Using a Mac for the first time


6 min read

I recently started a new job and am using a Mac. Technically it's not for the first time, but since the only previous time I've used one I was confused at the lack of button to eject the floppy drive, that experience is not really helpful. I have previously used Windows and Linux at work, and my personal computer runs Linux.

I do have an iPhone, but that's because I have various family members who love them and I inherit their old devices. When I wanted a new tablet because my mum's old iPad Mini was too old, no one had an old one spare. So given the choice I chose an Android tablet, mostly because it was cheaper and I wasn't going to be doing a lot with it, so I didn't need anything powerful. I discovered pretty quickly that I prefer Android to iOS.

The taskbar/dock

One of the things I hated about Windows, and was part of the reason I moved to Linux, was the taskbar. I like that I can see everything I have open, even if that's three dev tools windows. Windows (and Gnome, which meant I changed distros) moved to a version where you just have one icon no matter how many windows you have open. If it's none then clicking on the icon opens a new window. If you have one then clicking on the icon opens one of the windows you have open. Which I hate. If you click on an icon it should do the same thing.

The thing I knew about Macs was that it has the same model as Windows has these days. Given that I hate it on there, I expected to hate it on Macs too. Turns out I hate it even more. Mostly because when I last used Windows you could put it back to the sensible version. Macs don't let you do that.

The menubar

This is sort of a good thing and a bad thing. Macs split the menu bar out of the program you're using and puts it to the top instead. If everything you open is maximised you won't notice much difference. But at work I have a massive monitor, so rarely open things maximised, so it feels like the menu is disconnected from the program I'm using.

It also took me a while to discover that the name of the program is also a menu. I saw that in Microsoft Office and hated it there. Although I had buttons for everything I used, so never used the menu/ribbon. I can make a guess as to what might be on the File menu or Edit menu, but anything could be in the [program name] menu. It's a totally unhelpful name.

On the other hand it does solve the minimalism problem. One of the things I dislike about Chrome is that they took the menu away. And then all the other browsers copied. It's why I tend to use Firefox and Vivaldi because they have options to restore it. But on a Mac every single program has a menu no matter how minimalist they've decided to be.

Closing programs

If you close a program it doesn't actually close. Yes, it disappears and it'll close anything you have open within it (eg all your tabs if it's a browser). But the dot in the dock tells you it's actually still open. If you really want to close it then you have to right click on it in the dock. Except for the file manager which you can never close.

I find this a problem because at work I like my IDE and browsers to keep whatever they had open after I close them. If I close the programs by clicking on the close button/using the keyboard shortcut, then it just forgets what I had open. I have to remember to close them using the dock. Which I think I do, but since sometimes it's forgotten, I must forget sometimes.

The keyboard

My previous work laptop was annoying whenever I used its keyboard rather than an external keyboard. This is because the Function key was on the very left, followed by the Control key. It meant my finger muscle memory was all mucked up.

Mac keyboards are worse. The one built into the laptop has Function, Control, Option, Command. Which you might think is the same as my previous work laptop, except that on a Mac you use Command where you'd use Control on Windows or Linux. Moving four keys over means using a totally different finger.

But I usually use an external keyboard and it's possible to swap the Control and Command keys so it's not so bad. What is bizarre is that it's a Mac-specific Bluetooth keyboard, which is American. Because everyone in the world uses an American keyboard, according to Apple. After two days of going mad just typing my email address in, I found out how to tell it I was using a British keyboard even though it didn't match the actual keys.

Keyboard shortcuts

These are the bane of my life. I initially thought that it's just a case of using Command rather than Control (or stick to Control if you've swapped the buttons). Which it is for some things. But not others.

To do a hard refresh in Firefox it's not Control F5, it's Shift F5. And in Chrome you can press F5 as much as you like, but it does nothing. If you want to refresh the page you're going to need to use Control R.

In Firefox you can change to responsive mode by pressing Shift Control M. At least on Linux you can. On a Mac it's Control Option M.

I'm constantly pressing keyboard shortcuts that either don't work or don't do what I think they do. I know it's possible to get used to them, but that would only work if I used a Mac at home (and even if I loved it, I can't afford one). I just can't keep two muscle memories going at once.

I did find a (free) program to help with that, although I'm still working out what options to keep in there because currently I can't kill a process in the built-in terminal in VS Code (the external terminal is fine though).

USB ports

The Mac has a load of USB-C ports. But not USB ports. You know, the type that everything uses. But it's not a surprise given that this was a company that decided if you want to plug headphones into your iPhone you should spend more money on a connector than you did on your headphones, and then you can't charge it at the same time. When I was researching for a new computer I found a brand that had removed the headphone port from the laptop. But I just didn't buy that brand. Or any laptop that had fewer than two USB ports.


I can't see anything about the Mac that would justify paying more for it. People have told me that it crashes less, but a) Linux also crashes rarely and b) I crashed the Mac on my first day (I don't know what I did). I can see why you'd stick to it once you'd started because you've got used to the keyboard shortcuts. But in the future I won't accept a job where I have to use a Mac (and definitely not even apply to one that lists it as a benefit, when I consider it to be a drawback).

Maybe I'll come to hate it less when I've used it for longer. If I do I'll come back and post about it. But I can't see that happening right now.