Unavailable fullscreen view on Mac is such a shortcoming

As you might now, I’m both a Mac and Windows user. I primarily use my Mac at home and my PC at work, and one thing that really annoys me is the inability to maximize windows in Mac OS X.

I know that most Mac users don’t need that feature, that they don’t see the necessity for it. But just because they personally don’t need it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be there; saying that is just as narrow-minded as the Mac fan boys mocking people who have one single maximized window when using a Mac (and, oh yes, those people do exist).

A picture of the icons in the title bar of every window in Mac OS X

It’s all about choice and what the end users want. And let us all be honest, there are scenarios, more often for some than others, when the possibility to maximize a window would be nice and, dare I say it, useful! I think Apple should change the, as we all know it, fairly inconsistent behavior of the little green icon in every window’s title bar to instead maximize that window.

Alternatively, they could add a fourth icon, but that would just be too much, I think… Besides, how many uses the green icon with its current behavior anyway?


  • I don't really think the green button is inconsistent: it makes the window large enough so that it can display its contents without scrolling (if possible), up to being maximised – or rather, taking up all of the screen except the dock, which admittedly isn't quite the same thing. If the window was maximised every time, you'd just have a window with a lot of empty space.

    All the applications I use that need all of the screen (primarily NetNewsWire and Eclipse) expand to take up all of the screen when I use the green button, so I don't see a problem: after all, Safari displaying BBC News doesn't need to occupy the full 1200 pixel width of my screen. As it doesn't, it's easier to switch back to another app by just clicking on its window.

  • Kanashii says:

    Yeah it's one of the few things I don't like about OS X. Not only does it not maximize to the available space but it isn't even consistent across programs. Firefox for example on my Mac maximizes to the full height but leaves about 4cm to the right unused which seems ever so pointless. At least Camino behaves nicely.

  • Agreed on that one Robert. Also: what's up with conveying information through color? Don't they teach that in schools nowadays?

  • I use the green button a lot and I couldn't be without it.

    That said, there's an app that will change its functionality and make it a real full screen button. Cant remember the url though.

  • Like Nick said, the green button does what it needs to, rather than blindly maximising the window to full width and height, which on my 23" cinema display would be a pretty awful decision most of the time.

    But I'm suprised its not configurable via system settings, as it would help Windows users adapt to OS X.

    There is this: http://macupdate.com/info.php/id/21275
    Not tried it myself, but could be worth a shot if the bugs have been ironed out since the comments were posted?

  • Maarten Leewis says:

    The little green button works great for me in iTunes. That's pretty much the only application i use it in. It keeps the desktop clean. But i don't see any use for a maximise functionality either.

  • I very rarely see the point in maximising windows in Mac OS X but sure, giving users a choice is good I suppose. It should definitely be a system preference setting instead of one more button.

    The forced maximising model in Windows is, in my opinion, an even bigger shortcoming. It is what made fully fluid website layouts impractical. But I guess Windows has to do it that way to compensate for the lack of a consistently placed menu bar.

  • Chris says:

    <sarcasm type="bitter">Why, if it's from apple it's good. If you don't like, you're not good.<sarcasm>

    Seriously, there's a kind of mac-users who are not just users but followers. And I am allergic to the arrogance of these. I mean, yes Windows-PCs do have flaws, but Apples also.

  • Chris says:

    Darn, forgot a /.

  • Dave says:

    I too am a very new Mac user, having made the switch from using Windows at home (still use Windows at work).

    I agree that it is annoying, especially the inconsistency.

    It works well enough for me in Firefox, but with Photoshop- the one app where the user possibly needs as big a canvas as possible – it just does nothing at all πŸ™

  • Nick says:

    Its not really supposed to be a maximize button thats the problem, it feels like it should be coming from windows but its meant as a application mode switcher – for example in itunes it will switch to minimized control panel mode then back to detailed mode. Most other OSX applications use this to switch between user and default application size. All the OSX applications seem to be fairly consistent with that behavior the problem is with its implementation in 3rd party software. If you want full screen certain applications offer this, as dave mentions above – photoshop and other abode products will go full screen: View > Screen Mode > Full Screen. Quite a few other applications have similar features too. I can't actually think of a time where you would actually need full screen anyway, the only argument i can see is that it can be distracting to see other windows in the background but thats what the dock is for – and why they implemented 'spaces' in leopard.

  • Wayne says:

    I got used to it.

  • Jules says:

    It never struck me before that OS X uses colours for these icons: at least with Windows, the purpose of the button can be deduced from the appearance of the icon.

