning Windows for Mac Users

Chapter 1...

Learning the Interface

(or "Imitation is a form of Flattery")

The Mouse
The Desktop
Disks and Disk Drives
Deleting, Trashing and Recycling Files
Using Documents
Folders, Directories, and Paths
Aliases and Shortcuts
Windows and windows
The Finder, My Computer, and Exploring Further
The Keyboard

The "Interface" of a computer is the means by which it communicates with you. It shows you graphics and makes noises so you know what it's up to, and you use your keyboard and mouse to make it perform certain tasks. Luckily for you, the modern Windows interface is much like the MacOS interface. Windows bears such resemblance to the MacOS that Apple once accused Microsoft of stealing many interface elements. Fortunately for you (and unfortunately for Apple) those Windows elements live on and will make learning it far easier. Additionally, Apple has seen the wisdom in some of the innovations in Windows and incorporated them into the MacOS, furthering the similarity.
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The Mouse

Perhaps the first difference you notice when sitting in front of a Windows PC is that the mouse has two buttons instead of only one, but mousing in MacOS and Windows is actually quite similar. The left mouse button acts the same as the Mac’s sole mouse button. When you left-click once on an object that object is selected. Using the left button to double-click on an object will open it, whether it be a document, folder, or an application. Clicking and holding the mouse left button down and then moving the mouse will drag the object on the screen. Same as the Mac.

The right mouse button in Windows provides easy access to additional commands. These additional commands are "contextual," that is, the commands you see will change depending on what you right-click on.

A right mouse click in Windows will access contextual windows

Apple started providing contextual menus beginning with MacOS 8. You access them by holding down the Control key while clicking on an object.

Contextual menus in MacOS


When you’re working with a list of items on the Mac, you can hold down the shift key while you click to select more than one object. In Windows, you can hold down the Control key while clicking to accomplish the same thing. This is handy when you want to work with a group of non-contiguous ojects (objects that may be seperated by other objects). To select a group of contiguous objects in Windows, hold down the Shift key while selecting.

To Do This...

On MacOS it’s...

On Windows it’s...

Select an object

Single click

Left-button click

Open an object


Left-button double-click

Move an object

Click, hold, and drag

Left-button click, hold, and drag

Select non-contiguous object

Shift click to select

Control-click to select

Select contiguous objects

Drag select

Drag select or shift click

Access contextual menus

Control-mouse click

Right mouse button click

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The Desktop

Windows borrowed the Macintosh concept of a desktop. When you turn on the computer, you see a space that is analogous to your desk. It has icons of your hard drive, a trash can, documents, folders and so on. On this desktop you can open windows and applications.

The MacOS Desktop


The Windows Desktop

The Desktop

On MacOS it’s called...

On Windows it’s called...

Hard Disk, Floppy Disk, etc

My Computer... A drive, C drive, etc

Trash Can

Recycle Bin

Document or File

Document or File







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Disks and Disk Drives

A hard disk is a magnetic disk your computer uses to store all your documents and programs. On the Macintosh each hard disk is represented by an icon on your desktop. When you insert a floppy disk into your computer, it too is represented by an icon on the desktop.

Hard Disk and Floppy Disk on the Macintosh

In Windows you access the hard and floppy disks via an icon called My Computer, which is in the upper left corner of the screen. When you double-click the My Computer icon a window will open showing you all the disks available to you (it will show you some other things too which I’ll talk about later on).

My Computer in Windows


Why did I buy this book? Actually, the disk icons in My Computer represent the disk drives, not the actual disks. For example, the "3 1/2 Floppy [A:}" icon is always displayed in the My Computer window, even when there is no disk in the floppy disk drive! Of course on the Mac the floppy disk icon disappears if you put away the disk.

In Windows, if there is no floppy disk inserted and you double-click on this icon, you’ll see a message which says, "A:\ is not accessible. The device is not ready." Welcome to Windows-speak: a holdover from earlier versions of Windows and one of the many reasons you may curse it in frustration. Translated into Mac-speak the message would read: "Sorry, there is no floppy disk in the drive. Insert a disk in the drive and try again." Inserting a disk and clicking the "Retry" button will display the contents of the disk.

Furthermore, in Windows if you insert a disk and view a window displaying the files on the disk and then eject the disk, the window displaying the files will remain! In the MacOS there is a direct correlation between the representation of the contents of a floppy disk and the actual disk, not so in Windows.

