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Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, Panther Edition by David Pogue

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Hiding Programs the Old-Fashioned Way

When it comes to getting windows out of your way, nothing can touch Exposé for speed, efficiency, and entertainment value. Once you’ve mastered it, the traditional rituals of hiding windows will surely seem charmingly quaint. “When I was your age,” you’ll tell your grandchildren, “we used to have to hold down the Option key to hide windows!”

But you know the drill at software companies: They addeth, but they never taketh away. All of the old techniques are still around for the benefit of Mac fans who use them by force of habit.

Hiding the Program You’re Using

When a program is hidden, all of its windows, tool palettes, and button bars disappear. You can bring them back only by bringing the program to the front again (by clicking its Dock icon again, for example).

If your aim is to hide only the program you’re currently using, Mac OS X offers a whole raft of approaches to the same problem. Many of them involve the Option key, as listed here:

  • Option-click any visible portion of the desktop. The program you were in vanishes, along with all of its windows.

  • Option-click any other program’s icon on the Dock. You open that program (or bring all of its windows to the front) and hide all the windows of the one you were using.

  • Option-click any visible portion of another program’s windows. Once again, you switch programs, hiding the one you were using at the time.

  • From the Application menu—the boldfaced menu that bears the program’s name—choose Hide iPhoto (or whatever the program is).

  • When you’ve highlighted a Dock icon by pressing Hiding the Program You’re Using-Tab to rotate through the running programs, press the letter H key. The program hides itself instantly. Leave the Hiding the Program You’re Using key down the whole time, and after pressing the H, press Tab again to move on to the next program. If you release the keys while “stopped” on the program instead, you’ll bring it forward rather than hiding it.

  • Press Hiding the Program You’re Using-H. This may be the easiest and most useful trick of all (although it doesn’t work in every program). Doing so hides the program you’re in; you then “fall down” into the next running program.

Tip

Consider this radical, timesaving proposal: Never quit the programs you use frequently. Instead, simply hit Hiding the Program You’re Using-H whenever you’re finished working in a program. That way, the next time you need it, the program launches with zero wait time.

There’s a limit to this principle; if you have only 256 megabytes of memory and you keep ten programs open (and one of them is Photoshop), you’ll incur a speed penalty. In more moderate situations, though, Mac OS X’s virtual-memory scheme is so good, there’s almost no downside to leaving your programs open all the time.

To un-hide a program and its windows, click its Dock icon again, choose the Show All command in the Application menu, or press Hiding the Program You’re Using-Tab to summon the heads-up application display.

Tip

The Dock continues to display the icons of all running programs without any indication that you’ve hidden them. Fortunately, that’s easy enough to fix. All you need is the shareware program TinkerTool, which is described in Section 17.1. It offers a simple checkbox that makes hidden programs appear with transparent Dock icons.

Hiding All Other Programs

Choosing Hide Others from your program’s Application menu means, of course, “hide the windows of every program but this one.” It even hides your Finder (desktop) windows, although desktop icons remain visible.

Better yet, there’s a keystroke for this command: Option-Hiding All Other Programs-H. That’s one small step for keystrokes, one giant leap for productivity geeks.

If this trick interests you, you might also enjoy its Mac OS X-only corollary, described next.

The Bring-Forward, Hide-All-Others Trick

Here’s a Mac OS X secret that has no precursor in Mac OS 9 or Windows. It’s a terrific technique that lets you bring one program to the front (along with all of its open windows), and hide all other windows of all other open programs—all with one click. You might think of it as Hero mode, or Front-and-Center mode, or Clear My Calendar mode.

In any case, the trick is to Option-The Bring-Forward, Hide-All-Others Trick-click the lucky program’s icon on the Dock. As it jumps to the fore, all other windows on your Mac are instantly hidden. (You can bring them back, of course, by clicking the appropriate Dock icons.)

Hiding (Minimizing) Individual Windows

In Mac OS X, there’s more to managing your window clutter than simply hiding entire programs. You can also hide or show individual windows of a single program. In fact, Apple must believe that hiding a window will become one of your favorite activities, because it offers at least four ways to do so, including:

  • Choose WindowMinimize Window, if your program offers such a command, or press Hiding (Minimizing) Individual Windows-M.

  • Click the Minimize button on the window’s title bar, as shown in Figure 4-7.

  • Double-click the window’s title bar.

Tip

If you press the Option key as you perform the latter two techniques (and, in some programs, even the first one), you minimize all of your program’s open windows to the Dock. (If you had several document windows open, they turn into side-by-side document icons on the Dock.) This isn’t the same thing as hiding the entire program, as described previously—you remain in the same program, but now all of its windows are hidden.

Before Panther, alas, there was no way to bring them all back at once. You had to click their Dock icons one by one. But in Mac OS X 10.3—rejoice!—Option-clicking any one of a Cocoa program’s minimized Dock windows restores all of that program’s windows to full prominence.

When you click the center button on a window title bar, or double-click the title bar, or press -M, you minimize that window, getting it out of your way and off your screen. It’s now represented by a window icon on your Dock—which you can click to reopen the window. (All of this should sound familiar if you’ve used Windows—all, that is, except for the cool genie animation shown here.)

Figure 4-7. When you click the center button on a window title bar, or double-click the title bar, or press When you click the center button on a window title bar, or double-click the title bar, or press -M, you minimize that window, getting it out of your way and off your screen. It’s now represented by a window icon on your Dock—which you can click to reopen the window. (All of this should sound familiar if you’ve used Windows—all, that is, except for the cool genie animation shown here.)-M, you minimize that window, getting it out of your way and off your screen. It’s now represented by a window icon on your Dock—which you can click to reopen the window. (All of this should sound familiar if you’ve used Windows—all, that is, except for the cool genie animation shown here.)

In any case, the affected window shrinks down until it becomes a new icon on the right side of the Dock. Click that icon to bring the window back.

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