    Therefore, what the H-E-Double hockey sticks does the green button do?



  • Robert Nyman says:

    Thanks all for your comments. What I mean with inconsistent is that while Apple applications work like the original intention was (not saying whether it's a good one or not), third party applications behave in very different ways.

    That's where Windows definitely has the upper hand: no matter if it's a Microsoft application or a third party one, window behavior will be exactly the same for all of them.


    Thanks for the link! Also, I have to say that if any behavior is acting blindly, it''s the green button in Mac OS X… πŸ™‚


    Ah, but the menu bar in Windows is just as consistent. It is always at top of the current window you're working with.


    I'm allergic to fanatic followers as well, no matter which company they worship. I think people has to be humble and accept that every product has flaws. If we can't accept shortcomings for what they are, how are we supposed to address them?

    With that said, naturally it is also in the eye of the beholder what actually is a shortcoming.


    My take is that third party application manufacturers shouldn't have to worry about making it consistent with Apple's desired behavior; it should be default in the operating system.

    And lots of people want to use maximized windows on the Mac, like it or not, so personally I'd rather see that their needs were met than just trying to convince them to work in another manner than they want to.


    Ha! Good call!

  • Ah, but the menu bar in Windows is just as consistent. It is always at top of the current window you’re working with.

    Yes, and that is why you have to maximise every application for the menu bar to always be at the same position on the screen.

  • Rowan Lewis says:

    Roger, the reason I maximize my Windows is because there is no need to see the desktop when browsing, working in Photoshop or another such program.

    There are plenty of other programs that do not need to be maximized to be used, for example Gaim, which I usually keep hidden.

    However, I can see how someone coming from a Mac background would need to maximize all windows to keep the menu bar in its predictable location.

    Whatever you do with issues about usability, just don't assume that your position is correct, because it can't be without making someone else's position incorrect. People don't like that at all.

  • Robert Nyman says:


    Ok, I see what you mean. But then I think the Mac environment is even more inconsistent. You have the menu bar for an application at one place, and the icons for minimizing/closing at a completely other.

    And, even worse, you can use an application where the window of it fills up the entire screen, but if another application has focus, you will see the menu bar for that one instead.

    I.e., if a Firefox window fills the entire screen, but the focus is set to Finder (with no open windows), I will see the Firefox content, but the menu bar for Finder. Not that good…

  • Michael says:

    I agree to 100%.

  • Anders says:

    It's quite simple to make it a maximize button. Use the little hatchmarks in the bottom-right corner of each window (I'm specifying this because for a long time I couldn't figure out how to resize windows) to resize your current window to as large as it can be. Click the green + button, then click it again, and it will go back to being fullscreen, and will remember in the future to fullscreen upon clicking of the +.

    In several cases, style trumps functionality, and that is the biggest flaw of OS X.

  • Robert Nyman says:




    Yes, I noticed that too. Wonder if that applies between restarts, though…

  • Mr Skills says:

    Making a window full-screen without the button is easy (just drag the bottom-right corner as far as it will go). Making a window 'appropriate size' is more fiddly to do. So it makes sense for the button to do the latter.

    So in theory the Mac way makes more sense – but I agree that the implementation is a little sloppy.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    Mr Skills,

    Well, if it had been consistent for all programs, I could've lived with it. But as of now, it's just annoying.

  • J.E. Highley says:

    Just wasted minutes of my life reading through these responses. People, it doesn’t matter if you disagree with others wanting to fully maximize — Some people want it & that doesn’t mean they’re inferior to the gene pool: it’s personal preference, deal.

    Myself, I like OS X a lot, but spend most of my mac time on a 12″ iBook with very limited screen real estate, so a full screen stretch feature is invaluable…. Irregardless of your blind faith in Apple, the green button doesn’t work like it’s supposed to much of the time, and on a small screen it behaves erratically. Apple made a mistake by not leaving their users this option of functionality, that should be obvious by the thousands of posts related to this dumb little flub in OS X.

    So, ‘want a solution?


    Google & download a little shareware app called “iKey” Take 5 minutes to figure out how to setup a keystroke combination that will expand windows to full screen (this is not difficult & you don’t need to be a computer genius to figure it out, relax) Then, whenever you want to expand your screen type the keys you assign. It works.

    If you absolutely need a little button to press, take an hour to learn: Google & download “Butler” (also shareware) & set up a “Docket” icon to activate the iKey keyboard shortcut you’ve already set up (see previous paragraph)

    It’s a pain, but if you really want it, thar be a solution. Aargh!

