Switching to MacBook Air caused me some issues, but it was worth it

A sad business dog esting in front of a laptop macbook on a white background
(Image credit: Daria Photostock / Shutterstock)

The MacBook Air (2020) is easily one of the best laptops to ever come out. It’s powered by the powerful and versatile M1 chip made inhouse, sporting an excellent keyboard, incredible battery life, and a fast and responsive OS. However, despite working with them occasionally due to the nature of my job, I never took the plunge and purchased one for personal use. Until of course holiday season sales hit and dipped the pricing to the lowest it’s ever been.

I haven’t been shy about my opinion that MacBook gaming is in a great position to take off, as the hardware is already there. Even as a very casual MacBook user, this shift is something I believe is coming. Especially since, after years of a lack of support and stagnation on Apple’s part, we’re finally seeing the partnerships that are key to MacBook gaming blowing up.

Despite the headline, I don’t plan on abandoning Windows PCs and laptops anytime soon — they’re the loves of my life and I could never give up on the number of customization options they have. But I also realized that it was high time for me to really dig into the macOS and start learning its ins and outs. And regardless of all the trouble I had initially, I found that the journey was still loads of fun, and it was completely worthwhile in the end.

Learning the keyboard layout and shortcuts

While the basics of typing are mostly intact no matter what keyboard you’re using, there are still plenty of fundamental differences between the layouts and shortcuts of a Windows-based keyboard and a Mac-based one. And even now, this is still something I’m struggling with, as it’s common for me to mix them up as I switch.

One of the most important differences between a Mac and Windows keyboard is that the former uses Command while the latter uses Ctrl. Mac keyboards also have their own Ctrl key but those have a different function, as it’s a modifier that creates shortcuts. For instance, Ctrl + Command + Space opens the character viewer for emojis and symbols.

The Alt key on Windows has a Mac equivalent which is known as Alt or Options (sometimes labeled both on certain keyboards). And while both can be used to perform shortcut commands and insert special characters, the Options key allows you to control your cursor, while the Alt key lets you navigate the menu.

There are also plenty of keys present on a Windows keyboard but not on a Mac keyboard like Insert, Print Screen, Scroll Lock, Pause. There's also a numerical keypad. The Function key is an odd one that has no consistent difference between the two keyboard types. Here’s an extensive list of keyboard shortcuts for both layouts, which hopefully will be as useful to you as it still is to me. 

How to install other browsers

Installing Firefox on PC is as simple as downloading the file, double-clicking it, and letting the installation run. Then you can use the browser, easy as pie. The same process goes for Chrome as well.

But when installing the browser on macOS, there are extra steps that one must take, or else the process simply won’t work. For instance, the file Firefox.dmg may open a Finder window, but you cannot open the file from there. Instead, you need to drag the file into the Applications folder. After that, you need to hold down the Control key as you click into the window and choose the Eject “Firefox.”

And the browser doesn’t automatically add itself to the desktop screen or the dock (which is the Mac version of the Taskbar). Instead, you have to open the Applications folder and drag it down there. And opening it from Applications is a vital step because if you try to directly open the browser from the Firefox.dmg file or install it by dragging it to the desktop to install, you could lose settings or data.

Macbook gaming

This was one of the biggest adjustments I had to make, and I’ve been making this one for years now. Though it’s apparent that this trend will eventually change, right now the state of gaming on any product (including a MacBook Air) is pretty bleak.

If you install Steam on your Apple device, be prepared to not be able to play most of the games in your library. Many developers or studios don’t have the time, resources, toolset, or any combination thereof to develop both a Windows and Mac version of the same game, especially since the audience isn’t quite there for the latter to be worth the extra development time. This especially applies to indie devs, who have very little in the way of resources or time in the first place.

There have been some exciting releases that could —  and I believe will —  change all this in the future like No Man’s Sky and Resident Evil 8, as well as titles like EVE Online that have flourished under macOS for years. But for now, if you’re passionate about PC gaming,  support developers releasing for Apple devices if you can but also make sure to have a Windows PC or laptop at the ready to access your full library.

Allisa James
Computing Staff Writer

Named by the CTA as a CES 2023 Media Trailblazer, Allisa is a Computing Staff Writer who covers breaking news and rumors in the computing industry, as well as reviews, hands-on previews, featured articles, and the latest deals and trends. In her spare time you can find her chatting it up on her two podcasts, Megaten Marathon and Combo Chain, as well as playing any JRPGs she can get her hands on.