Hard Disks on the Macintosh can be named whatever you want to name them, just like a document. In Windows, the hard drives are named with letters. The floppy disk drive is drive "A". The hard drive inside your computer that runs Windows is usually drive "C". If you have additional drives (hard drives, CD-ROM, etc), they’ll be named "D", "E", "F" etc. When referring to one, you would say "My word processor is installed on the C drive." How imaginative. Actually, you can add names to the letters, but because the letters are always there, and some programs only refer to the letters, you'd be well-advised to know the letter names of the drives.

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Deleting, Trashing and Recycling Files

When you want to delete an object on the Mac, you drag it into the Trash and choose Empty Trash... from the Special menu. Alternately, you can accomplish the same functions by control-clicking an object and then the Trash and use the respective contextual menus.

In Windows, you can also drag objects into the Recycle Bin or right-click on them and choose Delete from the contextual menu. Just like the Mac’s Trash, the Recycle Bin holds objects until you empty it. Right-click on the Recyle Bin and choose "Empty Recyle Bin" to empty it.

The Mac Trash Can and Window's Recycle Bin

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Using Documents

Documents look and act much the same in both operating systems. But in Windows, the way you name a document actually makes a difference in how a document will behave. Windows documents have "extensions" to their names. A file name extension consists of a period plus a three character suffix that associates a document with a particular program. For example, a Micorosoft Word file may be named "Resume.doc" and a text file may be named "Class Notes.txt" A complete list of extensions is beyond the scope of this book, but here is a short list of common extensions:

Windows File Name Extensions Examples

Windows Document Extension

Associated Program


Text Editor (usually Note Pad)


Microsoft Word


Microsoft Excel


Microsoft PowerPoint


Dynamic Link Library (similar to a control panel or extension on the Mac)


A program (exe stands for "executable")


System file


Device Driver


The Macintosh also has a system of associating documents and programs, but it’s hidden from you and can only be changed with certain utilities. Also, whereas Windows veterans have memorized the above extensions, the Mac user differentiates a document from a program by the "dog-ear" upper-right corner of the icon, and of course the graphics of the icon itself.

An Adobe Acrobat Document on the Mac with Dog Ear Icon

Both operating systems have limitations on how long the file name can be. This length also applies to the names of programs, folders, and other objects.

File Name Length

MacOS 8.0

MacOS 8.1 with HFS+

Windows 95/NT

31 characters

255 characters

255 characters

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Folders, Directories, and Paths

Both the Mac OS and Windows call folders Folders. They serve the same purpose in both operating systems. Folders are sometimes called "directories" by Windows old-timers. For practical purposes Folders and Directories are the same thing.

When using Windows, it is sometimes helpful to know how to describe the "path" to a folder or file. The path is a description of all the folders that enclose the folder or file in question. If you are either using an older program or just trying to understand information that Windows is showing you, knowing a little about paths will be helpful.

For example, in the below screen shot, the Reports folder is on the A drive (the floppy drive), the January folder is in the Reports folder, and the Marketing folder is in the January folder.

The path of Marketing would be:


The path is constructed using the following two rules:

1. The letter name of the drive is shown first, followed by a colon and a backslash

2. Then each successive folder name is listed, each seperated by a backslash
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Aliases and Shortcuts

Aliases on the Macintosh are incredibly useful but often misunderstood. An alias is simply a placeholder icon, and within this icon is the address of the original object. Just like having the address of a friend’s home makes visiting them easier, using aliases makes finding objects on the computer easier. Just as you can keep your friend’s address in more than one place so it’s easy to find, you can have several aliases of a computer object to access it easily.

To make an alias of an object on the Mac, simply select that object and choose Make Alias from the File menu. A new icon is created with its name in italics. You can now place the alias anywhere you like and open the original object simply by double-clicking the alias.

It works the same way in Windows, except Aliases are called Shortcuts. You create a Shortcut by right-clicking an object and selecting Create Shortcut. A new icon is created with a black-on-white arrow in the lower right corner. The Shortcut is named "Shortcut to (your object name)."

To Do This...

On MacOS it’s...

On Windows it’s...

Create an Alias or Shortcut

Select object, File menu->Make Alias

Right-click, select Create Shortcut

There are two difficulties when working with Shortcuts you should be aware of. First, know that if you make a Shortcut of an object in Windows, then the move the original object into a different folder, the Shortcut will stop working. While this will sometimes happen in the Mac OS, generally the Mac’s aliases don’t fail as easily because instead of just remembering where an object is, an alias also remembers other characteritics about an object. If your friend moved to another town, you would still recognize them if you saw them in the grocery store, right? The Mac does too. Windows forgets who its friends are.