    Okay, fine, if you’re totally lazy, here’s the direct links:



  • Fizz says:

    Lack of a maximise button on a Mac is one of the worst usability problems around. Ironic that Apple prides itself on usability and interface design.

    So many times at work I've watched Mac users "maximise" their windows by first moving the window to the upper left, then clicking and dragging the bottom right. What a waste of time!

    One of the reasons Apple thinks maximise isn't needed is because drag and drop is no longer available. Yet, how often are we really dragging and dropping? File management is the stuff you do *between* using the applications. We aren't dragging files around the whole time. And switching between apps can be done with Apple-tab just like a PC.

    That PC Guy on those TV ads should tell that little Mac-man to go maximise himself.

  • Robert Nyman says:

    J.E. Highley,

    Great, thanks for the tip!


    <blockquote cite="http://www.robertnyman.com/2006/11/02/unavailable-fullscreen-view-on-mac-is-such-a-shortcoming/#comment-42209"&gt;

    That PC Guy on those TV ads should tell that little Mac-man to go maximise himself.

    He he he. πŸ™‚

  • Brian says:

    I maximize everything I use on my computer.

    Sure I can understand arguments against it when you are on a 20" screen with a huge resolution, but I am more of a laptop guy and maximizing is what I have always done.

    Mac os doesn't care about me or computer users like me because they don't give me BASIC features that computer users like me have used for years.

    Get with times apple… learn to take ideas from windows like vista takes from mac os x (ok that one was for you mac guys).

  • Stan says:

    @J.E. Highley

    See that's the problem with a mac. You have to download some plugin or fix to get it to work the way you want it to. It's works right out of the box right… after you install plugins… lol.

    Mac can't deliver a basic operating system feature that was developed over 10 years ago. They are forcing the user to use the computer the way apple wants them to. Even on their apple.com website they state that mac os x isn't best for those who like maximized windows.

  • Chris says:

    I will explain why full screening a window is essential for some people. Personally, and I'm sure I'll be speaking for quite a few.

    My main reason for full screening a window is because I find the desktop and other layered windows that I'm not working on a huge distraction. Maybe I just have OCD or someting, but it really bothers me when I can see the desktop behind the application I'm working on.

    Another reason is as a graphic designer, when I view my work, I need to see how a page is laid out with a flat grey background. This background is displayed easily when full screened, only requiring a couple of quick keystrokes to zoom out. The green button only crops the window to the edges of my image, cutting off that grey mat. As most graphic designers and artists, I zoom out and compare my work constantly. So, you could see how resizing that window all the time could get quite annoying. If you're not a graphic designer, artist or photogropher, you may not know what Im talking about, but I thought I would share anyway.

    Also, only being able to manually resize a window from the bottom right corner is really annoying too.

  • jeremy says:

    back in the day… (ie os9 etc) you could click on the maximise button and it woudl do the apple style maximise (to fit content) *or* you could option-click on the maximise button and it woudl maximise to window size.

    handy. i liked it. wish it was here now.

    when you have as many apps open as i do, and diminishing cognitive space as the day wears on, blocking other things out is really helpful for concentration.

  • Poorani says:

    Full screen is nice for when you want to give slide presentations. If you want to make your slides in html, it would be nice if Safari (or Firefox) to be full screen then.

  • Kael says:

    Apple could mac it so easy ("intuitive") —

    Just option-green button

    or apple-green button

    or cntl-green button if you want contextual menus

    Why do I say "intuitive"? Because that's what I just tried and it didn't work. ARGGHHH!

    C'mon Apple!

  • dennis says:

    Fizz wrote:

    [… That PC Guy on those TV ads should tell that little Mac-man to go maximise himself.]

    LOL … full ack


  • Martin says:

    <blockquote cite="Roger, the reason I maximize my Windows is because there is no need to see the desktop when browsing, working in Photoshop or another such program.

    There are plenty of other programs that do not need to be maximized to be used, for example Gaim, which I usually keep hidden.

    However, I can see how someone coming from a Mac background would need to maximize all windows to keep the menu bar in its predictable location.">

    I sometimes have a need to see the Desktop when working with OS X, what people seem to forget Mac OS is a very drag and drop operating system, for example if i'm browsing the web and there is a particular piece of text or picture I want to refer back to at a latter time, I just drag it to the desktop, with text it creates a clipboard cutting of the text and with a picture it's like right clicking and save image as in windows. Try it out, it's really quite useful.

