Mac vs. Windows - It's All About The "Maximize" Button


Chris argues over at restiffbard.com that the fundamental difference between Windows and Mac users lies not so much in the user interface in general, but only certain specific characteristics of the UI. In particular, it’s all about the “maximize” button and how it affects the user’s workflow. In Windows, the big rectangular box would maximize a window, causing it to take up all space on the screen except for the taskbar. In Mac OS X, the green “+” button would simply resize the current window to its optimal width and height, taking into consideration the current window contents.

Because it is a simple matter for a OS X user to increase the width of their browser on a case by case basis there is never a need to stretch to full screen. The button that most Windows people assume will expand a window to full screen instead, in OS X, expands or contracts to the documents dimensions. In the case of a browser it expands and contracts to the width of the web page.

In windows, there is no easy way to contract a window view. So, rather than jumping back and forth between window sizes a Windows person would just go full screen and stay there.

So in this case, the Mac user would be used to multitasking, with the slew of windows visible on the desktop, overlapping, and sometimes just peeking from behind the foreground window. The Windows user, on the other hand, tends to work solely on the current window visible in the foreground.

I’m both a Mac and Windows user, and I usually work on my Mac and Windows laptops side by side (each with their particular purposes). I’ve reached the point where I no longer get confused when I switch across the Mac and Windows interfaces. And guess what. I don’t usually maximize my Windows! Even before I started using a Mac, I never got used to maximizing. I always preferred having my Windows overlapping, with some peeking just behind the active window I’m currently working on.

A Workflow Issue

Yes, it’s a workflow issue. Having a window maximized has advantages, since this lets the user focus on the single task at hand. But having all your windows–or parts thereof–visible at all times (let’s not even mention Exposé) can also help in seeing the bigger picture.

Still, one has to consider that the human brain was not designed for multitasking. So it’s a question of productivity. Do you work (or play) better when you have a good grasp of the overall picture? Or do you need to be constantly focused on one thing?

Perhaps more interesting and intriguing with the restiffbard.com article is the reader discussion that ensues. There’s the Mac camp, and there’s the Windows camp, and there are the people that see things more objectively. Going beyond the My-OS-is-better-than-your-OS arguments, though, it’s really a matter of how effectively the machine can interface with the human. Both sides have advantages. And considering that Windows still has majority share in the world’s consumer OS market, how effective a UI may no longer be inherent in the operating system’s design. The Mac cult may argue about their’s being superior. But in the end, It’s about preference. It’s about user adoption. This is why some people still find it difficult to switch across platforms.

What about you? What’s your OS and what’s your preference in dealing with window sizes?

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