On the Mac, you can drag an alias of a text document onto an icon of a word processor and the Mac will helpfully assume you want to open the original file. Doing this in Windows will open the actual Shortcut, so instead of seeing your text document you see the insides of the Shortcut, which looks like a bunch of technical gobblygook to us humans. To avoid this silly Windows behavior, either double-click Shortcuts of documents or, if you want to open the original file in a particular program, right-click on the file and choose Open...
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Windows and windows

Windows in the two interfaces have similar behavior, they just locate the controls in slightly different places. The familiar Mac window has the controls set up as in the screen shot below.

The MacOS Window

A Windows window has the following controls:

The Windows Window



• In the upper right corner is the Close Box, which works the same as the Mac’s close box in the upper left corner.

• Just like the Mac, the Title Bar can be used to drag a window around the screen.

• The Minimize Button reduces the Window to a button in the Taskbar, similar to the Pop-up Window on the Mac that looks like a tab at the bottom of the screen. In addition to being able to minimize folder windows, you can also minimize program windows

• The Maximize Button is used to zoom in and out like the Mac’s Zoom Box.

Scroll bars serve the same purpose as on the Mac. The Windows scroll handle will change size depending on how big the window is and how many objects are contained within the window, but don’t let it confuse you, it works the same as a Mac.

• Some Windows windows have an area in the lower right corner that acts like the Mac’s Size Box, but not all windows have them. In all cases you can grab the vertical and horizontal edges of a window, or any of its four corners, and drag it to become bigger or smaller. Neat.

Smart Window Tricks

(or, Things I Wish the Mac Could Do)

Right-click on a blank space in the Taskbar and you get these options:

• Cascade Neatly overlays all open windows so you see many at once.

• Tile Horizontally Resizes windows to be short and wide and positions them over one another. Very handy when copying files, although it’s useful with only a few widows unless you own a large monitor.

• Tile Vertically Resizes windows to be tall and narrow and positions them beside one another. Again, useful with two or three windows only.

• Minimize All Windows Turns all windows into buttons in the Taskbar.

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A unique and comforting aspect of the Macintosh is the ever-present menu bar along the top of the screen. It allows you to access functions of the program you are using (File, Edit...), the MacOS (the Apple, Help, and Application menus), and is never covered up by another object. Because it’s at the top of the screen, it’s easy to click on because you can never overshoot it with the mouse.

Windows does things a little differently. At the bottom of the screen is the Taskbar. The Taskbar may always be there or may only appear when you move your mouse down to the botton of the screen, depending on how it’s been configured. One purpose of the Taskbar is to act like the Mac’s Application Menu: all open programs will appear as a button on the Taskbar. Pressing the button makes that program active. Additionally, all open windows appear as buttons in the Taskbar. For example, if you’re working in a program and need to find a file on your C drive and you know the My Computer window is hidden behind the other windows, you can use the My Computer button on the Taskbar to bring that window to the front.

You can also use the Taskbar to access the Start Menu. The Start Menu is pivotal to the operation of Windows. I’ll explain more about each of these later on, but here’s the here’s what they do:

• Shut Down Like the Special menu on the Mac, you can use the Start Menu to shut down or restart the computer. To try this, click Start then click Shut Down...

• Help You can choose Help from the Start menu to access the Windows Help database. Just like MacOS Help, you can find information from a list of Contents, an Index, or via a keyword search.

• Find The Find command offers three different kinds of searching:

• Files and Folders... which searches through the contents of your hard disk just like the Find command on the Mac.

• Computer... helps you find another computer if you are working on a network of computers.

• On the Microsoft Network... helps you find information on Microsoft’s online information network. I’ll discuss more about this in a later chapter.

• Settings Settings also has three sub-menus:

• Control Panel is similar to choosing Control Panels on the Mac.

• Printers lets you configure and select printers, not unlike the Chooser on the Mac.

• Taskbar Choosing this brings up a "Taskbar Properties" window which lets you customize the Taskbar.

• Documents This sub-menu keeps track of recent documents your used, just like Recent Documents in the MacOS Apple Menu.

• Programs Like the Apple Menu on the Mac, this menu is highly customizable and an easy way to launch programs.

