Newbie question - purpose of "red X" at top left of window

Discussion in 'Mac Basics and Help' started by jasimon9, May 7, 2009.

  1. jasimon9 macrumors regular

    Mar 11, 2009
    As far as I can tell, the red X closes the window but leaves the program running. The yellow minus minimizes the window into the dock.

    It seems there is very little purpose to the red X "close but leave running" function. Why bother?

    Perhaps in ancient times our forefather's and foremother's machines were so slow and resource bound, that the slight saving of memory and faster startup was an advantage with the red x over quiting the program entirely.

    But there also seems to be a drawback to "close but leave running." Namely, when you click on the icon in the dock, or select in the cmd-tab "floating dock" or whatever it is called, you bring the program to the "foreground" but with no windows open. This serves no purpose at all except to drive me nuts, as the system in that case "is not doing what it is supposed to do." Instead it does "nothing."

    So I am trying to train myself not to click the red x, to avoid that frustration.

    In addition, the subtle difference between the following are somewhat confusing, and I am not yet able to use them efficiently:

    • cmd-w
    • cmd-q
    • cmd-h
    • red X
    • yellow minus
  2. GimmeSlack12 macrumors 603


    Apr 29, 2005
    San Francisco
    Welcome to Macintosh.

    Leaving the program "open" even if no windows are open makes 100% sense to me. In fact on Windows I hate having to reload MS Excel or Word just because I closed all of it's windows. Don't get me started on Photoshop.

    Apples and Oranges my friend.
  3. BlueRevolution macrumors 603


    Jul 26, 2004
    Montreal, QC
    I agree that it's a bit confusing, but there are plenty of applications that perform tasks in the background but which you wouldn't want to have on your screen all the time. For example: iChat, iTunes, Transmission (or Safari while downloading things), Mail, and so forth. As GimmeSlack12 points out, there are still applications which take too long to load, such as Adobe Creative Suite. Sometimes I'll be running Pages writing a paper, feel like taking a break, and use command+H instead of saving and quitting. (Side note: I'd never trust Word enough to make it go away without saving my work.)

    You just have to get used to the idea that when you want an application to go away and not come back, you have to quit it. I agree that hide and close are only subtly different, but minimize is useful when you have multiple windows of an application open and you want to make only one of them go away.

    Of course, with my three monitors, I don't hide stuff much. ;)

    For the record, command+W and the red X are the same thing, as well as command+M and the minus.
  4. aristobrat macrumors G5

    Oct 14, 2005
    ... because I like to leave my email program (and other apps, like iTunes) running all the time, but I don't need their windows cluttering up my screen 24x7.
  5. angelwatt Moderator emeritus


    Aug 16, 2005
    Yea, it's mostly just your transition, which should be expected when dealing with any new OS. There are some apps that will close when you press the red button such as System Preferences because it can't have multiple windows. A number of apps can have multiple windows though. In those programs each window is thought of as a document, not the app. So, like what GimmeSlack12 said, when in Office just because you close a document doesn't mean you're ready to close the app.
  6. maxrobertson macrumors 6502a

    Jun 15, 2006
    Do you really want to wait for slowass microsoft and adobe products to start up again just because you accidently closed the last window? There's absolutely no reason not to have this behavior. For those of us who like it, great. If you don't like it, use Application Name > Quit instead of the close button. It's not like computers are so slow nowadays that we can't have as many programs as we want open, just waiting to be used.
  7. themoonisdown09 macrumors 601


    Nov 19, 2007
    Georgia, USA
    I agree. I don't like how in Windows, you can't have an application running without it cluttering your taskbar. Outlook can minimize into the system tray, but it's still annoying.

    I can see how it would take some getting used to, but you'll see how it's better once you find some good uses for it.
  8. jasimon9 thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 11, 2009
    So ...

    * cmd-w => red X
    * cmd-m => yellow minus
    * cmd-q => Application > Quit
    * cmd-h => ?

    There also seems to be some differences in whether and how the program
    goes into the dock or not.

    One thing related to these issues -- i am sometimes having trouble getting a running program visible again. It has the white dot to indicate that it is running, but clicking on it does nothing. I flounder about to try to get it back.
  9. DarkJaye macrumors member

    May 11, 2009
    It makes sense to me, however, it doesn't make sense to me that it's never consistent behaviour. Half the time I avoid the red X because I don't know if it's just going to close the window or quit the application.

    And while we're on the subject, what's the defined purpose of the Green "+" button?
  10. angelwatt Moderator emeritus


    Aug 16, 2005
    cmd-h => Application > Hide Application

    I sometimes have that issue too with programs not wanting to pop back up. For me it's usually because the CPU is busy and trying to catch up with me or the application in question is choking on something.
  11. jasimon9 thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 11, 2009
    Following my previous post ...


    cmd-q, App > Quit, when done with app for now
    cmd-h, App > Hide, reduce clutter temporarily
    cmd-m, yellow minus, reduce clutter
    cmd-w, red X, reduce clutter; avoid long start up for some

    Note: commas inserted to make "columns of table" more apparent.

    I still don't feel this is a complete list, or the best explanation. In general for me, it seems red X is mostly wasted as I am not experiencing slow start ups.

    It seems to me the most important factor might be "what you have to do to get the window visible again." Sometimes I have trouble, as when I click on the running app in the dock, nothing happens.
  12. angelwatt Moderator emeritus


    Aug 16, 2005
    It's mostly allowing for people's individual working habits and personal preferences. For myself, I mostly use Hide and Quit. I rarely use minimize or just close a window (without quitting). Most of my apps are single window as well, which lends itself to my tendencies.
  13. GimmeSlack12 macrumors 603


    Apr 29, 2005
    San Francisco
    It's typically consistent behavior, except for maybe System Prefs.

    The green button is a whole other can of worms. Let's just say it expands windows.
  14. afd macrumors 6502a

    Apr 12, 2005
    if an app is running, cmd-n will open up a new window.
  15. IgnatiusTheKing macrumors 68040


    Nov 17, 2007
    das Fort
    The "red X"/cmd-W closes a single window. You may often find that you have multiple windows open within an application (for instance, if you have multiple browser windows open). If you want to close one window, use cmd-W or the red x; if you want to quit the app entirely and close all the windows associated with it, use cmd-Q or Application Menu > Quit Application.

    Cmd-H hides an entire application and all its windows. If you use cmd-H to hide an app, the easiest way to get it back onscreen is to click that application's icon in the Dock. You can also go to the Application Menu and choose "Show All"

    If you use the yellow dash or double-click the title bar of a window, it minimizes that window to the Dock. To reinstate it, click the icon in the Dock for that particular window, which will be near the trash can (not the icon for the application itself).
  16. jnc macrumors 68020


    Jan 7, 2007
    Nunya, Business TX

    It makes a window "as large as it needs to be" to display the screen's information...whereas "full screen"-ing it by dragging the "triangle" in the bottom right corner of a screen may leave blank areas to the sides of the content, reducing the potential for productivity.
  17. arogge macrumors 65816


    Feb 15, 2002
    I don't like how some applications quit if they have no more windows open, but other applications stay open. There should be a way to tell OS X when to quit an application if it has no windows open.
  18. jamesarm97 macrumors 65816

    Sep 29, 2006
    What I hate is when I close the Finder or Safari window, then click on the dock icon, most of the time the app comes to the foreground but does not display the finder window or browser. I would think that if you click the finder icon it should always display the old window if it is minimized or a new one if you closed the last one with the X. It is just an extra step to have to press CMD-N.
  19. swingerofbirch macrumors 68040

    Oct 24, 2003
    The Amalgamated States of Central North America
    Except in iTunes for example where it turns it into an entirely different UI format (the mini iTunes window). Which can be really really annoying if you change screen resolutions which makes the bottom of the iTunes window beneath the dock and you can't get to the resize grab thingee in the bottom right hand corner.

    I agree with the OP that some things don't make sense. There are too many to list but for example, if you hit Command-M in iChat and then want to maximize the window buddy list again, you can hit command-1. I do this a lot. It's very helpful.

    But say you're in mail and hit command-M. Then hit command-1 and it won't bring mail back up. Now you may say, the Mail window isn't shortcutted to come up with Command-1. This is true; however, if you close the Mail window (command-W) and then hit command-1 it will reappear, implying there is a keyboard shortcut that's just not listed in the menu or fully implemented.
  20. challiman macrumors member

    May 7, 2009
    Now even more confused

    Mac is 10 days old. I thought I understood the red, green and yellow circles, now I don't.

    I am changing from a PC and so I'll explain what I did there to see what I'm doing wrong now. I use AOL for email, and often had that running in the background and a travel forum, Fodor's, in the foreground. This is just leisure stuff, no work whatsoever. I could see both programs and to switch between them I'd just click on the one in back and it would come to the front. Back and forth. If I wanted to pull up other things I'd go to the address bar when it was on AOL and type in the address and it would go off to that site.
    So, now, I have Safari up and bookmarked AOL, Fodor's, and these forums (that's as far as I've gotten, though there are other items on that bar that appeared when I started up the computer). When I want to go back and forth I have to keep clicking the bookmarks, which doesn't exactly do what I want it to do. It goes to AOL where I'm already signed in, but I have to sign in to Fodor's every time.
    And now comes this discussion about the red, green and yellow buttons and I'm sure I'm doing this all wrong. I plan to visit the Apple Store next week (I live two hours away) and get some clarification, but I'd feel better if I could get some advice about this now.
    PS: I do not have AOL downloaded on my Mac, just going through Safari and got it that way. Not sure if that would make an difference.
    It boils down to can I have two pages open in two different programs at the same time, one in front and one in back, that can be accessed just by clicking somewhere on the program? Or will they always shrink away into the Dock? I am so confused.
  21. jzuena macrumors 6502a


    Feb 21, 2007
    Lexington, MA, USA
    You are viewing two web pages from one application (Safari), not running two applications. AOL is good enough to use a cookie to remember your login information, Fodors is not. Clicking on the bookmarks changes what web page is loaded on the current window in Safari. Instead of that, go to the menu at the top of the screen and click on File and then New Window.
    From this new window go to the bookmarks and click on Fodors. Now to go back to AOL you can either hit F9 to expose both of the Safari windows so that you can choose which one to use, or move the Safari window with Fodors out of the way to show the window with AOL. At this point you could also click the yellow minus on the Fodors window to minimise it to the dock, revealing your AOL window still on the screen. To get back to Fodors, find the web page icon next to the trash can with a small Safari icon in the lower right corner and click on it to restore your Fodors window. Repeat this for other websites you want to go to and you won't have to keep logging into Fodors.

    To cut down on clutter, instead of clicking on File then New Window, try File then New Tab. You will have only one window running Safari, but right under the bookmarks bar there will be tabs with the names of your websites for easy switching among them.
  22. IgnatiusTheKing macrumors 68040


    Nov 17, 2007
    das Fort
    If you have two Safari windows open, the easiest way to cycle between the two is to use the command-` shortcut (that key in in the upper left, under the esc button, that also has the ~ on it).

    If you want to cycle between two different applications (say, Safari and Mail, for instance), try the command-tab shortcut. And if you hold down the command key whilst tapping the tab key, you will see a representation of every running application.

    Every time you tap the tab button, it cycles to the next one. When you let go of the command button, it moves the highlighted application to the front.
  23. neutrino23 macrumors 68000

    Feb 14, 2003
    SF Bay area
    I don't understand this.

    If Finder is not the frontmost program and I click its icon in the doc then the Finder comes to the front and opens a new Finder window. The same with Safari. No need to use Command-N.

    However, if I use Command-Tab to cycle to the Finder or Safari then it behaves as you describe.

    Regarding the current topic, I like the way that programs stay resident even if there are no open windows. It saves a lot of time. In some projects I may have a dozen programs running. I want instant access to all of them.

    When I have to use Windows I'm frustrated that the programs keep quitting when I don't want them to.

    Paraphrasing an earlier post, it's Apples and lemons.
  24. d wade macrumors 65816

    d wade

    Jun 27, 2006
    Boca Raton, FL
    just do the easy thing, create spaces, have a window for your most common apps, and use a hot corner to quickly shuffle between all of them

    its the fastest and easiest way of leaving everything open while keeping your desktop completely clean
  25. challiman macrumors member

    May 7, 2009
    Hmmmm, I see them on the dock but have yet to do anything with them. I honestly wish I could have a physical manual on this stuff. I like to underline and highlight and READ the info and be able to refer to it until I get it down.
    So, spaces, guess I'll ask about them but will go now and see what that does.

    OK, I found that and will see what that will do for me. It looks more like they're talking two applications, not two pages from the same application, as in my example of AOL and Fodor's. Still confused. :confused:

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