• Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint
Share this Page URL

Chapter 4. Programs and Documents > Exposé: The End of Window Clutter

4.3. Exposé: The End of Window Clutter

Every operating system encounters the problem of overlapping windows—a problem that's a lot more common than it used to be, thanks to the proliferation of space-hogging palettes and panels in dozens of programs. Windows' attitude about this clutter can be summed up in three words: Deal with it.

Figure 4-6. Top: Quick! Where's the Apple Web page in all this mess?
Bottom: With one tap of the F9 key, you can spot that window, shrunken but unencumbered and un-overlapped. As your cursor passes over each thumbnail, the window darkens and identifies itself, courtesy of the floating label that appears in its center. What's especially cool is that these aren't static snapshots of the windows at the moment you Exposé'd them. They're live, still-updating windows, as you'll discover if one of them contains a QuickTime movie during playback or a Web page that's still loading. If you're not pointing to a window, tapping F9 again turns off Exposé without changing anything; if you're pointing to a window, tapping F9 again brings it forward.

Mac OS X, thankfully, is more proactive in eliminating window clutter. With a single press of the F9 key, Mac OS X shrinks all windows in all programs to a size that fits on the screen (Figure 4-6). You click the one you want, and you're there. It's called Exposé, and it's fast, efficient, animated, and a lot of fun.

4.3.1. Three Ways to Exposé

That business about finding a buried window on your screen is probably the way you'll use Exposé the most often. But it's actually only one of three Exposé functions. The other ways:

  • Find one window in the current program. A second Exposé keystroke is designed to help you find a certain window only in the program you're using—a feature you'll probably find the most useful when you're Web browsing or word processing. When you tap F10 (the factory setting), all of the windows in the frontmost program spread out (and shrink, if necessary) so that you can see all of them simultaneously, in full—and so that you can click the one you want (see Figure 4-7, top).

    You can even mix this trick with the "heads-up" program switcher described earlier, using -Tab to switch to another program's windows.

  • Return to the desktop. The third keystroke (F11 is the factory setting) may be the stealth breakthrough of Mac OS X. It sends all windows in all programs cowering to the edges of your screen, revealing the desktop beneath in all its uncluttered splendor (Figure 4-7, bottom). There the windows remain forever—or until you tap F11 again, click a visible window edge, click an icon, or take some other window-selection step.

    This feature is a fantastic timesaver. While you're writing an email message, for example, you can tap F11 to jump to the desktop and start dragging an attachment, then press F11 again to return to your message window and drop the file. Or, while you're on the Web, you can tap F11 to survey your desktop, to see if a file has finished downloading and decompressing itself. Finally, if you just get bored, you can just tap F11 to stare at your psychedelic desktop picture.


You can switch among the three Exposé modes (F9, F10, and F11) even after you've triggered one. For example, if you press F10 to shrink only one program's windows, you can then press F11 to see the desktop, and then press F9 to shrink all programs' windows.

4.3.2. Three Triggers for Exposé

Exposé is wonderful and all, but the standard keys for triggering its three functions—F9 to expose all windows, F10 for current-application windows, F11 for show-me-the-desktop—may leave something to be desired. For one thing, they may already be "taken" by other functions in your programs (like Microsoft Word) or even by your computer (like certain PowerBook G4 models, whose F9 and F10 keys adjust the keyboard illumination). For another thing, those keys are at the top of the keyboard where your typing fingers aren't used to going, and you may have to hunt to make sure you're pressing the right one.

Figure 4-7. Top: When you press the F10 key, you get a clear shot at any window in the current program (Safari, in this example). In the meantime, the rest of your screen attractively dims, as though someone has just shined a floodlight onto the windows of the program in question. It's a stunning effect.
Bottom: Tap the F11 key when you need to duck back to the desktop for a quick administrative chore. Here's your chance to find a file, throw something away, eject a disc, or whatever, without having to disturb your application windows. In either case, tap the same function key again to turn off Exposé.

Fortunately, you can reassign the Exposé functions to a huge range of other keys, with or without modifier keys like Shift, Control, and Option. To view your options, choose→ System Preferences and then click the Dashboard & Exposé icon (Figure 4-8).

Figure 4-8. You can trigger Exposé in any of three ways: by twitching your cursor into a certain corner of the screen (top), pressing a key (middle), or clicking the extra buttons on a non-Apple mouse (bottom). Of course, there's nothing to stop you from setting up all three ways, so you can press in some situations and twitch or click in others.

Here, you'll discover that you can trigger Exposé's functions in any of three ways:

  • Screen Corners. The four pop-up menus (Figure 4-8) represent the four corners of your screen. Using these menus, you can assign an Exposé trigger to each corner. If, for example you choose Desktop from the first pop-up menu, when your pointer hits the upper-left corner of the screen, you'll hide all windows and expose the desktop. (To make the windows come back, click any visible edge of a window, or twitch the cursor back into the same corner.) From that pop-up menu, you can pick other options, too, like turning on the screen saver or bringing forward Dashboard (Section 4.4).

  • Keystrokes. Also in the Exposé preferences, you'll find three pop-up menus—"All Windows," "Application Windows," and "Desktop"—that correspond to the three functions of Exposé as described above. You can't assign any old keystroke to Exposé, but you have far more options than the puny F9, F10, and F11 keys.

    Within each pop-up menu, for example, you'll discover that all of your F-keys are available as triggers: F1, F2, F3, and so on. If, while the pop-up menu is open, you press one or more of your modifier keys (Shift, Option, Control, or ), all of these F-key choices change to reflect the key you're pressing; now the pop-up menu says Shift-F1, Shift-F2, Shift-F3, and so on. That's how you can make Shift-F11 trigger the hide-all-windows function, for example.

  • Multiple-button mouse clicks. If you've equipped your Mac with a replacement mouse—one with more than one button—you see a third pane in System Preferences, labeled Mouse. Use these pop-up menus to assign the three Exposé modes to the various clickers on your mouse: right-side click to hide all windows, left-side click to reveal the desktop, and so on.

  • Creative Edge
  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint