MacBook Air questions for a long time Windows user

I ended up getting a MacBook Air 15" M3, and I have to say this is one solid, well built machine. I didn’t realize how it integrated with my iPhone; in some ways this is a huge iPhone in terms of photos, chat, etc. all integrated into it.

Still setting it up and learning, but I have hit a roadblock. I installed Steam (which was a little weird, I went to the Steam site, hit install, and all that happened was a .dmg file showed up on the bottom. Tried to double click on it, nothing happened. I’m not sure exactly how I got it to install, but I did. Downloaded Football Manager 24, which I’m playing on the Windows laptop, no problem. Now I want to move my save games and tactics, etc. from my Thinkpad version to the MacBook. But I open Finder, and I do not see any lists of folders and files. All I see is Applications (which just shows the icons) Recents, Documents and Downloads. I see no way to get the file and folder listings I need in order to move these, as well as a ton of data files from my Thinkpad. How do I do this?

Secondly, simple thing: on Windows, I always set the icons on the bottom bar to autohide and only pop up when I move the mouse cursor down there. How do I do that?

Last, for now, another simple thing, what keys do I hit when I have several windows open but want to go back to the desktop? The equivalent of Windows-D?


I wouldn’t assume the save games are compatible, but you can find the appropriate folder the same way as in Windows, by right clicking on the game in your Steam library and going to properties, then browse files.Generically, it’s under /user/Library/Application Support/Steam/SteamApps/Common/Game

On the mac it’s “Automatically hide and show the Dock” in “Desktop & Dock” in the System Settings “app” (or click on the apple in the upper left corner of the screen then “System Settings…”)

Thanks! Didn’t know it was called “the Dock” LOL! So much to learn. The Finder is kind of driving me crazy. I guess the Mac doesn’t use drive letters, like C: and D: followed by folders. It appears it just show Macbook or something like that, with folders under it. And apparently a lot of stuff hidden.

There aren’t drive letters, but there should be a setting in Finder preferences to show the Hard Drive(s) in the finder.

Yeah, just everything is different. Not worse just different and of course I’m so used to becoming expert in Windows it can be frustrating to be a beginner again. Such as: found the Sports Interactive folder for football manager 24. Need to create a graphics folder. Clicked on the parent folder, well two finger clicked. No option for new folder. Hmmm. Clicked several ways. Nope. Went up to edit, New Folder was greyed out. Had to create a Graphics folder on the USB drive then drag it there. Oh, need to figure out how to do a split screen. Good thing this is my last week at work, I’ll have time to figure all of this out!

I’ll look for a Mac’s for Windows users guide.

No one-to-one similarity here but fn+f11 will temporarily show the desktop (e.g. if you want to look at widgets or grab a file there.) Clicking the desktop also does this (e.g. if there’s a bit visible in a corner.)

You can also cmd+option+h to hide all other windows, and then minimize or close the current window and you’ll see the desktop.

Mac users don’t really see the desktop as home base in the way Windows users do, in general.

Nice purchase! You’ll be used to the water soon.

I went through the same deal about 10 years ago after I left my job at Microsoft and realized I only knew how to do Windows stuff. I found it very frustrating to be a newbie again, but I learned some cool new things and it didn’t take as long as I thought. I totally get the frustration with Finder. I still haven’t really made peace with search on the Mac.

Here is some stuff I really like:

  • If you select a file and click spacebar, you get a nice preview of images, PDFs, and most viewable files
  • Nifty screenshot utility (takes video too) SHIFT + CMD + 5
  • I like to maximize stuff I’m working on so that it has it’s own desktop workspace (click the green ball) and then you CTRL + LEFT/RIGHT arrow to navigate workspaces. It’s not good for multitasking, but if I’m writing or working on bills, it’s a nice way to focus on the task at hand, but occasionally jump back to multi-tasking mode for a break. Then if I catch myself going down a rabbit hole, I can just CTRL-Arrow my way back pretty quickly.

The Finder has preferences for adding / removing things from the sidebar. Most of the links to things like the hard disk or the network are hidden by default, which makes things clean but is probably adding unnecessary confusion. It’ll probably get less confounding as you turn them on and decide which to use and keep. Turning more of those on will make Finder seem at least a little more similar to Windows Explorer.

The Mac is mostly a flavor of BSD Unix (though technically that’s just a personality on top of the Mach microkernel), so it’s a good idea to become familiar with its view of the Unix hierarchy and the permissions around it (and what it simplifies and does differently from Linux and similar). There are no drive letters, as you’ve discovered, so everything is mounted to and grafted from a single root. Perhaps the most key distinction is that there are multiple places that a thing MIGHT live due to the way Mac supports multiple users and the long legacy of BSD, NextStep, Mac classic and more recent layers. There’s a fair amount of potential complexity the system is simplifying and abstracting away in the Finder GUI and you mostly don’t need to know about it to get 99% of things done. But things do get a little more complex once you start digging around for absolute file paths (as you’re trying to do with Steam migration). Here’s the Apple developer resource that explains key Mac file hierarchy and locations. The article also gets into iOS and the secure partitioning scheme that ARM Macs have adopted from it, but that’s way beyond the scope of the immediate question and most people will never need to know which parts of the system are in ready-only snapshots and etc.

File System Basics

The GO menu option in Finder can be handy for opening views in arbitrary locations vs laboriously drilling down into them via GUI BTW!

It’s super worth sticking with it, though, because performance is great and there are many ways in which the system is more elegant than Windows. I mostly switched back to Mac from Windows (apart from a game box) 20+ years ago and absolutely don’t regret it.

You can also make it a mouse gesture, or what I do which is set it up as one of the “hot corners” where you move the mouse pointer to one of the corners of the screen to trigger an action.

Here’s my own MacOS question. How do you get it to remember your sorting preferences per folder in the file dialogue box? It works in Finder, but I can’t seem to get it to stick when I’m opening or saving a file.

One of my very favorite things is being able to use the phone to scan documents. If you ctrl-click (or two-finger click) on the Desktop, you’ll see “Import from iPhone or iPad,” where you can scan documents. This has save me so much time over the years.

This is how Unix/Linux works and that’s the core of MacOS. Once you are comfortable, I recommend getting familiar with the MacOS Terminal / Command Line. iTerm2 is a great customizable terminal app (though there’s a native one, too). There’s a ton you can quickly do through the Terminal. Once you feel comfortable there, check out Homebrew. Note that these aren’t really beginner things but they’re great for power users.

There’s a setting where just clicking once on the Desktop hides everything. It’s called Stage Manager.

For screenshots, Command-Shift-3 will take a screenshot of the entire screen. Command-Shift-4 will enable a cursor for selecting an area for a screenshot. Command-Shift-4 followed by Space will enable a mode that only screenshots a single window. Unlike Windows, these won’t automatically be on your copy/paste board - they’ll go to your Desktop (or wherever you have them set to go). I frequently want to immediately pull them into a doc or something, so I have an App installed called Yoink that creates a little tray for temporary housing of stuff that you are drag-dropping between applications/windows. It’s one of my favorite Mac apps.

The other Mac app I highly recommend is Amphetamine, which adds a little widget to the bar at the top that let’s you control how and when the screen goes to sleep.

p.s. If you haven’t figured this out already, Command-Space will open Spotlight Search, which you can use to search for anything on the computer. There’s a utility called (and a bunch of other similar utilities) that you can use to do useful stuff on your computer. Find them here:

Screenshot 2024-06-17 at 9.43.26 AM

Speaking of the Finder, go to the View menu when you have a Finder window selected. You want to show the Toolbar, the Path Bar, and the Status Bar (at the least).

One other non-obvious thing… If you have a window that you want larger but don’t want full screen, double-click at the top of the window and it will get larger.

Oooh… the gestures are super useful on the trackpad, too. Here’s another way to show your desktop. I use it so often that I forgot about it. lol.

Typically, when you download a file to install on a Mac you end up with a .dmg file. Pretty sure that stands for “disk image.” When you double-click that file, the OS verifies it and then mounts a drive on your desktop (these typically show up on the right side of your desktop, just below your internal drive icon). You then open the drive and will either run an installer or (more likely) will see a giant instruction telling you to drag the application you’re installing to the Applications folder.

And afterwards you can “eject” the disk image.

Looks like most of your questions got answered above, @JeffL, but one handy trick for finding all contents of your drive… I used Macs for years without noticing there was a “Go” drop-down menu on Finder for quick access to various system folders. Handy for getting to the Applications folder, and selecting “Computer” will show your main hard drive and a network icon – the main hard drive is the equivalent of the “C:” root.

On your save games, can you enable cloud saves on Steam for that game and not hassle with manually moving files? (I mean, I haven’t manually messed with save files in over a decade at this point! Thanks, Uncle GabeN!)

On the games I’m playing cross-platform across PC and Mac, such as Baldur’s Gate 3 and Disco Elysium, the saves are just there on both platforms. Just go to Settings/Cloud/Enable Steam Cloud if you don’t already have it turned on and you shouldn’t have to manually move any save files. Football Manager 24’s store page says it supports Steam Cloud.

(Guessing you can just turn Cloud sync on on your Windows rig, load the game and resave it on your old PC, and then turn Cloud saves on on the MacBook and load the game and you should find your saves. Local save files are so 2003!)

For showing desktop or starting screen savers or putting the Mac to sleep, I use “hot corner”. You can search for “hot corners” in the System Settings. So, I’ll just press CMD and move the mouse the the bottom left corner of the screen and it shows the desktop. Or CMD-move to top left and it’s screen savers.

I forgot about the hot corners. They seemed like they were always in my way when I started with Macs, but I’m liking them now. Lock/show desktop/notifications/quick note.

There’s a lot of OSX stuff I don’t even think about anymore as I use it so frequently.

One thing I use a lot is multiple desktops (aka: spaces)

You can have multiple sets of apps on different desktops,and flip between then with 3 fingers on the trackpad and a swipe motion. I frequently have a generic communication desktop open with browser, email, slack for work, then a second desktop with a full screen IDE, then sometimes (if I’m doing long debugging sessions) a 3rd desktop with full screen video of some kind. You can just flick around between the setups in a second.

I do all of my productivity work in OSX. It helps a bit that I’m also a pretty heavy UNIX user, so it’s so incredibly useful that I can open up a terminal and do all the same things on the command line.

Here’s a video that can give you some ideas about how to use it.