How do I minimise windows on a Mac? And how do I make the minimised window go back to normal or fullscreen view?

Macs are easy to use, and few things come more naturally to modern users than the desktop and windows metaphor. But lots of newcomers to Mac OS X (especially those coming over from Windows) find it tricky to close, maximise and minimise app windows.

In this guide we're going to take a good look at the nuts and bolts of windows management in Mac OS X: not just minimising and maximising windows, but opening, closing and even zooming windows. The desktop and windows metaphor forms the bulk of your interaction with a Mac, after all. We'll look at how to manage apps and windows on your Mac.

Updated: 9 June 2016 with a guide on how to close apps on iPad and iPhone.

See also:

Complete guide to Mission Control, Expose & Spaces on the Mac | Spotlight tips for OS X Yosemite | How to select and copy text from a Quick Look preview | Find Desktop and Screen Saver images in Mac OS X Mavericks.

How to open and close windows on a Mac

How to zoom a Window on a Mac using the Menu bar

Windows are the rectangular mini-screens that display information from an app across part of your monitor display (or all of it, if that window is running in fullscreen mode). A window shows information related to an app. Some apps (like iTunes) only have one window; others have a window for each document that you have.

Typically, when you click on an app's icon in Applications (or in the Dock), it will open a new window for that app. If the app already has a window open, it will switch to the window instead. Here are the ways you can open a new window:

  • Choose on File > New to open a second window (sometimes it will be New Window, New Blank Document or a similar term).
  • Press Command + N.
  • Command-click the icon in the Dock and choose New Window (not available in all apps).

Closing a window is just as easy. There are lots of different ways to close a window:

  • Click the red close button in the top-left of a Window.
  • Choose File > Close Window.
  • Press Command-W.
  • Choose File > Close All Windows.

One way Mac OS X differs from Windows is that when you close the last window, the app itself stays open. If you look at the Dock, you will still see a small dot underneath the app icon to indicate that it's still open. If you want to quit the app, you will need to choose the app's name in the Menu bar and Quit (or press Command-Q).

How to Minimise windows on a Mac

Minimize, zoom button on a Mac

If you keep opening windows, you'll soon have more than you can fit on the screen at once. One way that you can manage windows is to minimise the ones that you aren't currently using. Minimise shrinks the window down to the right-hand side of the Dock at the bottom of the screen.

  • Click the yellow Minimise button in the top-right of the window.
  • Choose Window > Minimise.
  • Press Command-M.
  • Press Command-Option-M to minimise all windows belonging to that app.

Learning to press Command-M (and Command-Option-M, also known as Command-Alt-M) are some of the handiest shortcuts you can know. They quickly enable you to get rid of windows that you don't want right now, but will want to use later.

Most people just click on a window's small preview icon in the Dock to return to it, but there are a few different ways to return to a minimised window.

  • Click the icon in the Dock.
  • Command-click the icon and choose Open.
  • Choose Window from the app's menu and select the window from the list at the bottom.
  • Choose Window > Bring all to Front.
  • Hold Option and choose Window > Arrange to Front (this cascades all the windows).
  • In Safari, you can also choose Window > Merge All Windows. This command opens all the minimised windows as tabs.

How to Maximise (or Zoom) windows on a Mac

Full Screen button on Mac

One thing you need to learn as a Mac user is that you don't "maximise" windows, you "zoom" them. And from Yosemite onwards, zoom has been put on the back-burner in favour of Full Screen.

To take a window into fullscreen view, you click on the green Full Screen icon in the top-left of the window. Click it again to go back to standard view. Or choose View > Exit Full Screen (Command-Option-F).

Zoom is a different creature entirely, and it's not quite. The green button used to be zoom in OS X, and you can still access zoom by holding down Option and clicking the green button.

But zoom isn't quite the same as maximise on a Windows machine. On Windows, it automatically fills the whole display, while Zoom on a Mac takes the window to its optimal largest size. So it may not fill the whole screen, but will rather take up as much space as it should.

You can also choose Window > Zoom to zoom the window. Most users these days switch to Full Screen instead.

You can also resize a window in OS X by dragging any of the four corners of a window. The corners enable you to shrink (or grow) each window to any size you want, and then you can use Window > Zoom to return to the optimal size.

Read next: How to set up and manage user accounts on a Mac

How to close apps on iPad or iPhone

How to close apps on iPad or iPhone

iOS is well built in order to deal with multiple apps in the background, so you don't have to worry about apps taking up battery life or resources.

However, if an app is misbehaving and you want to close it, it's easy enough to forcefully stop it.

First you need to open the App Switcher, to do this double-press (not tap) the Home button and you'll be presented with various apps. Scroll through until you find the app you want to force quit, and simply swipe it away by flicking upwards - you can close as many as you want.

Once you've finished closing the apps you want, either tap on one of the apps in the App Switcher menu or press the home button.