Fix windows with controls off the edge of your screen

FinderIconYosemiteXOne frustrating issue you might encounter when running OS X is if a window is placed or sized in a way that prevents you from accessing some of its controls. This can happen for numerous reasons, including adjusting your display setup, or performing an upgrade to a new OS version, or if some corruption in the window saved state configuration files prevents application windows from being restored correctly as part of Apple’s Resume feature.

Regardless of the instance, if you have a window whose title bar is off the screen, or a print dialogue box sized so you cannot click its “Cancel,” “Print,” or other buttons, then you might find yourself frustrated with finding a way to get done what you need to.

If you encounter such problems, there are a few ways you can try to fix the problem at hand:

1. Resize windows proportionally

Window resizing in OS X

Dragging any side (or corner) of a window will resize it. Doing so with the Option or Shift keys will resize the opposite side, or all sides proportionally (click for larger view).

This is perhaps the easiest approach. While you might be hunting for the edge of a window that is off of your screen, or a section of it that contains an element you want to interact with, keep in mind that sizing a window to find these elements does not have to happen from the missing side. In OS X you can not only use any side or corner of a window to change its size, but can also resize proportionally by including the Shift or Option keys.

For example, if the title bar of a window is pushed above the top of your screen and you cannot access its title bar, but you can see the bottom of this window, then hold the Option key and resize by dragging the bottom of the window up, or hold the Shift key while dragging the side of the window in to the middle. Either of these should bring the top of the window down, and hopefully make the title bar viewable again.

This can not only be done for full windows, but also for panels such as Print, Open, and Save dialogue boxes.

2. Change you Mac’s screen configuration

While this problem can be spurred by a change in your display’s setup, it can also often be fixed by it as well. Try going to the Displays system preferences and adjusting the resolution of your display, or change a dual-display setup to mirror mode. In addition, you can try unplugging a monitor and then plugging it back in. These changes should trigger the OS X WindowServer process to redraw the windows and apply constraint rules to allow vital elements to be accessible again.

3. Remove the application saved state

If this problem is occurring for windows that open whenever you launch a program, then it may be from a fault in the program’s saved state. This is where OS X will should preserve what windows were last opened in a program, along with their sizes and locations; however, a problem with this configuration could easily have a window open off-screen or to an odd and unusable size.

Saved application state folders in OS X

The saved application states for all the programs you run are in these folders in your Library. Removing them will reset which windows are automatically opened when you launch an application.

To fix this problem, first note the name of the program (e.g., Numbers), and then perform the following steps:

  1. Go to the Finder.
  2. Hold the Option key down and choose “Library” from the Go menu.
  3. Go to the “Saved Application State” folder.
  4. Locate and remove the folder corresponding to the name of your program, which will be named something like “com.DEVELOPER.APPNAME.savedstate”

In some cases you will see additional details, such as the saved state for Numbers having “iWork” in its name; however, you should be able to identify the desired folder in this way. With this folder removed, re-launch your program to have OS X create a new saved state. This will prevent any prior windows from being automatically opened and placed in odd locations.

5 thoughts on “Fix windows with controls off the edge of your screen

  1. darkdreamer4u

    I have this free app installed and it helps in any of such situations, but more so in daily usage of limited screen real estate on my laptop, so I wouldn’t want to be without my spectacle shortcuts anymore:-)

  2. Bradley Dichter

    Launching the problem app with the shift key held down should get rid of the saved state for you. Saved my sanity with iTunes not showing the correct icons for my iPhone apps.

  3. Jonathan Feist

    Great tips, thanks! Option-dragging the bottom edge fixed it. That one has been driving me crazy!!

  4. nalpacltd

    I have been dealing with this for a while now and thank you.

    Unplugged my second screen and replugged it in, fixed. your the man!

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