How to resize windows in OS X

FinderIconXResizing windows in OS X allows you to optimally use the real estate of your display. If you find yourself constantly using the same approach to resizing windows, you might find some use in the less-obvious features Apple has implemented for managing window sizes. These include resizing from multiple sides of a window at once, in addition to making use of full-screen views, and zooming windows. 

Custom Resizing

In OS X prior to Lion, you had to drag the tab at the lower-right of a window to resize it, but since Lion, you can drag any corner or side of a window to change its size. In addition to this basic approach, you can apply some modifier keys to augment how this behavior works:

Window resizing in OS X

Drag from any side or corner to resize, or apply the Option or Shift keys to change the default resizing behavior.

  1. The Option keyHolding this key while resizing will resize the opposite side or corner in addition to the one you are dragging.
  2. The Shift keyHolding this key while resizing will preserve the window’s aspect ratio when resizing.
  3. Both Shift and Option keysHolding both keys will combine their behaviors, to effectively zoom the window’s size bigger or smaller around its center.

These options can be applied to different window types, such as floating windows and panels as well as Quick Look windows, and not just basic Finder and document windows with the red, yellow, and green buttons in the top-left corner.

Full Screen

Full-screen button in OS X

Click this button (if present) to set the window to full-screen.

The first option is Apple’s Full Screen feature, which will set the current window to fill the entire screen, hiding the Dock, Menu bar, and all other applications. If your application supports this feature, then you should see a faint double-arrow button at the top-right of the window you are trying to resize. This can sometimes be invoked using a hotkey, which may be Command-F, or Control-Command-F, or similar.


Window zoom button

Click this button to zoom the window to fit its contents.

The standard window controls in OS X are the red, yellow, and green buttons for closing, minimizing, and zooming the window. The Zoom feature is somewhat inconsistent in OS X, which has made it somewhat confusing; however, in general it should resize the window to best-fit its contents, and then toggle between this and the previous view when subsequently clicked.

While its inconsistency makes its behavior hard to predict, if you would simply like to see more of the window’s content, then you might try clicking this button to see what happens.

4 thoughts on “How to resize windows in OS X

  1. Andre Angelantoni

    As a Mac only user for the past fifteen years, I have never found the built-in window maximize (enlarge to fit contents) ever useful. So I use use RightZoom. It converts the green maximize button into a true maximize, i.e. it takes up the whole screen, which is how Windows does it. Plus you can set a hotkey for even more convenience.

    1. Topher Kessler Post author

      Another useful utility is Moom, which will make the zoom button into a menu containing a grid. You can select squares on this grid to position the window to the relative size and location on screen.

  2. MaX

    I recently discovered XtraFinder, which is awesome to show contents con column view and much more.

  3. Pingback: Manage the Quick Look window in OS X | MacIssues

Comments are closed.