Mac Basics: Modifying windows

There are lots of ways to customize your windows. You can resize them, make them full screen, change their toolbars and sidebars, and more.

Window Controls

Most windows in OS X include one or more of these controls: close, minimize and zoom. These controls are located in the top left corner of the window.

window controls 1

When you hover over the controls, a symbol appears in each:

window controls 2

Close (X)

The close button closes the current open window. Clicking this button may prompt you to save your work if the document contained by the window isn't already saved automatically. It may also quit the application if it was the last window open in this app.=

Minimize (–)

The minimize button hides the window by placing it in the Dock. Click the button once to shrink the window. Click the window in the dock to return it to full size.

Zoom (+)

The grow button toggles the window so its content fills the visible area as much as possible. Click it once to resize the window automatically. Click it again to return the window to its previous state.

Resizing a window

To resize a window, move your pointer to a window edge or corner. You should see the pointer change to indicate that it's ready to resize. Click and drag the side or corner of the window to change its size.

You can also make a window fill the screen by clicking the full screen button in the upper right corner of the window.

fullscreen control

You can switch between full screen windows by using the Application Switcher or Mission Control. To exit full screen view, move your pointer to the top of the screen so that the menu bar appears. Then click the Full Screen button   again. 

Hiding Windows

You can also hide and show all of the windows that are open in an application. To hide an app, choose Hide (command-H) from the menu with the same name as the app. For example, to hide all Safari windows, choose Safari > Hide.

hide menu

To unhide an app, switch to it by selecting its icon in the Dock, or by using the Application Switcher or Mission Control.

The Window menu

If you have multiple windows open, minimized, or hidden, you may forget where the window is located. You can easily find what you're looking for from the Window menu. Just switch to the app the window belongs to, then select the window from the list to view it.

window menu

You can also use Mission Control to easily see and switch between all open windows, or windows belonging to just one app.

For more information about working with windows, select a topic from the list below.


Some windows include a sidebar, like those in the Finder, iTunes, and Open and Save dialogs.

Finder window with sidebar

To change the width of the sidebar, move your pointer to its edge. Then, click and drag the edge left or right to make the sidebar bigger or smaller.

To hide the sidebar, choose View > Hide Sidebar. To show the sidebar gain, choose View > Show Sidebar.

You can also modify sidebar preferences from the Finder and in System Preferences. The choices you make affect how the sidebar appears in the Finder, and in Open and Save dialogs.

  1. From the Finder menu, choose Preferences to open Finder preferences.
  2. Click Sidebar to display its preferences.
  3. Select the checkbox next to the items that you want to see displayed in your sidebar Favorites, Shared, and Devices lists.
    Finder preferences window

To change the size of sidebar icons, choose Apple menu > System Preferences > General. Select an option from the "Sidebar icon size" menu.

general system preferences


Many windows, such as in Safari, Mail and Finder include a Toolbar at the top of the window. You can customize the commands available from a toolbar by selecting View > Customize Toolbar.

customize toolbar Finder

Drag and drop the items you want to appear onto the toolbar. To remove an item, drag it away from the toolbar. To re-arrange the order of items, just drag them to where you want them to appear. When you're finished, click done.

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