    If you learn to use a Mac the way in which Apple intended you will find it's a lot more intuitive and easier to use than windows, although having said that, sometimes, not always but sometimes it comes in handy having a window maximize to fullscreen. But the green button maximizes to show all contents of the window without the need for scrolling, (if it can) in my opinion, why have the window fill up the screen with useless space? What's the point in having say the google homepage with a lot of white empty space all over the screen like you'd get if running a web browser in fullscreen on windows.

  • solidox says:

    what people seem to forget Mac OS is a very drag and drop operating system, for example if i’m browsing the web and there is a particular piece of text or picture I want to refer back to at a latter time, I just drag it to the desktop, with text it creates a clipboard cutting of the text and with a picture it’s like right clicking and save image as in windows. Try it out, it’s really quite useful.

    If you learn to use a Mac the way in which Apple intended you will find it’s a lot more intuitive and easier to use than windows

    You can do all that with a maximised window. The Fx keys still work and you can do "click, drag, F11, drop". Or like I do, with hot corners that show the desktop.

    But most of all, I think I can choose for myself if I want to have a maximized window for whatever or a partial window to drag stuff off it. What, I can't learn how to drag&drop AND maximize windows, wtf ?

    I don't give a crap about OS wars, but saying "the lack of maximize is an awesome feature because you can drag and drop, dude! awesome!" is retarded.

    Some people need it, some don't, that's all there is to it.

  • David Winter says:

    Seems I'm late to the debate, but as a writer who has returned to the Mac from a ten year Windows diaspora, I'd like to support the "full screen" believers.

    I strongly believe that other than computers, people (especially men) are not meant to multitask. We are just not wired that way (any intro level book about the evolution of the brain will tell you why).

    For this reason, I try to remove all visual distraction when working. That means: When I read (or write), much like with a physical book, I do not want to see dozens of buttons, sliders or other GUI widgets. Just text will do, thank you, and if I feel like dragging + dropping something from A to B (happens two times a week), I will resize the window to do that.

    Now you can say a lot of bad things about Windows, but the typical Windows app will allow you to switch off all those annoying "bars" and guides, so you can literally strip the thing once you know all the key shortcuts.

    A Mac app will (due to the different philosophy with regards to menus and their relation to windows) always leave some chrome on screen that just cannot be switched off. And this *is* distracting. There are a few exceptions like the fullscreen modes for media players (VLC, QuickTime) and Keynotes, but for me, this is not enough.

    I love my Mac, and I preach the advantages of its minimalistic GUI concept to everyone. But it ends with the windows chrome (menu bar, scroll-bars and the three buttons) – they will always stay onscreen.

    As a grown-up who does not need these visual crutches, I'd like to switch these visual aids off and make whatever window I am currently working on full-screen – no handles, no scroll-bars; just the pure content (text, image, whatever).

    Is that really too much to ask for?

  • josh says:

    you can hit option command D to hid and show your dock so if you hid your dock you can stretch your page out even more the only other thing is

    megazoomer you can download it for mac

    well thats all hope this helped peace out

  • As a new mac user I'm considering returning to my pc where I can get wordperfect instead of microsoft word – the absence of the reveal codees feature on word makes me feel like I'm writing blind. The word help menu is useless.

    As for gettting a full screen, this is also a downside for me as I like a full, plain screen with no distractions. Even when I tucked safari et al into the applicaitons folder, I'm still left with the trash basket and Finder. Isn't there a way I can eliminate these?

    The only feature of the mac that I find attractive is that it's supposedly less vulnerable to viruses. Otrherwise, it's like a piece of candy – alot of visuals but really no different.

  • ss says:

    i'm a lifelong mac user, and this is the single most frustrating thing i've ever had to deal with with the mac. from time to time, i google "full screen mac", just to see what comes up, and there was never a good solution until the brilliant menufela, which did EXACTLY what i've always wanted on the mac; not just full screen, but full screen, hiding the menu bar, and auto hide on the menu bar, so IT'S STILL THERE IF YOU NEED IT, just scroll up, got it mac zealots? i never use the friggin menu bar anyway, unless to learn some new shortcuts on a new app.

