Managing OS X Windows

One of the biggest things I've had to adjust to is window behavior in OS X. Not only do the windows interface a little bit differently with the desktop but the window controls do slightly different things.

In Windows, you have an application window and a document window. If I launch Microsoft Word in Windows, for instance, and then click on the uppermost "x" in the window (the close symbol in the Application window), the application and the document closes. In OS X, clicking on a window control only closes the window or that particular instance of an application. The application will still be running and must be closed by using its menu or by right-clicking (Control-clicking) on its icon in the Dock.

Sizing Windows

At first glance, it appears that the only difference between windows in OS X and Windows 2000 or XP is the shape, size, and placement of the window controls. In OS X, the window controls are little buttons (or gumdrops) colored red, yellow, and green. Borrowing from Windows' terminology, the red button is the "Close" button, the yellow button is the "Minimize" button, and the green button is the "Maximize" button. But how they work is a bit different and takes some getting used to.

In the figure below, I have opened a document in Microsoft Word. Notice that the new document has opened in its own window.

Whether a window opens in its true maximum size depends on the application.

Maximize button

As your mouse cursor approaches the green button, notice that it has a "plus" sign in its middle. Clicking on the green button will alternately shift the window between its original and its maximum size. In the illustration below, you can see the same Word document after I clicked on the green button.

Notice that it got smaller. Clicking on the green button again would take it back out to the maximum size.

What if I want the window larger still? If the window has a size control on it, clicking and holding on the size control and dragging it to where I want it will make it larger. In the example below, you can see a new document open in Adobe Photoshop. Photoshop opens the original document in a size you choose.

Clicking on the maximize button here does nothing since I told Photoshop what the size of my document was going to be. But the window is really too small to work with. I can make the window larger by dragging its corner to where I want it. The window outline shows where the window edghe is as I drag.

Then, the window looks like this: (photoshop doc large window.jpg) The original Photoshop document is in the middle of the window. This arrangement gives me more working room.

Minimize button

Let's talk now about the Minimizing function. When I click on the yellow button on the left hand side of the title bar, the window will shrink and store itself on the Dock. A small icon showing the page's contents will reside on the Dock. You can see that in the illustration below which shows a "minimized" Word document. For clarity, I held my mouse cursor over the icon so that the Dock would magnify it and you could see it better. Look on the Dock for "Document 1".

Every application you "minimize" will store itself on the Dock in the same fashion.

To restore the document window to its original size, click on its icon on the Dock. It will jump back to its original screen size in the same position it was when it left.

Want a way to minimize a window without using the minimize button? Double-clicking on a window's title bar will also do the trick!

Close button

The Close button does exactly what its name implies, i.e., it closes its document window. However, there is a cool little feature of the Close button you may not know about. If the Close button does not have a dot in its center, that means there is no new data in the document window. Nothing will be lost if the window is closed without saving it first. However, if there is a dot in the center of the window, then closing the window before saving it will result in losing all the work you've done since the last time you've saved . While you normally get some kind of dialog box to warn you of that, I find that having that little dot there is very handy. It reminds me to save and erases all doubt even before I've had a chance to screw up.

Opening a New Window

A new window will open, of course, anytime you open a new document in an application. You'll need to open a new window, too, anytime you need to examine your disk setup, file or folder heirarchy, or just copy or move files. It's easy enough to do: simply double-click on the hard disk icon, folder icon, or file icon you wish to open.

But let's say that within a disk, you want to copy or move a file from one folder to another. We'll navigate to a folder called "OS X Screenshots" as an example. Let's start at the most basic level. Since I don't display a hard disk icon on my desktop, I'm going to get to it by clicking on the Finder icon on the Dock. That gets me a window that looks like this:

If I double click on the hard disk icon, I get a window that shows all the folders on the hard disk.

Notice that when the new windows opened--and I got a new window each time I double-clicked--they opened in the same window as the previous one. This is the way windows open by default in OS X and works fine if I'm searching for a file to open it or if I don't need to drag it to somewhere else on the same hard disk. But what if I want to open a second window? Say for copying or moving something from one folder on the hard disk to another? I can open a second window by holding down the Command key (Apple key) when I double-click. When I do, I'll get something like this:

The new window defaults to single-window operation. You can move to "new window" operating mode at anytime by holding down the Command key when you double-click.

Moving A Window

Moving a window is simple. Put your pointer on the title bar (as shown above), click and drag the window to where you want it. Release the mouse button when you get it there.

And that's all on windows for now.