There's no such thing as a new idea right? It's only ever an old idea that been borrowed and when it comes to operating systems there's been plenty of idea-snatching from both Microsoft and Apple over the years.

Windows 7 and Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard each contain features that originated in the other OS. Some features were stolen so long ago that they've become part of the computing landscape, and it's difficult to remember who invented what. Here we give credit to Apple where credit is due.

1. Taskbar makeover: Dock look and feel

The Windows 7 taskbar is decidedly Dock-like, with large, label-less icons. Like the Dock, the taskbar is now a place to launch programs as well as to minimise windows.

You can drag an application icon to anywhere on the taskbar and drag to arrange them, as on a Mac.

In Windows 7, a box around an icon indicates that a program is running; Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard uses a dot under the icon of running apps.

Apple acquired the Dock from Steve Jobs' NeXtstep OS, which stole it from Acorn's Arthur OS of 1987.

2. Jump lists: Dock menus

Both the Taskbar and the Dock have had menus, but the menus of Windows 7 are similar the functionality of not only Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, but of Leopard before it. There are commands and access to files.

What's in a jump list (or Dock menu)? Some lists (such as those for iTunes) have more functionality in Mac OS X. Others have more in Windows 7.

Web browsers in Mac and Windows provide similar functionality, depending on the browser. In both OS, a right-click brings up the menu.

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NEXT PAGE: Aero Peek and file previews

  1. These OS functions look similar, we think we've seen them before
  2. Aero Peek and file previews
  3. Gadgets and Sticky notes
  4. Saved Searches and Network shares appearing automatically
  5. RSS feeds and Windows Disc Image Burner


In the battle between Windows and Mac OS X, we've rounded up 10 features that Apple developed first, only to have them borrowed by Microsoft.

3. Aero Peek: Exposé

The Windows 7 Aero Peek feature that makes all windows vanish at once debuted as Exposé in 2003 with Mac OS X 10.3 Panther.

The two platforms' versions each has other things they can do, but Aero Peek and Exposé both let you quickly see the desktop of open windows and just as quickly bring the windows all back again.

Aero Peek makes windows completely transparent, removing all content. Exposé slides them out of the way.

4. File previews

File previews are all over Windows Vista and Windows 7, including the Preview pane in Windows Explorer windows and Taskbar previews, but Apple has always been ahead here.

The Preview pane came from the column view in Mac OS X 10.0 Cheetah in 2000.

The Windows Preview pane has now caught up to Mac OS X's with the ability to play audio and movies, but it still doesn't display text formatting.

Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard added the Cover Flow view for rapid viewing of multiple previews, but the ultimate preview is its Quick Look, which is resizable up to full screen - and lets you look at every page of a document.

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NEXT PAGE: Gadgets and Sticky notes

  1. These OS functions look similar, we think we've seen them before
  2. Aero Peek and file previews
  3. Gadgets and Sticky notes
  4. Saved Searches and Network shares appearing automatically
  5. RSS feeds and Windows Disc Image Burner


In the battle between Windows and Mac OS X, we've rounded up 10 features that Apple developed first, only to have them borrowed by Microsoft.

5. Gadgets: Widgets

Windows Vista introduced gadgets, small, single-function mini-applications, often gathering specialised information from the internet.

They look and function like Mac widgets (displayed collectively in the Dashboard), which Mac users have been playing with since Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger.

There are weather, clock, and stock feed gadgets and widgets. Mac OS X comes with more than does Windows, but both offer more on the web.

Windows gadgets can be persistent among other windows, while Mac OS X widgets appear only on top of other windows, and disappear when you click something that's not a widget.

6. Sticky Notes: Stickies

A handy new tool in Windows 7, though there have been third-party sticky notes in recent years.

But Apple has had Stickies in its OS' since System 7.5 in 1994. Mac Stickies offer spell check and text formatting, too.

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  1. These OS functions look similar, we think we've seen them before
  2. Aero Peek and file previews
  3. Gadgets and Sticky notes
  4. Saved Searches and Network shares appearing automatically
  5. RSS feeds and Windows Disc Image Burner


NEXT PAGE: Saved Searches and Network shares appearing automatically


In the battle between Windows and Mac OS X, we've rounded up 10 features that Apple developed first, only to have them borrowed by Microsoft.

7. Saved searches: Smart folders

Smart folders, which first appeared in Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger in early 2005, are actually virtual folders that show the results of searches.

Microsoft took the idea and created Saved Searches in Windows Vista. In the OS' current versions, the two are similar in concept and in use. Both appear in the left pane of windows and act like folders.

8. Network shares automatically appearing in left sidebar

With Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, Apple started placing autodiscovered network file shares in the sidebar at left.

Microsoft must have liked the idea, because it added the feature in Windows Vista, dumping the Network Neighborhood of many previous versions.

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NEXT PAGE: RSS feeds and Windows Disc Image Burner

  1. These OS functions look similar, we think we've seen them before
  2. Aero Peek and file previews
  3. Gadgets and Sticky notes
  4. Saved Searches and Network shares appearing automatically
  5. RSS feeds and Windows Disc Image Burner


In the battle between Windows and Mac OS X, we've rounded up 10 features that Apple developed first, only to have them borrowed by Microsoft.

9. RSS feeds

Microsoft introduced the ability to view RSS feeds in Internet Explorer 7 in Windows Vista.

But an integrated RSS reader in a web browser wasn't Microsoft's idea. Apple did it first in Safari 2 in Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. Apple's Mail also supports RSS.

10. Windows Disc Image Burner: Disk Utility

Before Windows 7, you had to use a third-party utility to burn ISO disk images to CDs and DVDs.

In Windows 7, just double-click an ISO file to launch Windows Disc Image Burner.

Nice feature, but the Mac's Disk Utility has had the ability to burn as well as create disc images since even before Mac OS X.

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See also: Windows 7 vs Snow Leopard

  1. These OS functions look similar, we think we've seen them before
  2. Aero Peek and file previews
  3. Gadgets and Sticky notes
  4. Saved Searches and Network shares appearing automatically
  5. RSS feeds and Windows Disc Image Burner