Mac Basics: Exposé (Mac OS X v10.6 and earlier)

When you're heavily involved in your tasks, it's easy to clutter your Desktop with an array of Finder and application windows. Rather than hunt and click through the pile to find the one you're looking for, use Exposé instead.

This article has been archived and is no longer updated by Apple.

Exposé allows you to easily navigate through your window clutter by highlighting certain windows,
giving you an overview of all open windows (shown above), or clearing everything away.

Exposé is a built-in feature that can give you fast access to any open window with a few keystrokes, temporarily hide all open windows, or scale all windows down so you can get an overview of all of them. Here's how to use Exposé.

  • If you currently don't have any windows open, other than your web browser window, open a few so you can see Exposé in action.
  • To show windows by application, press F10; Exposé highlights one application's open window(s) while dimming everything behind it. To toggle through other application windows, press the Tab key. Click a window to select it, or press F10 to return everything back as it was.

  • To view all your open windows, press F9. To select a window, click it. To return your view back to normal, press F9 again.
  • To hide all windows so you can see your desktop, press F11. Press the key again to display the clutter.

If you're working on a portable computer, press the Fn key in combination with the other keys listed here; for example, press Fn-F11.

Now that you know how to use Exposé, you're probably wondering why would you want to use it? Here are a few reasons.

Need to temporarily clear the clutter? Press F11 and watch all your windows scamper away.

  • When you want to drag something from a Finder window into a folder on your desktop but can't see that folder, start dragging the item, press F11 to hide all windows, and drop the item in the folder.
  • If you need to drag a file from one window to another, start dragging the item, press F9 to see all windows, drag the item over the target window until the window becomes active, or press F9 again, and drop in your item.
  • When you need to access something on your desktop, press F11 to hide all windows for an unobstructed view.
  • If you need to copy elements between two windows in the same application, start dragging the item you wish to copy, press F10 to display all open windows for that application, drag the item over the target window until it becomes active or press F10 again, and drop it.

Want to learn more about Exposé? Check out the built-in Help guide on your Mac in the Finder, choose Mac Help from the Help menu and type expose in the search field.

Published Date: