Things I can't do on MacOS which I can do on Ubuntu

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I've never "got" the appeal of a Mac. But I have to use one for work.

Here's a partial list of everything I cannot do on a Mac, but I can do on Ubuntu.

These are all objective facts. These are things which either are impossible, or require adding unsupported 3rd party software - sometimes at a cost.

  • Resize the system font
    • I find the menu bar at the top too small. The only way to do this on MacOS is to lower the resolution of the entire screen!
  • Change the system font
    • I know you like Helvetica San Francisco - but I find it a bit too thin to read.
  • Focus Follow Mouse
    • I have multiple screens and multiple windows. I want to be able to hover over a new one and start interacting with it without clicking.
  • Change my mouse button order
  • Read files from MTP devices
    • If I stick a USB cable between my phone and Linux laptop, I can see the Android files on my laptop. I can open them, move them around, etc. On a Mac I need to install some shonky 3rd party software which rarely works.
  • Always on top windows
    • Sometimes I want to keep the calculator on screen while I type an email. Is that too much to ask?
  • No way to remove UI elements.
    • I don't want a notification icon in the top right of my screen. I prefer having the clock on the left. Trivial in Linux, static in MacOS.
  • Window snapping
    • On Ubuntu, I drag a window to the side or to a corner, and it snaps into position. Vital when using multiple windows at once. On Mac there's a half-hearted splitscreen view which only supports horizontal splitting. Useless on a vertical monitor.
  • Mount an SSH or NFS drive
    • In Ubuntu, I get a nice little GUI for picking network shares. Impossible on Mac.
  • Wobbly Windows!
    • Seriously MacOS. Where's the fun?

I know you're going to be tempted to reply with "you're using it wrong" - but I'm not. This is how I like to use my computer. And it is clear that the MacBook isn't my computer - it is Apple's.
(OK, OK! It belongs to my employer!)

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35 thoughts on “Things I can't do on MacOS which I can do on Ubuntu”

  1. says:

    The file transfer issue with mobile devices is my main issue. Why can't I just copy/paste files like I can easily do on Windows or Linux 😢(four and a half years into using a macbook as my main machine and this still pains me)

  2. Wow, that's a red rag to put out there. RIP your mentions!

    I'm sure you are going to be able to categorise them into:
    1. Well actually, you can do X with incantation Y
    2. Your needs are invalid/you are holding it wrong
    3. It's not linux, it's GNU/Linux
    4. Ubuntu can't do X tho

  3. (I'm still a hardcore debian sort, so we are related...) I remember sending a curl to our PO, as he was all Mac, thinking, well, it is FreeBSD under the hood, right? But no. SteveJ seems to think it was...funny? to cripple all the tools, a simple curl failed on OSX. wtf dudes?

  4. says:

    I know. 😭Doesn't make me less annoyed. Even copying and pasting on an iPhone didn't work last time I tried - needed to sync everything up, which is wholly unnecessary. Not all devices support airdrop.

    1. Foobar says:

      I think you’re looking for Mac System 7. You could do much of this back then.

  5. says:

    not having a sloppy cursor is my main gripe with my work macbook

    but I guess it'd make that MacOS top bar completely unusable for anything that isn't maximised/full screen

  6. Last time I was using someone's Mac I couldn't work out how to maximise a window fully. Is that possible?

    No focus follows mouse?! Dead to me 🙂

    1. says:

      Choice of double-clicking the title-bar or using the maximise button in the window decoration?

      1. The green button isn't really maximize, it's a fullscreen button. It puts the window on a workspace of its own with no decorations until you bump the top of the screen with the cursor, so not maximize in the traditional sense as you can't put another window over it.

        Double-click on the title bar should work. Except when it doesn't and decides to resize to some arbitrary region of the screen, and you have to minimize and unminimize to restore it to the maximizable state.

        1. Andrew S. says:

          Hold option while you hover mouse over the green button; it becomes a maximize button (instead of the default fullscreen behavior).

          Also try holding down option when resizing windows, opening system menus in menu bar (sound, bluetooth).

        2. Herman says:

          Or press alt + the green button and suddenly it is maximize again. As it was before fullscreen was introduced. I believe you can actually switch the default.

  7. Ubuntu ships with plenty of 3rd party software. I actually prefer to have a minimal installation and install whatever I need myself (I have a script for that). Default ubuntu is bloated in my opinion, but I agree that is a matter of taste, which is easier to solve in Distroland than in the closed OSX/Windows world.

    Here are a list of 3rd party software that solves some of your issues. If not useful for you, it might be to someone who finds this post.

    Focus follow mouse -Amethyst (Free and Opensource)
    Window Snapping - Amethyst, Moon (Paid), BetterSnapTool (Paid) or ShiftIt (free and opensource).
    SSH/NFS mounting - SSHFS/OSXFUSE/MacFusion (free, opensource, hard to use), MountainDuck (paid), Cyberduck (Paid), Expanddrive (Paid)
    Hiding notification icon - Deeper (Free)

  8. Oh god, I forgot about the system font thing when doing my Twitter thread! All of my Windows machines are set to 150% because it's more comfortable to do that than to wear my glasses. Mac? Lots of squinting at the screen when I need to look at any app / area where I can't set the font size.

