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How To Maximize A Window In Mac Like You Do In Windows [Tip]

Fullscreen view in Mac OS X Lion was one of the much talked about new features; whether you like it or hate it, or just aren’t happy that all apps don’t support fullscreen, it remains, nonetheless, a prime feature. At first, switching between fullscreen and normal screen seemed a bit complicated, and some apps, like web browsers with tabbed browsing, were a bit tricky to get the hang off. Users have now mostly gotten used to it, and all is right in the world of screen real estate. Another noteworthy feature in Lion is that windows can now be resized from any corner. It isn’t exactly a groundbreaking feature but it adds to a user’s convenience. With all these window sizing features available, one might wonder why the maximize button in Mac works in an unorthodox way. In truth, it works in three ways, and here is how to use each one.

maximize window

Maximize Window To View All Content

Normally when you click the green plus button at the top left of any window, the window maximizes such that the entire contents of the window are visible. Lets say you had shrunk your browser so you had to scroll horizontally to view a web page. Clicking the green plus button will maximize the window, such that everything is visible without the use of the horizontal scrollbar.

Maximize The Vertical Length Of The Window

By default, the green plus sign maximizes a window horizontally, but in the event that it is already the appropriate size to negate the use of horizontal scrollbars but does not cover the full vertical length of the screen, clicking this button will maximize it so that it fills the entre screen area from menu bar to the Dock.

Maximize To Fill Entire Screen Without Entering Fullscreen Mode

Windows users might understand this behavior best, as it is the default maximize window behavior in Windows. If you hold down the Shift key and click the green plus button, the app’s window will fill the entire horizontal and vertical length of the screen. It will appear as though you dragged the window from either of the edges until it filled the screen from one side to the other. The Menu bar and the Dock remain visible, as do any other toolbars that the app itself supports. This trick works in most apps, but not on a Finder window.


  1. There are a bunch of great window managers out here – I use one called ‘Shift-it’ – which is free and lets me position my Mac OSX windows in far more flexible ways than by default on MS Windows.

  2. Maximize The Vertical Length Of The Window -> Alt + Green
    Maximize To Fill Entire Screen Without Entering Fullscreen Mode -> Alt + Shift + Green

    I’m using Yosemite, and it worked for me.

  3. I only use windows but when I am at my friend’s house, he uses a mac and I was very confused when you can’t even put a window in full screen. It all just seems very odd.

  4. If you are using OS X Yosemite, double-click the title of the specific window that you want to maximize while holding the shift key.

  5. To maximise screen on Safari browser on apple mac computer.
    Click on Safari icon to open window,
    Go to bottom right corner of window and click,then drag screen outwards to max
    Go to top left of browser window and drag the window to max.
    You can drag window up and down too from top of window
    Just click and drag
    I hope this helps it certainly fixed mine in 30 secs!!

    I just got a mac because I was told I needed one for so long. I was so happy when I got one…now, I feel like I’m back in AP chem class. I’m looking around like “why can’t I make this page bigger?” “you mean to tell me I can’t get that window back?” “why is this so complicated?” “that’s a really long process for something that should just be a click”.
    Why does nobody realize this? I got the mac because my pc sounded like a hairdryer and I wanted a laptop. Now, I realize how much faster it is for tasks. Click, drag, and paste? Nope…The learning curve sucks. Sure, macs make little fancy icons bounce, and make cool sounds when you click on things. All aesthetics. They’re like smartphones now: great for everything except what they’re designed for. Fashion over function. I’m going to strongly recommend people to get a regular microsoft laptop if they want easy function. I’m very upset and dissapointed with apple. I had such high hopes. I don’t get it, I thought they were “ahead of the times”?
    We all keep falling for it.

  7. Is there a keystroke combo to serve as Shift+click-green-plus so you don’t have to find the green plus with your mouse?

  8. Thank you for this. I’ve been using Cinch for ages but it’s a little sticky sometimes. Much prefer the shift and green plus solution.

  9. If Steve was alive, he would announce top secret ground breaking feature of OS X 10.10 – double click of a window title maximizes a window.

    It is a shame that people pay such obscene amount of money for such a junk. They are iSnobs.

  10. This trick works in most apps, but not on a Finder window -> And that is my main complain… The Finder is maybe the one that needs most of the time windows resizing, but it is simply a piece of crap ! God I hate it !

  11. Is there a program in Windows that enables a similar feature to maximize window to view all content? I personally hate that I must go full screen and take up all the free space with that window even though the content is what interest me and not filling the screen with white empty space. Thanks a lot in advance;)

    • On my Snow Leopard, Alt+Green is the default “Green” behaviour: it maximizes the window only to effectively ensure there are no scroll bars left (or perhaps it’s having no effect at all on my pressing it together with the “Green”). Shift+Green (which I just learned courtesy of the present article) is for me the true equivalent of the Windows-style full maximize.

  12. I agree w confucius 100%, on my pro there is a diagonal button on the R top corner which maximizes…on my imac, on a huge screen i am working through a keyhole and nothing that wahab recommends worked .. keep scrolling a small screen on a huge wallpaper… learning curve on a mac is soooooo unnecessarily long.. should not be a task or a chore… its like beating levels on a video game rather than simplifying your daily routine… i keep going back to my PC for speed and comfort… PC s are the real the computers… macs are a fad..

  13. Macs are a piece of garbage. If Apple had their way, they would make drinking water complicated too. Making as many mundane tasks this complicated is extremely excessive on their part. I have nothing but cuss words for them but I’ll keep those to myself. Buy yourself a regular laptop and save yourself the headache, or think that you’re cool and declare them the best things since the invention of the VCR. Even clicking, CLICKING, they messed that up. Maximizing a window, nooooo, that had to be rocket science too. Finding minimized windows??? Geeze. I can write a thesis on how extremely stupid a big company like Apple must be to screw up this bad.

  14. I’m wondering why the result of Shift + Green Button isn’t the default behavior. I believe that’s the true definition of “Maximize”. Anyway, good write-up. Truly helpful.

    • Holding Shift while clicking on the Green Plus button also does not work for me in Safari windows. Though it has worked for me in iTunes, NZBVortex, VLC Media Player and Bittorrent apps. Haven’t tried it on anything else yet but I’m sure it will work on plenty more. Pity it doesn’t work on Finder or Safari!!! 😮 🙁

  15. Cinch is a great app which does the snaps pretty well like windows 7.  However, the one thing which frustrated me beyond belief was, why, after hitting the yellow “minimize” button, wouldn’t it restore when I alt-tabbed to it, or how to restore it once minimized.  that was so annoying. 🙂

    • To display a minimized window, follow these steps carefully:

      1. Cmd+Tab to that window
      2. Release the Tab key (keep pressing the Cmd down)
      3. Press the Option key (Cmd still down)
      4. Finally release the Cmd

      Your minimized window should now be visible.

      EDIT: The above works with the standard Finder behaviour. I’ve not used Cinch, but perhaps the above will work with that too.

    • Yeah I found this out, it’s a great little tip. The only thing with that, however, is if you have multiple windows open, it doesn’t pull all of them. i think its a first minimize first maximize thing.

    • I know this is an old thread, but I used to have the same pet peeves that you did but I figured a much simpler way around it.

      Instead of minimizing the app, try pressing Command+H

      This hides the app instead of minimizing it. Now if you Alt+Tab back to your app, it will bring the window back up. I find it much handier to use, instead of the minimize window function and rarely touch the minimize button these days.

      Hope this helps you if you haven’t already figured it out for yourself in the last year 🙂

      Kev 😉

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