- 5.3. Exposé: Death to Window Clutter
In its day, the concept of overlapping windows on the screen was brilliant, innovative,
and extremely effective. (Apple borrowed this idea from a research lab called Xerox
PARC.) In that era before digital cameras, MP3 files, and the Web, managing your
windows was easy this way; after all, you had only about three of them.
These days, however, managing all the open windows in all the open programs can be
like herding cats. Off you go, burrowing through the microscopic pop-up menus of your
taskbar buttons (Windows) or the Dock (Mac OS X 10.5), trying to find the window you
want. And heaven help you if you need to duck back to the desktop—to find a newly
downloaded file, for example, or eject a disk. You'll have to fight your way through
50,000 other windows on your way to the bottom of the "deck."
Exposé represents the first fresh look at this problem in decades. The concept is
delicious: With the press of the F9 key, Mac OS X shrinks all windows in all programs to
a size that fits on the screen (Figure 5-4), like index cards on a bulletin board. You click
the one you want, and you're there. It's fast, efficient, animated, and a lot of fun.
Note: On the superth in aluminum Apple keyboards, use the F3 key instead of F9. The
painful details are in the box below.
A Tedious Sidebar about the Aluminum Apple Keyboards
Do you have the superthin aluminum Apple keyboard (the wireless one, or the
aluminum iMac one)? If so, the keystrokes described in this chapter don't not
On that keyboard, the F9, F10, and F11 keys—the keys you need for Exposé—
are mapped to the Mac's speaker volume!
Fortunately, the most often used Exposé function, the one that exposes all open
windows at once, has its own special key on this keyboard: the F3 key.
So you're covered there: press F3 instead of F9. But what about the other two
Exposé functions, normally triggered by F10 and F11?
Method 1: Add the Control key (to Exposé one application's windows only) or
- the key (to see the desktop). That is, instead of F11 to expose the desktop,
you should press -F3.
Method 2: Hold down the Fn key. If you do that, then you can use the F9, F10,
and F11 keys like everybody else. (Lots of Fn details are on Section P3.3.1.)
Kind of a drag, right?
Method 3: Actually, there's a final twist to all this. In System Preferences
Keyboard & Mouse, you'll find a checkbox that reverses this logic. It's called
"Use all F1, F2, etc. keys as standard function keys."
If that checkbox is on, then you can use F9, F10, and F11 to trigger Exposé
exactly as described in this chapter. Now you need the Fn key only when you
want those keys to adjust the volume.
5.3.1. More Ways to Exposé
That business about finding a buried window on your screen is probably the way you'll
use Exposé most often. But it's actually only one of three Exposé functions. The other
Figure 5-4. Top: Quick! Where's the Apple Web page in all this mess?
Bottom: With a tap of the F9 key, you can spot that window, shrunken but not
overlapped. As your cursor passes over each thumbnail, the window darkens and
identifies itself, courtesy of the floating label 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.
- 126.96.36.199. 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—great when you're Web browsing or word processing. When you
tap F10 (the factory setting), all of the windows in the front most program spread out and
shrink, if necessary, so you can see all of them simultaneously, in full—and so you can
click the one you want (see Figure 5-5, top).
Note: As noted in the box on Section 5.3.1, you may have to add the Fn key (that is, press
Fn+F9) if you have Apple's superthin, iMa -style keyboard.
And now, tips:
• While your application windows are arrayed before you, tap the Tab key to switch
to the next running program. All of its windows spring to the fore, and all of the
other programs' windows grow dim. (Shift-Tab, as usual, cycles through the
programs in the opposite direction.)
• Suppose you pressed F9 to shrink all programs' windows, but you decide that what
you really meant to do was press F10 to see only one program's windows. The
solution is to press the Tab key, which switches you into F10 mode, dimming (and
restoring to full size) all programs' windows but one. At this point, you can press
Tab or Shift-Tab to cycle through the open programs as described in the preceding
Here's another way to change programs once you've "F10'ed" your windows: Press -
Tab to bring up the "heads-up display" application switcher (yes, even while your
windows are shrunken). Tab your way through the program icons (Figure 5-5) until the
one you want is selected, and then release the keys. That program's windows spring to the
front, still miniaturized and arrayed for your selection pleasure.
188.8.131.52. Return to the desktop
The third keystroke (F11 is the factory setting) may be the most useful of all. It sends all
windows in all programs cowering to the edges of your screen, revealing the desktop
beneath in all its uncluttered splendor (Figure 5-5, bottom). There they remain—forever,
or until you tap F11 again, click a visible window edge, double-click an icon, or take
some other window-selection step.
- Note: Once again: On Apple's superthin, iMa -style keyboard, press Fn+F11 instead.
See the box on Section 5.3.1
This is a spectacular opportunity to save headache and hassle in situations like these:
• You're writing an email message, and you want to attach a file. Tap F11, root
around in the Finder until you locate the file you want. Begin to drag it, and then
tap F11 again to bring back your email window. Move your cursor, with the file in
middrag, directly over the outgoing message window; release the cursor to create
Tip: You can apply the same life-changing shortcut to dragging a graphic into
some page-layout program, a folder of photos into iPhoto, a sound or graphic into
iMovie, and so on.
Figure 5-5. 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 disk, or whatever, without having to disturb your
application windows. (When you first tap F11, even open Finder windows are
hidden; at left, you've subsequently opened a window manually.)
In either case, tap the same function key again to turn off Exposé. Or click
one of the window edges, which you can see peeking out from all four edges of
• You want to open a different document. For many people, having access to the
entire Finder beats the pants off having to use the Open dialog box. Double-
clicking the icon you want automatically opens it and turns off Exposé.
• You're on the Web, and you want to see if some file has finished downloading.
Tap F11 to survey the situation on your desktop.
- In essence, Apple has finally realized that the desktop really isn't "just another program."
If the layer of open programs is the atmosphere, the Finder is the earth below—and the
ability to teleport you back and forth is a huge time saver.
Tip: You can switch among the three Exposé modes (F9, F10, or 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.
184.108.40.206. Another way to Exposé
Most of the time, you'll probably use Exposé in two steps. You'll tap the function key
once to get the windows out of the way, and tap it again to bring them back (if, indeed,
you haven't clicked a window to bring them back).
In some cases, though, you may find it easier to hold down the relevant key. For example,
hold down F11 to see if a file is finished copying to the desktop, then release the key to
bring back all of the windows. For quick window-clearing situations, that method saves
you the step of having to press the key a second time to turn off Exposé.
5.3.2. 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.
Fortunately, you can reassign the Exposé functions to a huge range of other keys, with or
without modifiers like Shift, Control, and Option. To view your options, choose
System Preferences and then click the Exposé & Spaces icon (Figure 5-6).
Here, you'll discover that you can trigger Exposé's functions in any of three ways:
220.127.116.11. Screen corners
The four pop-up menus (Figure 5-6) represent the four corners of your screen. Using
these menus, you can assign an Exposé trigger to each corner; for example, if 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.)
Depending on the size of your screen, this option can feel awkward at first. But if you've
run out of keystrokes that aren't assigned to other functions, be glad that Apple offers you
Note: In previous versions of Mac OS X, of course, whipping the pointer into a corner
was one good way to turn on your screen saver. Apple hasn't forgotten about that, which
is why you'll also find commands called Start Screen Saver and Disable Screen Saver in
the pop-up menus. Apple wanted to make sure that you don't get confused and assign two
different functions to the same corner.
Figure 5-6. You can trigger Exposé in any of three ways: by twitching your cursor
into a certain corner of the screen (top), pressing a key (lower left), or clicking the
extra buttons on a multibutton mouse (lower right), including Apple's Mighty
Mouse. 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.
Also in the Dashboard & Exposé preferences, you'll find three pop-up menus—"All
windows," "Application windows," and "Show Desktop" —that correspond to the three
functions of Exposé as described above. (The fourth pop-up menu, Dashboard, is
described at the end of this chapter.) 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-F1 trigger the hide-all-
windows function, for example.
- These pop-up menus also contain choices like Left Shift, which refers to the Shift key on
the left side of your keyboard. That is, instead of pressing F9 to make all your windows
shrink, you could simply tap the Shift key. (This is only an example. Repeat: This is only
an example. Actually using the Shift key to shrink all your windows is a terrible, terrible
idea, as you'll quickly discover the next time you try to type a capital letter. This feature
is intended exclusively for hunt-and-peck typists who never use the Shift key on one
If you have a laptop, you'll also find out that the Fn key is also available for Exposé—and
this time, it's a great choice, because Fn otherwise has very little direction in life. (Fn is
the neglected key in the lower-left corner of a Mac laptop keyboard, or in the top middle
cluster of Apple's aluminum keyboard.)
18.104.22.168. Multiple-button mouse clicks
If your mouse has more than one button, you see a second column of pop-up menus in
System Preferences. Each pop-up menu offers choices like Right Mouse Button, Middle
Mouse Button, and so on. Use these pop-up menus to assign the three Exposé modes (or
Dashboard) to the various clickers on your mouse: right-click to hide all windows, left-
side click to reveal the desktop, and so on.
Tip: No matter how you trigger Exposé, try holding down the Shift key as you do it.
You'll enjoy watching all your windows shift around with Mac OS X's patented slow-
motion animation, which can be quite a sight.