    1. Amy Cupcake says:

      No, this only patents the behaviour that makes a window switcher screen pop up on the opposite side of the screen, the old snapping behaviour long predates 2014

  9. I’ve just started using MacOS after 20 years of Linux, and I miss middle click paste (amongst other things). There is a macpaste app, but it doesn’t quite work properly.

    1. covid19 says:

      Ouch, condolences...
      There used to be a time OS X was pleasant and a treat to use, somewhere right around Mountain Lion/Mavericks and beyond, each release has become more and more insulting to use, you can't tell where the cloud ends and where "your stuff" begins. They've tried so hard to turn the Mac into something it's not--a phone/tablet, that choice forever reverbs in the piss poor quality of Apple's current and future OS X releases.
      Multi billion dollar question is why is Steve Jobs not haunting the literal life out of Tim Cook? I feel sorry for the Mac.
      Not being able to bear it any longer, parted with the world of Apple forever once support for El Capitan was dropped, no regrets, never going back. The only thing I didn't initially have was iMessage, but with a little research have gotten my last time machine backup installed as a virtual machine. This is an ideal condition for me, as I believe the "more powerful" OS should be the host, and the slave should be the OS you only really need one or two things from.
      Bittersweet ending, but better than folding to the "Apple way", screw that I have my own way of doing things and I don't try to push it on anybody else, unlike Cooks idea of how technology should work

  10. Richard Uschold says:

    On Mac OS, there are very few options to change the Title Bar focus color. The difference between focused and not focused colors is rather subtle for my partly color blind eyes! None of the available options were much of an improvement. Not an issue on Linux or Windows.

    I partly solved the mouse only copy-paste issues with BetterTouchTool. Not perfect, but you can program the mouse buttons, with a modifier key, to do these functions.

    I was always confused by Mac's permitting the middle mouse wheel to scroll a NON-Focused window! Yet, this does not change the keyboard focus, and key strokes still go to the other window! I don't see how this makes any sense at all! ANY mouse button should change the focus, not just the left one!

    Both Windows and Linux have hundreds of GUI items the user can change and each one has dozens to hundreds of possibilities. Mac OS has a mere handful of changeable items and a handful of possibilities for each. How is this user friendly? I guess, Uncle Steve knows best! NOT!

    I've had two Mac Mini's and over half a dozen other computers, over the years. I've had as many hardware issues with the two macs as all my other computers combined.

    My first Mac had more serious issues. The disk controller chip went bad and I had to replace the main circuit board. I assumed I had the bad luck of getting one of the few lemons that every manufacturer occasionally produces and bought the second.

    After a few years, the second Mac started booting VERY SLOWLY! I googled this and discovered I had to reset the system parameters in the CMOS RAM. I also replaced the battery. Unfortunately, that didn't fix the problem! Every month or so, I had to reset the system parameters, again! Battery backed RAM? Seriously? Hasn't Apple heard of EEPROMs? They've only been around for decades! Apple is usually at the front of the pack applying new technology. What happened here?

  11. Chris says:

    macOS really isn't designed for extreme (or even moderate) customization. It's designed to offer a consistent experience for users who are more concerned with being comfortable in their content creation applications that run on the macOS platform. Also, Apple is a single company that has to support whatever they put out. So naturally they're going to have some discipline when it comes to providing options to customers. A lot of developers use macOS now too and signs of culture clash are appearing more frequently.

    1. gluconate says:

      Um, designed to offer a consistent experience? I'm sorry but that statement holds much more true for Windows than it does for Mac. This isn't a bashing post, simply pointing out for one, Windows releases have been supported for a whole decade, literally 10 years of support (cycle for 10 has changed, Enterprise is still supported 10 years); two, application support...Under a modern version of Windows, say 8 or 10, you'll have little to no issue running applications that were written in the XP era. XP era equates to around Tiger/ much software do you have that still runs from a Tiger or Leopard mac on catalina? on mojave? on high sierra? Whenever Apple feels like it, support for products is dropped, whether you're just a smalltime end user or a large creative corp, Apple's OS releases are ONLY supported for maximum of 3 years, with no option for extended support (XP lived technically more than 15 years with the embedded trick, 12 years with no trick)
      Third and finally, ...the user interface. Everything from the dimensions of applications, awkward apps that really are designed for mobile and have no real place on a desktop, every release feels like something was taken, beaten and bastardized until it conformed to SOMETHING that looked like iOS, and thrown out there for the peasants (us) to test.
      Cook's idea of the Mac has completely and fully destroyed, annihilated, and forever doomed the future of the Mac.
      More than anything else, the Mac of today just gets in your way, this is coming from someone who used OSX for ~15 years. Like someone said above, it's not "think different" anymore, it's quite literally "think all the same". All devices are NOT the same, never were, never will be, Cook can try to part the seas and join the land and skies, at the end of the day the Mac will still be a heavily crippled Mac, and not an iOS device like they'd so badly desire it to be. Shame for destroying what was potentially the only commercially viable UNIX.

