Making the switch: a Windows user's first MacBook (part 2)

Welcome to part two of our feature on switching to Mac, where we'll tackle keyboard shortcuts, text editing, file management and more!

In part one, we changed some OS X settings to make a Windows user more comfortable, went over touch pad gestures, window management, apps and the dock. If you've just secured a new Mac, it's best to start there!

Welcome to part two of our feature on switching to Mac. Here we'll delve into keyboard shortcuts, give you some tips on text editing, get OS X to write to NTFS volumes, cover file management, codecs and network connectivity.

Keyboard shortcuts and strange symbols

You'll need to find your way around your new keyboard. (Credit: Apple)

By now, the fact that the Control button seems to do nothing will be highly frustrating to you. The general, although not universal, rule is that any keyboard shortcut that used to use Ctrl on the PC will likely use Command on the Mac.

Command + C will copy, for instance, Command + V will paste and Command + X will cut. Command + Z will undo, but you'll want Command + Shift + Z for redo. There are other oddities, too; while Command + W will close tabs in Safari, you'll need Control + Tab or Control + Shift + Tab to switch tabs, as Command + Tab is already used for application switching.

Show me a sign

You'll also notice strange symbols in the menus, which represent keyboard shortcuts, but short of the Command key they don't actually appear on your keyboard. Here's a little cheat sheet to help you out:

Command Alt/Option Control Shift Escape Tab Delete Return

Shortcut heaven

We could spend forever covering all of the keyboard shortcuts in OS X, but, frankly, Dan Rodney's been doing it very well for as long as we can remember. Bookmark his page; we guarantee that you'll learn something new.


Screenshots in OS X are an easy affair: press Command + Shift + 3 to take a snap of the whole screen. For something more discerning, Command + Shift + 4 will bring up a crosshair. You can then either drag a selection with the mouse to take a screenshot, or to take a shot of specific applications, press spacebar, move the cursor over an application until it turns blue, then click the mouse button. No matter which method you choose, PNG files will be saved to your desktop.

Text editing and the Mac keyboard

(Credit: Apple)

There are quite a few changes that you'll have to reprogram your fingers for when editing text in OS X, particularly to do with navigation (thanks to the lack of dedicated Home, End, Page Up and Page Down keys). But let's start with the biggest mind-screw: the delete key.

In OS X, delete is the equivalent of backspace on, well, pretty much every other operating system, removing the character that precedes the cursor. To get it to function as delete, or as Mac users call it, "forward delete", you'll need to hold down the Fn key, as well.

But what of navigation? Well, for a start, Option + the left and right arrow keys are used to make the cursor skip one word at a time.

The equivalent of Home is Command + arrow left, while End is predictably Command + arrow right. Command + arrow up goes to the top of the document, Command + arrow down to the bottom.

Apple actually offers two versions of Page Up and Page Down — press Fn + the up or down arrow to scroll one level up or down without moving the cursor. If you want to move the cursor as well, add Option into the mix. Strangely, while adding Shift to most of these combinations will select text, just like on Windows, it won't work on Fn + Option + vertical arrows; only on the Fn + vertical arrows shortcut.

Getting OS X to write to NTFS volumes

(Credit: Apple)

If you've got a bunch of external hard drives or large flash drives lying around that have been used in Windows, there's a good chance that you've used NTFS so you can write files bigger than 4GB in size.

The problem is, OS X can read NTFS, but it sure as heck won't write to it.

The easiest way to overcome the problem is to pay for Paragon's NTFS for Mac or Tuxera NTFS for Mac, which will set you back US$19.95 or €25, respectively. Most, though, will likely prefer a free solution.

The free way

Getting NTFS-write capability on OS X Lion for free can be a pain, as the most popular projects are now defunct, don't work properly with Lion and Google searches don't prove that useful. Thankfully, we've found the right path to get things working on Lion with no error messages.

  1. Download NTFS-3G for OS X, OSXFuse and fuse_wait.pkg
  2. Install NTFS-3G for OS X, and, after you agree to the licence, hit the Customize button and deselect MacFuse. Hit the Install button. Once the install has finished, it'll ask you to choose a caching method. UBLIO will give you extra speed, but you'll have to make sure you safely eject your drive every time to prevent write errors. Choose, and when the installer prompts you to restart, instead click the Installer menu at the top left of the screen and choose Quit Installer.
  3. Install OSXFuse, making sure to select the MacFuse compatibility layer
  4. Run fuse_wait.pkg; once done, restart your machine
  5. You should now be able to write to NTFS partitions.
Featured Video

An easy way to fix a sluggish iPhone or iPad

iPhone or iPad running slow? Try this.

by Dan Graziano