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

The window is the basis for the graphical user interface. This style of interface was first popularized by Apple and later by Microsoft, but Xerox developed the first graphical windowing operating system more than a decade before the first Mac or Windows computer ever saw daylight.

Most windows are rectangular, but irregular shapes are allowed too. (See “Windows Media Player” in Chapter 4 for an example.) Standard windows have a titlebar across the top, which, in addition to identifying the window and the currently open document (if applicable), is used as a handle with which to move the window around the screen (see Figure 3-34). The titlebar also shows which window is currently active; depending on your color settings (set through Control Panel Display Appearance tab Advanced), the titlebar of active window will typically appear darker than the others. (Small floating toolbars in some applications ignore this rule, always appearing either inactive or active.)

Figure 3-36. A garden-variety window, complete with title, menu, and client area

The elements commonly found on window titlebars are described below (any or all might be missing, depending on the type of window).

Control Menu

Click the icon on the upper-left corner of a window or press Alt-Spacebar to display the control menu, which duplicates the Minimize, Maximize, and Close buttons and provides Move and Resize options (see below). Double-click the control menu icon to close the window.

Dialog boxes typically don’t have control menu icons, but the menu is still there and can be accessed with Alt-Spacebar. The standard entries in the control menu are present to make it possible to move, resize, minimize, maximize, and close the window with the keyboard. For example, press Alt-Space and then S to resize a window with the cursor keys.

Some windows have additional functions in this menu, especially if those applications don’t have full-blown menus. Good examples are the control menus of Windows Explorer and single-folder windows, which are the same as the context menus of the icons that open them. Navigate to c:\My\Stuff and click the control menu, and you’ll get the same options as though you right-clicked on the Stuff icon in the c:\My folder. This, for example, lets you delete a folder without having to first open its parent. You can also drag the control menu icon to move or copy the folder as though you were dragging the folder’s icon.

If you see two control menus, one on top of the other, you’re using an application (such as a word processor) that can have one or more document windows open simultaneously; see the description of Multiple Document Interface below.


Click Minimize to hide a window so that only its task button on the Taskbar is visible. See “Taskbar”, earlier in this chapter, for details.

Maximize/ Restore

Maximize a window to have it fill the screen. Click the maximize button again to restore it to its free-floating position and size. You can also double-click the titlebar to maximize and restore a window.


Close a window. This is usually the same as selecting File Close or File Exit, or at least it’s supposed to be. Double-clicking the control menu icon also closes windows, as does Alt-F4.

Most, but not all, windows can be resized by grabbing any edge with the mouse and dragging. Some windows have an additional resize handle on the lower-right corner, which can be a little easier to get a purchase on than the edges.

Multiple Document Interface (MDI) applications have windows within windows, usually allowing multiple documents to be open simultaneously. The MDI parent window, the container of the document windows, usually has a Window menu, which allows you to switch to any open documents and provides some features to arrange the documents visually (Cascade, Tile, etc.). Some applications (Corel’s WordPerfect and Qualcomm’s Eudora, to name a few) have incorporated a clever Taskbar for their MDI applications, making it easy to manage several document without having to use the somewhat awkward Window menu.

See “Taskbar”, earlier in this chapter, for more information on MDI applications and how some newer Microsoft applications are abandoning this design.

Here are some keyboard shortcuts for working with windows:

  • Alt-Tab switches between open application windows. Hold Shift to go in reverse.

  • Ctrl-Tab (or Ctrl-F6) switches between open documents in an MDI application window. Again, hold Shift to go in reverse.

  • Alt-Esc sends the current window to the bottom of the pile and activates the next one in line.

  • Alt-F4 closes the current application window. Ctrl-F4 closes the current document in an MDI application window.

  • If a window has multiple panes (such as Windows Explorer), use F6 or Ctrl-Tab to switch between them.



Not a subscriber?

Start A Free Trial

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