Window Management keystrokes in Mac OS X

Overloaded with too many active windows from too many apps? Want to quickly flip through them, minimize one, maybe maximize another? Maybe you’d just like to really focus and go full screen? We’ve got this all covered with some simple keyboard shortcuts that can improve workflow by speeding up window management and how you interact with app windows in OS X. This is not about Mission Control, this is about direct window management of any windows for any apps, so check out the keystrokes and let us know if we’re missing anything.

1: Flip Between Windows in Current Application – Command+`

Much like you can Command+Tab your way through active applications, you can Command+Tilde your way through active windows in the current application. Considered a “must know trick“, the next time you’re buried in a bunch of windows use this keystroke, it is so much faster than pulling down the Window menu and hunting around. Just flip through them all like a deck of cards and stop on the window you want.

To be clear, we’re talking about the `/~ key, which is alongside the 1 key on a standard US qwerty keyboard.

2: Minimize Current Window – Command+M

Done with the current window for now but don’t want to close it out? Quickly minimize it instead with Command+M, it’ll be sent down into the Dock where you can retrieve it later.

3: Maximize Current Window

Tired of clicking the green button to increase the size of the current window? Set a keyboard shortcut for that instead! You’ll be making your own keyboard shortcut for this one since it isn’t set by default, but what a handy keystroke it becomes once you configure it:

  • Go to System Preferences and “Keyboard”

  • Choose “Keyboard Shortcuts”, then go to “Application Shortcuts” and click + to create a new shortcut

  • Enter “Zoom” into the “Menu Title” section and then click into the Keyboard Shortcut box to define your keyboard shortcut (Control+Command+= is set in the example)

Zoom window keyboard shortcut in Mac OS X

Now you can hit Control+Command+= (or whatever else) to instantly zoom and maximize the current window, nice!

Heads up to SimpleSynthesis for the maximize shortcut idea

4: Hide All Other Apps Windows – Command+Option+H

In a mess of window clutter from a million applications? Just hit Command+Option+H and you will hide all other applications and their windows instantly, leaving you with only the current application and it’s windows visible. Much less clutter, much less to distract.

This keystroke is best paired with a defaults command that makes hidden app icons transparent in the Dock, giving you a simple visual indicator of what’s hidden and what’s not.

5: Enter Full Screen – Command+Power

When you really need to focus or make the most of limited screen real estate on a laptop, go Full Screen. Done with full screen? Hit Command+Power again to toggle out of it.

If this one isn’t working for you, you may need to set the Full Screen toggle shortcut manually beforehand.

6: Close the Window – Command+W

You are aware that Command+W closes the current window, right? If not, well you’ll be thrilled to find out it does. Command+W has been around since the earliest days of Mac OS, and it gets so much use by longtime Mac users that it’s easy to assume that everyone knows about it. Nonetheless we often encounter people who have never heard of it, so learn Command+W and thank yourself later. (Yea so we said 5 keyboard shortcuts for window management, but this one is too useful not to include here).

Overloaded with Too Many Windows? Use Spaces & Mission Control

Mission Control can be salvation to window clutter by allowing you to set unique for apps, app groups, and then easily view every single window that’s open too. There’s much more to it, but it’s a bit beyond the scope of this article, so you can read 9 tricks on getting the most out of Mission Control if you’re interested.