The Worst Shortcomings of Windows and OS X Laid Bare!

So Robert Scoble, the go-to tech blogger on, has just released two hours of video documenting an expert debate of Windows Vista vs. Mac OS X. I’ll save you the two hours and get right to the point.

I should point out that I’ve been a Windows user since last summer, a Linux user since the spring and a Mac user since, well… About 1995. But I’m not as biased as you might think. Read on for proof…

As a Windows user, the single most irritating thing about OS X is that the ‘maximize window’ button doesn’t maximize on-screen windows.

Mac's misnomered maximize button

When I hit that little green button in the top left corner of a window in OS X it’s because I want whatever I’m working on to fill the entire screen and get any other distractions out of the way. Instead I get a window that, depending on the app I’m using, is slightly to sizably bigger, but still doesn’t fill the damn screen like I want it to. And this is productive how?

As a Mac user, the single most annoying thing about Windows is that I can’t use the ‘up’ cursor key to get back to the beginning of a line.

My Lenovo laptop's inferior cursor layout

If you’ve never used this feature you simply don’t know what you’re missing. Even the best of us touch-typists make the occasional boo-boo, and there’s no better or more intuitive time-saver than jumping back to the top of a line with a single press of the ‘up’ key.

Yes, I know I can use the ‘function’ and ‘PgUp’ combo on my Lenovo laptop, but that’s one key too many, and I’ve important blogging to do, dagnabbit!

… And honestly, that’s pretty much it. Both Windows and OS X are otherwise identical, in what they accomplish anyway. Both allow you to use email, the web, and a plethora of other document and multimedia filetypes found therein. If Windows would just fix their obviously broken cursor key, and Mac their obviously broken maximize button then there’d be nothing left to argue about, and we could all move on to some other pointless debate…


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14 responses to “The Worst Shortcomings of Windows and OS X Laid Bare!”

  1. The worst thing about Windows is the time, CPU cycles and extra expense wasted on protecting the OS from malware in all of it’s forms.

    The worst thing about Mac OS is that it’s default browser will not properly display Microsoft’s proprietary IE only web sites that infest the WWW.

  2. The Maximize button expands the window size to include all of the content width. Should the contents be wide enough the window would fill the screen width. There were a lot of interface reasons for limiting it rather than the Microsoft standard of screen sized windows. One is the ability to drag and drop. The desktop was invented to be there except when appropriate, such as video. You can easily hide all other windows with a keystroke. With Leopard we might find some new interface standards that may “solve” that problem.

  3. Actually, one of the most annoying things about Windows is that when I hit the maximize button, the window fills the entire screen and hides everything behind it–such as other applications which are displaying useful information.

    The funny part of this is this behavior actually started with Microsoft’s “Multiple Document Interface” (MDI) which was developed when Microsoft ported Excel from Macintosh to Windows.

  4. about the green window button the author wrote:

    >Instead I get a window that, depending on the >app I’m using, is slightly to sizably bigger, >but still doesn’t fill the damn screen like I >want it to. And this is productive how?

    You might ask the same question about making a window full screen. In your screenshot example, the window is not full screen, but there is plenty of blank, wasted space in the web window. I am glad the green button does not “maximize.” Maximizing feels suffocating to me when I use windows. Why? Leaving space to see the desktop with icons and other windows gives me ready access to these without having to move or un-maximize the window, increasing productivity. Desktop space also lets me easily use text clippings, one of the crown-jewels of the Mac OS and hands-down the best implementation of a multi-object clipboard I have ever seen.

    The green button, as you may remember from using Macs since 1995, is actually the old “shrink to fit” zoom-button and retains nearly the exact same behavior of toggling a window quickly between 2 sizes. If you resize a window, this toggle remembers the size (usually). In the Finder, the green button will nicely remove wasted whitespace from Finder windows, shrinking to fit around the icons.

    The green button can be inconsistent (iTunes uses it differently) but I far prefer the mac’s zoom behavior to the windows maximize behavior because the mac behavior lets me be more productive.

  5. David, I updated my Mac OS X screen grab for a more appropriate example 😉

    I feel just a bit dirty piggybacking on Mr. Scoble’s video debate, but the one point I’m trying to make here is that both operating systems are a lot more similar than they are different…

  6. When I hit the maximize button, only the most annoying software will fill my whopper of a screen when the content only requires a third of the same. Full screen is for games or watching a full video.

  7. Strangely, I like the full screen maximization in Windows and the stretch-to-neccessary in Mac OS X.

    The reason could be that I use Mac OS X at home for media editing, where I cut and paste between apps way, way, way, more than when I use office apps at work in Windows.

    My worst irritation about windows is that it uses the CTRL key where you’d expect to use a Command key.

    My worst irritation about Mac OS X is that it uses the Command key where you’d expect to use the CTRL key, and that changing the modifier keys in Apple does not help for some reason.

  8. Maximising windows on Windows: Yeah, because in the age of 30″ widescreen monitors what I REALLY want is a single column web page window taking up the whole friggin’ screen. NOT !

  9. Oh… and of COURSE the OS’s are more similar than they are different. That’s because the development cycle goes something like this : Apple researches and develops a new OS and UI. Microsoft copies it.

    If you don’t believe me, have a look at some of the internal MS emails that have come to light recently.

    Really, i wish Apple would rake MS over the coals about how they ripped of Mac OS X to make Vista – not just on a superficial level, but some of the deep OS features too. But Apple needs Office, and MS knows it 😦 Can anybody say ‘monopolistic abuse’ ?

  10. AC:

    I’ve recently had an experience with Windows XP that provides a direct comparison with how the 2 OS’s work. Hopefully, Vista is more like OS X when it comes to internet functions than what XP is like.

    At Christmas, my brother and I set my mom up with her first computer, a new PC equipped with XP. I got her the same dialup service I use at home with my Mac (OS X)because my experience with Look has been a good one. With the PC, I’ve had nothing but problems, and despite getting things set up and working at Christmas, my mom’s still not online –the online access suddenly stopped working after I left. With Look, we’ve determined it’s not a hardware problem, phone line problem, or Look’s problem –it’s a bloody Windows problem.

    I’m heading out this Saturday (2nd Saturday in a row) armed with every article I could find on the Microsoft site about dialup problems to try to fix it. Do I have time for this? No. Damn you, XP….

    The issue is not with the hardware, with the ISP, or the phone line –it’s with Windows XP (we haven’t even installed any additional software on this machine, so there’s nothing else that can be causing the problem).

    I am so frustrated with XP that I’m never buying another Windoze-powered box of crap again.

    Having said that, the actual XP interface has been user-friendly enough to help my mom overcome her technophobia. If the internet problems hadn’t happened, I would have given it two thumbs up.


  11. Ed, you should have just got her a Mac- would have saved you all a world of troubles, obviously!

    AC, as Andy pointed out, of course the two OSs are similar in the basic ‘goal’, but the way they go about things and how they achieve these goals is a very different matter.

    i.e. security, UI function (i.e. maximising a window when it doesn’t need that much space- we’re not all using 15″ CRT screens anymore! My 24″ demands I fill it with plenty of windows)- actually, that’s another point- the way the two OSs operate differently, interface design (there’s a difference between looking nice and functioning just as well, and looking ‘cool’ just to be cool without adding to the function), the way each OS notifies you (OSX lets you do your work, XP/Vista constantly annoy you with windows and bubbles, or fading your desktop so you can focus on the UAC window, distracting you and decreasing productivity), etc. The list goes on…

    i.e.e in OSX, I have no problem having 20+ windows open, because I can instantly access any one of them and see the content of all of them at once. In XP or VIsta, you have a limited-space taskbar to see what you have open, and in Exposé copy erm, Flip3D, you get to see them hidden by the windows in front and ‘flip’ through them, wasting precious time- it should just be that you can see them all at once. Flip3D is rubbish.

    There’s just a few quick ones off the top of my head 😉

  12. While we’re on the topic of maximizing Windows windows, here are a couple of my irritants:

    1. Each document for an application is in a window inside that application Window. And if you maximize the document window, you have two sets of Windows window controls (Close, Minimize, Maximize) sitting right there together. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to close the Window only to Exit to software application.

    2. When you maximize a Windows window, and then maximize another window layered on top of that window, the behind window becomes un-maximized. That’s way inconsistent.

  13. Just in regards to getting the cursor to the beginning of a line in Windows — it seems your laptop has given you the wrong impression. In fact, on most keyboards for windows, the Home and End keys are separate keys, meaning that you simply press one key (Home) to get to the beginning of a line, and one key (End) to get to the end of the line.

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