OS X as seen by a Windows guy

Just for kicks, I thought I would mention a few things that I notice about OS X, as I get to know it for for the first time.

In OS X, the concept of an “application” and the concept of “windows” have a different relationship. An open application is represented by its icon in the dock or that top bar. It can have zero, one, or several windows open. That means it can have ZERO open windows but it is still running and still in the dock. It can also have many windows open, yet it is represented by only the one icon.

In Windows, an app cannot exist without at least one window (unless it’s a system background thing, in which case it might be in the system tray). By default every open window has its own icon in the task bar.

In OS X, a window can be minimized to the dock, in which case a new icon appears. This looks a bit weird to Microsoft eyes… you have one icon for the app, and another one for the window? You can also have windows that aren’t in the dock.

Ultimately I think this greater separation of the concept of “app” and “window” in OS X is useful.

In OS X you can have a window that is frontmost but not active. At least that seems to be the case. I can mouse over links in a browser, but I don’t get the special cursor unless I click somewhere on the browser.

I think OS X makes better distinctions in general. In Windows, there is no distinction between “front most” and “active” windows. There is no distinction between an app and its windows. There is no distinction between a window that is docked and one that isn’t.

Actually, Windows and OS/X are very similar in this regard. The "top bar" in the Mac is almost exactly the same as the "Notification Area" (aka "System Tray") in the Windows Taskbar. Ignoring the Menu, everything else works pretty-much the same.

And no, in Windows, there isn't always an icon or each open application. Usually, but not always. I agree however that it happens much more often on OS/X than it does on Windows.

As for the minimizing a window issue, I agree. It looks strange. I'm still not used to it. In fact, I don't minimize apps, as a general rule. I use Spaces, aka multiple desktops, when I need to push something aside.

As for "front most" in Windows, it actually works the same as the Mac. Open an app in Windows, non-full screen. Click on the desktop. Now you have a "front most" window that is not active.

The big point here is that OS X distinguishes between “app” and “window” in a way that Windows does not.

There are always exceptions, but let’s talk about your basic word processor, web browser, photo editor, etc. In other words, a program that allows you to work through windows with content.

In OS X, the icon in the dock represents the “app.” No matter how many windows are open, it looks the same. It may still be there even if there are zero windows open. Meanwhile, windows may or may not be represented in the dock. They show up in the dock if I click the yellow circle. They reappear on the screen and disappear from the dock if I click on the icon.

In Windows, with this mainstream kind of app, there is not a clear distinction between the app and its windows. The app is open if any window is open; otherwise it is closed. Closing the last window quits the app.

Each window has an icon in the task bar. You don’t need to dock a window for an icon to appear in the task bar. Clicking on the icon raises the window but does not make the icon disappear.

Regarding front most but inactive windows, here is what I have observed. In OS X you can have a browser window open, and apparently front most (as far as I can tell), but the cursor will not respond to visible links. In some cases clicking on the browser window will not achieve any action in the browser; it will make it active, but you have to click again to do something. In Windows, however, moving the mouse over a visible browser window will always cause the cursor to respond, and clicking will always work.

I get what you’re saying. And I have to admit that although I still use a couple of Windows apps occasionally (in Parallels), I’ve been living and breathing Mac for the last year or more, so it’s quite possible I’ve forgotten some things (especially at my age).