  12. says:

    Fun to read your thoughts on this (-: I just returned a macbook air 9,1 brcause of its thermal behavior - supposedly in the first place. the truth is, i was good with the fact that macos is darwin and freebsd, and i would prefer it ten times over windows, but gnu/linux (my flavour: ubuntu with gnome classic panel on the bottom) is the real sophisticated enviroment, if you ask me! not that there are simple things in workflow, which are as a fact more intelligent (why cant i switch the menus in macos to the windows of the respectively app window? if they stay in the top panel, the way to go with the mouse is - as a matter of fact - ineffeciently farer!) And for sure i am missing a bottom panel, with a workspace indicator which shows me on a quick glance what virtual desktops contain open processes plus give me a quick control over all opened processes on that desktop (and no, the dock which indicates open processes/running apps with a dot behind them, is not alternative here.) so, long story short, i think macos is very smart, beautifull and for the most useres far better then windows. but it is not gnu/linux, it can not even touch it. a shame though, because the hardware design is fantastic. the only way i'd buy a macbook pro now, would be that i cant contribute the few groups which are trying to get gnu/linus on that machine. Best regards and have a great time, me (-:

  13. Andrew says:

    A fair list. I've used a macbook for the past 10 years (alongside windows, now nixos linux gaming pc), and I can have found my own solutions to one or two of them.
    Window snapping: BetterSnapTool (paid but cheap)
    Mouse button rebinding: BetterTouchTool (free) - though maybe not pure left click.
    Still, it has the touchpad which works better than anything else. Generally scrolling works without clicking on a window, but of both worlds is to have multiple machines.

  14. At least changing mouse button order (and much more complex keyboard modifications such as remapping keys, assigning different commands to F keys, making a hyper key, turning on super-duper mode etc.) is possible with Karabiner Elements.

  15. Out of the box you can probably fix some of these concerns with accessibility option tweaks. For the majority though "There's an app for that!"

    These will probably cost money, or be SIMBL plugins that require you to disable SIP For them to function correctly...

    Resize the system font

    Since Big Sur there is now an accessibility option to increase the size of the menubar.

    Change the system font

    Focus Follow Mouse

    Change my mouse button order

    Read files from MTP devices

    Always on top windows
    SIMBL plugin to achieve:

    No way to remove UI elements.
    Bartender provides a lot of control over the notification area of the menubar. You can completely hide the notification center icon with this.

    Window snapping
    There are a bunch of apps that provide this functionality, such as:

    See tooltips

    Mount an SSH or NFS drive
    OSXFuse has a SSHFS plugin, this should work:

    NFS is probably a little more fiddly:

    Wobbly Windows!
    SIMBL plugin to achieve:

  16. Jesse says:

    How about something as simple as being able to alt-tab (cmd-tab) through windows and pick a minimized one. Mac users will say "just don't minimize windows". Really? Changing a common workflow because Apple has an inferior way to choose applications isn't a good answer.

    There's the "desktop" view which shows thumbnails barfed all over the screen in a hard to grok fashion, with no application icons and have you have to hover over to see the name.

    I don't understand how anyone that has more than two applications open at once thinks that MacOS has a good UI.

    1. Henderson101 says:

      Firstly, use multiple workspaces/desktops. I do this even on Windows. I don't know how anyone can have all their running apps in one desktop.

      Don't Alt/Cmd tab. Use Mission Control. Notice minimised apps live in the dock. I don't alt-tab, even on windows, I use the Task View - which is basically the same as Mission Control.

    2. Jeroen says:

      To get Windows-like alt-tab behavior on macOS there's the excellent AltTab [1] for that. It works on multiple workspaces, btw.

      I'm currently using Sway on my work laptop, macOS for my personal laptop, and Windows (under Proxmox) for gaming. The difference in keybinds drives me insane. Also, the touchpad on my 7 years old MBP is better than my work laptop (XPS).


  17. rjc says:

    Mount an SSH or NFS drive

    Finder -> GO -> Connect to Server... or simplu Apple+k key combination. Then simply type:


    Once opened, drag its title bar icon onto Favourites in Finder and you have yourself a shorcut :^)

    [...] or require adding unsupported 3rd party software [...]

    That's pretty much any Linux distribution - most software there is 3rd-party and, by the time the packaged version hits the official repository, it is already out of date and unsupported by upstream, or even distribution itself, bar critical security vulnerabilities.

  18. Even i always recommend Apple computers to people, your reasons make sense and i agree with you. This is Apple and they say "if we decided something, you don't need to decide". Actually that works many times but yes "not everytime".

  19. Things I can’t do on MacOS which I can do on Ubuntu door @edent (

    I’ve never “got” the appeal of a Mac. But I have to use one for work.
    Here’s a partial list of everything I cannot do on a Mac, but I can do on Ubuntu.
    These are all objective facts. These are things which either are impossible, or require adding unsupported 3rd party software – sometimes at a cost….

    Ik merk dat ik meeknik met de redenen die Terrence geeft. Tegelijk weet ik dat Linux me meer hoofdpijn kan geven om dingen voor elkaar te krijgen. Ik kan al niet meer zonder de copy-paste overdracht met iOS bijvoorbeeld.
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