    the 2 things which were stated in this thread that were most poignant, was the guy who mentioned, and there are plenty of silly mac zealots out there who defend this; you'll see them right after this post i'm sure, that say, “the lack of maximize is an awesome feature", albeit not in the exact words, but they'll FIERCELY DEFEND THE LACK OF A FEATURE, even if it's an option THEY DON'T HAVE TO USE. i personally like the ability to maximize a window for maximum size on a small screen, like my laptop, i.e. because of limited screen real estate. and yes, it is very frustrating when, as the other post, which stated, "So many times at work I’ve watched Mac users “maximiseâ€Β their windows by first moving the window to the upper left, then clicking and dragging the bottom right. What a waste of time!"

    now, mac zealots… idiots… i love mac os, i really do, even though you morons are going to tell me that if i want this feature to go use windows; but for you imbeciles who like to waste your time "maximizing" a window by moving it and dragging the lower right corner, or using small windows. you can still choose to have it that way if you wish; you don't HAVE to use the windows full screen if you don't want to. windows windows have the full screen option, or you can use them smaller, like mac windows.

    are we proud mac users going to defend a lack of a feature, and option, and criticize windows for having superior window handling, i.e. more options? if you want to have a cluttered wacky window system, fine with me, what you do on your computer is your business, but give me, and the rest of us who desire some better functionality, that OPTION.

  • ss says:

    ps- i just realized this was first published back in '06, yet, as of this writing, in feb 09, mac os still doesn't have the ability to maximize its windows to full screen. somebody help, please.

  • Gina says:

    I despise that i cannot maximize a window on my mac. it's infuriating! The green button is spastic and rarely does anything useful. I end up toggling the zoom sizes of the text praying it'll help. And it totally destroys how deviantart works. Someone needs to fix this before i decide i just can't stand being a mac person and admit to being a religious PC

  • foxen77 says:


    I just bought my first mac (mac pro notebook 13 inc)

    i am a windows user at work and home too.

    and first thing i ask a mac user friend was how to blow up windows in fullscreen.

    this is the first bad thing i had with mac so far. but a critical part. MUST BE FIXED ASAP!

  • foxen77 says:

    well i came to this site cause i googled "how to fullscreen mac"


  • Leonie says:

    Thanks all, this is a very useful page. I'm contemplating getting a Mac – the 13" MacBook is unfortunately all I can stretch to – but most of my work is in Word and I am beginning to wonder about a Mac now, despite everyone singing its praises… I mean, why can't I get the option to see just my document (and be able to read it too) without squinting at text and making myself half blind?? I'm sure they have their uses and look funky etc etc etc but this seems downright daft. Pull your socks up Apple. I mean, presumably you don't have to download some sort of app to close the darn thing too…?!


  • Mathias says:

    Right Zoom

    "Right Zoom utility is created for people who don't like a default behaviour of green Zoom button in Mac OS X programs. This small program changes its behaviour, so a green button will always maximize your windows to all available screen space instead of inconvenient resizing. You will also be able to maximize the active window with Command + Option + E keys (can be customised).

    The program changes a behaviour of most annoying examples of inconvenient zoom button behaviour (Finder, Safari, MS Office, Pages etc). You can easily extend this list with your own applications.

    You can customise it to expand the windows with Option key pressed only, or use your own hotkey to expand windows to a full size.

    More options are available to customise. Hold Cmd key on program startup to configure its options."

  • I all, i am very happy to hear other people that have the same problem I have. What annoys me most about not being able te get full screen is taht scrolling the scrol bar ends often in hitting the window underneath which obliges me to go back to the original window.

    Indeed why not have a full screen option?



  • Dr. Dave says:

    Old guy. Bad eyes. A maximized Mac window doesn't do it. If I zoom in there is so little in the visible window I have to scroll while 1/3 of the width of my Mac Book Pro screen goes unused. What a waste. Need to be able to expand the window manually like Windows allows or needs a horizontal maximize button.

    Dr. Dave

  • Kamran Ashraf says:

    I totally agree that Fullscreen feature is essential. As an I.T Professional i can manage things, having to maximize each time or having a shortcut to maximize any open window but its hard for others. On a Macbook Pro 17" i found it very difficult to satisfy our Director to maximize the windows this way or that but he kept on asking to maximize it when he opens any application as it has a big screen. I had no other option to reduce the screen resolution…. Surely ikey looks good and i will try it… Thanks the user who posted it πŸ˜€

  • Daniel says:

    Aaah, finally a man with some common sence. I searched the web for a post like this on my macbook air and i hate the fact that i cant maximise my browser. Its not that i would get a much bigger work area, its just that i think the background and dock and everything else that is visible when i just want to use one program confuses me and makes me distracted. I have a PC too and this is one of the things that make me use my PC if im not at a cafe or somewhere else i find my air useful.

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