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The Finder, My Computer, and Exploring Further

If you’re reading this book to learn Windows quickly and painlessly, you’ll like My Computer (see Disks and Drives above). Once you become familiar with the window controls, My Computer looks and acts like the icon of your hard disk in the Mac OS. You can double-click each folder icon to open a new window, and that window can contain other icons, and so forth.

Using My Computer might make you wonder what’s so mysterious about Windows, why Windows is rumored to be more difficult to use than the Mac OS, and why you shelled out good money for this book. Allow me to introduce you to Windows Explorer.

Not to be confused with Internet Explorer, Microsoft’s web browser, Windows Explorer is a whole different way of navigating your files and folders. It will take a little getting used to in order to use effectively, but the result is well worth it.

You can access Windows Explorer by going into the Start menu, highlighting Programs, and selecting Windows Explorer. When opened you see two window panes inside one window. The pane on the left displays a cascading list of folders that you can navigate, similar to the list view on the Mac. However, the left pane shows you folders only, no files. Clicking a folder in the left pane will display its contents, including files, in the right pane.

When using the list view on the Mac, sometimes it’s easier to click the triangle next to the folder to display the contents of the folder rather than open up another window. You can do the same thing in Windows Explorer. Here's what it looks like:

In the List View...

On MacOS it looks like...

On Windows it looks like...

• The Mac uses a right-facing arrow to show a folder is closed, as with the Flute folder. In Windows, there will be a plus sign to the left of the folder.

• To show a folder is open, the Mac uses a down-turned arrow, as with the Music folder. In Windows you will see a minus sign.

• The Mac shows an arrow next to a folder even if there are no subfolders inside it. Windows doesn’t, as with the Easy folder.

In Windows Explorer, if you double-click on the folder it will display it’s subfolders in the left pane and show the contents of the folder in the right pane. Whether you click the plus signs or double-click the folders to navigate is a matter of personal preference.

The beauty of Windows Explorer is that you can view the contents of many folders without opening more than one window. This significantly cuts down on the amount of clicking and dragging involved in looking through your folders.

Windows Explorer is simple to use and allows you to do some everyday tasks easier than in the Mac OS Finder. Say you want to move some files to various places on your hard drive. On the Mac, you may have to open each originating folder and each destination folder. In the course of doing this you must reposition each window so each is visible enough to move the file from one window to the other. This can be a lot of mousing around. In Windows Explorer, you can open up folders list-view style in the left window pane and drag files and/or folders among folders in either pane. It takes getting used to, but once mastered it will make My Computer seem archaic and clumsy.

Just as amazing, you can open up several copies, or instances, of Windows Explorer. To do this, simply open up Windows Explorer from the Start menu as usual, and then go back to the Start menu and perform this same action again to open another instance of Windows Explorer. With two copies of Windows Explorer open you double your navigational abilities. For example, if you are comparing two folders that are seperated by many other directories, you can view them side-by-side with each open folder and its contents in an Explorer window, making this task far easier. The more directories you have, the more useful Windows Explorer becomes.
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The Keyboard

For the most part the keys of the keyboard are located in the same places in both Windows and the Mac OS. But there are important differences.

Mac users often use the Power key in the upper-right corner of the keyboard to turn the computer on and off. Sometimes there's a switch on the computer itself. Most PCs however are turned on and off using a switch on the computer. Just like you choose Shutdown in the Special menu of the Mac OS, you should choose Shutdown from the Start menu in Windows before powering down your computer.

To restart the computer after a system crash, Mac users press the Control-Command-Power keys simultaneously. In Windows use the Control-Alt-Delete keys.

The Command key on Mac keyboards (sometimes labeled and/or ) is roughly equivilent to the Control key on PC keyboards. For example, command-V is paste on the Mac, and control-V is paste in Windows. But while the Command key may be analogous to the Control key, some oft-used combinations are different, such as control-L to select all in Windows (it's command-A on the Mac).

Additionally, some manufacturers even have customized keyboards that only behave a certain way on their comuters. Compaq, for instance, has released a keyboard with a split space bar, each side of which can be programmed to do something other than create a space.

To Do This...

On MacOS it’s...

On Windows it’s...

Turn the computer on

Switch on computer or power key on keyboard

Power switch on computer

Turn the computer off

Shut Down from the Special menu or power key on keyboard

Shut Down from the Start menu

Keyboard shortcuts like cut, copy, and paste

Command Key (some keyboards display it with the and  symbols)

Control Key

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©1998 Victor Lombardi. Made in U.S.A. All Rights Reserved.
Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws.