How to Work with Windows in Mountain Lion

Although OS X Mountain Lion windows are similar to windows you’ve probably used in other versions of Mac OS (or even, Windows), you may just discover a new wrinkle or two as you work with windows in Mountain Lion.

How to open and close windows

To start peering into windows on your Mac, first you need to know how to open and close them. When you’re working in the Finder, you can choose the following commands from the File menu. Note that you’ll probably find similar commands on the File menu of programs other than the Finder.

You’ll use many of these commands frequently, so it would behoove you to memorize the keyboard shortcuts.

  • New Finder Window (cmd+N): Opens a new Finder window. In other programs, cmd+N might open a new document, project, or whatever that program helps you create.

  • Open (cmd+O): Opens the selected item, be it an icon, a window, or a folder.

  • Close Window (cmd+W): Closes the active window. If no windows are open or if no window is selected, the Close Window command is grayed out and can’t be chosen. Or if you prefer, you can close a window by clicking the red Close button in the top-left corner.

    If you hold down the Option key with the File menu open, the Close Window command changes to Close All. This very useful command enables you to close all open Finder windows. But it shows up only when you press the Option key; otherwise, it remains hidden.

    Note that several other commands in the File menu transmogrify when you press the Option key. It would be off topic to get into them here, but here’s a tip: Press the Option key, and browse all the Finder menus. At least a dozen useful commands appear only if the Option key is pressed. Press it early and often for hidden (often time-saving) commands.

How to resize windows and window panes

If you want to see more (or less) of what’s in a window, just hover the pointer over any edge or corner and drag. When the cursor turns into a little double-headed arrow, click and drag to resize the window.

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Display windows, like those in the Finder, frequently consist of multiple panes. A line divides the blue Sidebar to the left of it and the actual contents of the window to the right. When your mouse pointer hovers over the resizing area of this bar, the cursor changes to a vertical bar (or it could be horizontal if the panes are one above the other) with little arrows pointing out of both sides.

When you see this cursor, you can click and drag anywhere in the dividing line that separates the Sidebar from the rest of the window. Doing so resizes the two panes relative to each other; one gets larger and one gets smaller.

How to move windows

To move a window, click anywhere in a window’s title bar (or anywhere in the gray part of a display window, except on a button, menu, search field, or scroll bar) and drag the window to wherever you want it. The window moves wherever you move the mouse, stopping dead in its tracks when you release the mouse button.

How to shuffle windows around

The commands on the Window menu provide tools you can use to manage your windows. Here is a brief look at each of the items on the Window menu:

  • Minimize (cmd+M): Use this command to minimize the active Finder window to the Dock and unclutter your Desktop. It’s the same as clicking the yellow gumdrop button.

  • Zoom: This command does the same thing as the green gumdrop button.

  • Cycle Through Windows (cmd+`): Each time you choose this command or use the keyboard shortcut for it, a different window becomes active.

    So if you have three windows — call ’em Window 1, Window 2, and Window 3 — and you’re using Window 1, this command deactivates Window 1 and activates Window 2. If you choose it again, the command deactivates Window 2 and activates Window 3. Choose it one more time, and it deactivates Window 3 and reactivates Window 1.

  • Bring All to Front: In OS X Mountain Lion, windows from different applications interleave. For example, you can have (from front to back) a Finder window, a Microsoft Word window, an Adobe Photoshop window, another Microsoft Word window, and another Finder window.

    Choosing Bring All to Front while the Finder is the active application enables you to have both of the Finder windows in this example move in front of those belonging to Word and Photoshop.

    If you want to bring all the windows belonging to the Finder (or any other program, for that matter) to the front at the same time, you can also click the appropriate Dock icon (the Finder, in this case).

    If you hold down the Option key when you click the Window menu, Minimize Window changes to Minimize All, and the Zoom command changes to Zoom All.

  • Other items: The remaining items on the Window menu are the names of all currently open Finder windows. Click a window’s name to bring it to the front.

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