8 Things Web Designers Really Need to Know About Moving From MS Windows to Mac OS X

Having just made the jump from Windows PC to Mac, I thought it might be helpful to share some of my findings from the other side.


A basic one, but well worth mentioning – as well as the usual screen shot familiar to windows users, there’s also the option to select a portion of the screen with your mouse cursor. To capture a portion of the screen, just press cmd+shift+4. You’ll get a crosshair that you can drag and click with to select a rectangle. This is then saved as a file. To save to the clipboard, just use ctrl+shift+cmd+4.

Remote viewer

Something slightly less well known about Leopard is that it has a good VNC client built in.

  • Go to finder, press cmd+k and you’ll get the connect to server window.
  • Type in vnc:// followed by the ip address of the desktop you’re trying to connect to, then press connect.
  • I use this when we’re testing something in Browsercam, as it’s much better than the Java VNC client they provide.


Having lived with UltraEdit on Windows, the difference is amazing. The best feature of Textmate is the ability to expand its features via bundles. The most basic are syntax highlighting – of which there are bundles for pretty much every language you could want – but all kinds of functionality can be scripted in, for example the Subversion bundle that allows you to commit, update and so on, all from within Textmate.


For excellent CSS inspection and live editing capabilities. It offers a number of excellent tools, for example a selector builder that allows you to build CSS selectors via a series of drop-down boxes, making the process a whole lot quicker and simpler. You can download a demo version from macrabbit.com.

Run dev copies of your website locally

A key part of our development process (and I’m guessing for many other development teams) is the ability to run local copies of our websites on our own machines. Because our servers are all Linux based, local development on a Windows platform requires a lot of messing around with virtual machines, they sap a great deal of system resources, and need time to get them working. Because the Mac is BSD based, all that’s required is to copy the relevant files to my machine and setup Apache appropriately.


A big problem with moving from Windows is checking your work on Internet Explorer. There are various ways around this, but one of the simplest solutions is to install Darwine. A Mac friendly version of the Linux based WINE emulator, installing this allows you to run IE5-IE7 emulators. They are a bit buggy, but they’re great if you don’t have ready access to a Windows machine, especially if you can’t afford options like Browsercam, or setting up your own testing platform.

Where’s the # key!?

If you’re outside the US, you may be confronted by this problem at some point. In the UK, it’s found where our Pound sign is printed, and selected by pressing option+3. To find missing characters, your best bet is to open ‘International’ in system preferences, and select the keyboard viewer. You should then see a window showing your current keyboard layout. Pressing option or shift will show you what’s available when you have those keys depressed.

How to do home/end

More annoying still is the lack of a proper home/end key. Years of Windows use will have made these keys vital to any text-based work you do. Happily, the same function can be invoked by pressing cmd+left arrow or cmd+right arrow, depending on which end of the sentence you want to. The only problem is, it’s not supported by every application. You can create the desired key bindings via the excellent Terminal app, but it doesn’t work flawlessly and lets be honest, it’s not a very Mac like solution. I’ve seen this induce open weeping in ex-windows developers before now.

There’s a lot more I could mention here, but hopefully this is a good start for any windows natives feeling a little lost in the world of macs. If you’ve got your own favourite Mac trick, please add it here, I’d love to know about it.


#1 » 8 Things Web Designers Really Need to Know About Moving From MS Windows to Mac OS X Webcreatives on 07.30.08 at 8:16 pm

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#2 MBO on 08.18.10 at 9:16 pm

very informative.. great stuff.. thank you for sharing this. :)

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