Not everyone is divided into Windows or macOS camps — for some people, using these two operating systems is part of their computing experience. If you’ve been using one of these platforms for a long time and are in the process of getting to grips with the other as well, you might need a little help along the way, and that’s where this guide to using Windows and macOS comes in.
Neither Windows nor macOS are so different from each other that newbies get lost entirely, but at the same time some assistance will probably be welcome… and even if you’ve been using both operating systems together for some time, we might go over a few tricks and features you haven’t yet know.
1) Choose a file sync service
Syncing your files across multiple platforms will make life a lot easier, so choose the service you like the most. While OneDrive has a Mac client and iCloud has a Windows client, we recommend opting for a third-party option that doesn’t favor Windows or macOS: In our experience, two of the best options here are Google Drive or Dropbox.
2) Share files over a network
You can easily share files between Windows and macOS over a local network. In Windows, right-click a folder or file in File Explorer, then select See more options, Grant access, and Specific people to get started. On macOS, open the System Preferences pane, then click the Sharing icon to turn on File Sharing.
3) Sync your clipboard between Windows and macOS
Having the same clipboard and clipboard history available on both Windows and macOS can be extremely useful when switching operating systems. As you might expect, the functionality isn’t available as a native feature, but you can get it via the excellent 1Clipboard app: it uses Google Drive to sync your clipboard between multiple devices.
4) Use virtual desktops
Another feature available on both platforms but implemented in slightly different ways is virtual desktops, which give you more space for your open programs and windows. Win+Tab takes you to the correct interface on Windows, and Ctrl+Up does the same on macOS: You can then add, remove, and switch to multiple desktops from subsequent screens.
5) Know your Mac and Windows keyboard shortcuts
Keyboard shortcuts are powerful productivity tools, but it can be difficult for your fingers to remember which operating system they’re using. For many common keyboard shortcuts, including cut, copy, and paste, you can replace the Ctrl key on Windows with the Cmd key on macOS and vice versa – so Ctrl+C becomes Cmd+C, Ctrl+V becomes Cmd+V , etc.
6) Know your mouse gestures
Another related area: mouse gestures. Right-click is essential in Windows, but harder to manifest on macOS, for example. You can get both operating systems to work in a fairly similar way by going to Bluetooth & Devices in Windows Settings and then Mouse & Touchpad, and Mouse & Trackpad in macOS System Preferences.
7) Use the same keyboard and mouse
Speaking of shortcuts and gestures, you can use the same keyboard and mouse (or trackpad) to make switching between Windows and macOS easier. This can also be done without any additional hardware – a program like Synergy does everything for you and works with up to 15 different devices as if they were all physically connected.
8) Be consistent with your programs
Your Windows and macOS life will be much easier if you use the same programs on each platform, especially when it comes to web browsers – if you want to sync all your passwords and browsing history etc between multiple devices, then you really need to choose a browser , which works well on both operating systems. Chrome is an easy choice, but here are a few other options.
9) Choose the right external drive format
When you access files from the same external drive from both Windows and macOS, you want to make sure you can see the file system from both operating systems – which may not be the case if you only accept the standard drive format. For reasons of compatibility between Windows and macOS, you should choose exFAT as the file format.
10) Add additional window snapping to macOS
Windows is very good at snapping your open programs to specific parts of the screen — for example, one browser tab docked on the left and another docked on the right. While macOS is catching up on this functionality, it’s not quite up to par: the excellent Rectangle add-on is an option for gaining more control over Mac window snapping.
11) Add a quick look mode to Windows
Windows lacks some features that macOS also has, like the ability to instantly preview files with Quick Look, which is activated by tapping the spacebar in the Finder on Macs. The good news is that there’s a utility to bridge the gap called – imaginatively enough – QuickLook. Once it’s installed, just like on macOS, you can just press the spacebar to open and close the file preview.
12) Master multitasking
Quickly switching between open apps is essential to getting things done efficiently, and the keyboard shortcut for doing this is pretty similar on both operating systems: Alt+Tab for Windows and Cmd+Tab for macOS. To search for apps and everything else, press Win+S on Windows or Cmd+Space on macOS, then start typing what you’re looking for.
13) Remote access to desktops
Accessing your macOS desktop from Windows or your Windows desktop from macOS is not difficult at all and can save you from switching between keyboards and screens. There are numerous tools to do this for you, but perhaps the simplest and most suitable is Chrome Remote Desktop: just follow the instructions to set it up.
14) Choose the right web apps
You’d be surprised how many apps can be run directly from the web rather than through a desktop application – from Spotify to Slack to Tweet Deck – and if you regularly switch between operating systems, it makes sense to stick with the online versions of these programs to minimize the risk of compatibility or synchronization errors.
15) Manage your notifications
Something you want to avoid when working on multiple computers is duplicate notifications, which can distract your day even more. You can manage notification preferences from System and Notifications in Windows Preferences, and from Notifications & Focus then Notifications in the System Preferences dialog box on macOS.