Weirdness when minimizing Finder

September 13, 2007 ⋅ 6 Comments »

Until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t touched my Mac Mini since late last year. I was traveling for a few months, and then was without a monitor. Now that I’ve finally got a sweet widescreen 22” display, my Mini and I are getting to know each other again.

First of all, I’d like to say that I’m not that big of a fan of the way minimizing is done on Mac OS. When you first open an application, its icon appears in the dock (unless it was already in the dock). The icon gets a little black arrow beneath it to show that it’s a running application. When you minimize one of the application windows, it actually creates another little icon in the dock, this time a thumbnail of the window alongside the trash can. For the non-Mac folks, here’s what I’m talking about:

OS X dock

The screenshot shows a chunk of my dock. On the left, you can see that Interface Builder, SnapNDrag, and TextMate are running; and beside that are two minimized windows, TextMate and Finder.

One complaint I have is that minimizing many windows makes the dock cluttered. For me, this ends up acting as a bit of an incentive not to minimize my windows. I don’t know why I care; I know it doesn’t really make sense. But that’s how I feel. So what happens is that I end up with a choice: either clutter my display with lots of open windows (potentially getting in the way sometimes), or clutter my dock. But, I realize that this behaviour is necessary because of the general MDI-ness of Mac OS, and maybe there no better way of handling the problem.

The other problem I have is that when I want to access a minimized window, I have to make a decision between clicking on the minimized icon and the main icon. Again, it’s a minor issue, but I do notice that I think about it, which, at the very least, interrupts my flow.

Anyhow…that’s not the point I wanted to make. I noticed some weird behaviour with a minimized Finder window. Here’s what I did:

  1. Minimized a Finder window
  2. Clicked on the main Finder icon; the window was revealed
  3. Minimized the window again
  4. Clicked on the main Finder icon again; a new Finder window is opened

Now, I thought I understood minimizing windows on OS X. But this one has me confused. Anyone have a good explanation for the behaviour I’m seeing?


  1. Chris - September 13, 2007:

    I don't have an explanation for that oddness.

    I don't usually minimize windows on my Mac.

    I use Exposé constantly. Easy to show all my windows in a nice fashion, just those windows of my current app, or quickly expose the desktop if needed.

    I'm sure you're familiar. I just wanted to mention that I find this functionality has replaced minimizing windows for me.

    (Much like having several virtual desktops did when I was using Enlightenment back in the day ... )


  2. Patrick - September 13, 2007:

    Chris, for some reason, I haven't really gotten in the habit of using exposé. Not sure why.

    I don't see how exposé gets rid of minimizing. It does address my complaint about indecision where to click though.

    I guess if you only have one window visible at a time, then you don't need to minimize. On my new monitor though, the screen is too wide for a single browser window, so I usually keep something useful visible on the left (right now, a Skype chat window; sometimes a terminal, Finder, etc.). Say I open up iTunes to put on some music, I need to minimize it in order to return things to the normal state. If I only used Exposé, then I'd need to bring Firefox forward, then bring Skype forward.

    I guess that's what I like about the Windows way of doing things -- you can bring a window to the front and easily return to "the way things were." Not so on OS X.

  3. Chris - September 13, 2007:

    True enough.

    I'm only working on a 12 inch screen on my little iBook. I expect you're right - if I had a large monitor setup, it would change the way I worked with things.

    On the little monitor, Exposé is really great. I really don't have room for more than 1 thing at a time, so it's a nice way to quickly shift between my applications. Even with the tiny screen, it somehow gives the impression of having more space.


  4. Mark - September 13, 2007:

    The only justification that I can think of is that when you minimize the first finder (say your documents directory) it adds the window to the set of running apps thus creating it's own icon on the dock.

    If you click the finder icon again it creates a new finder window because if you wanted the first window (your documents directory) you would click on the icon in the dock for that finder window, not the main finder icon.

    It's a stretch but makes some sense (I think).

    On a side note, Tim Bray has some interesting tips on how to manage the dock. I've tried them and it seems to work quite well.

    I use a combo of Tim's "clear out the dock" tip and Desktopple Pro. This little application automatically hides windows without focus after a pre-defined amount of time. An added bonus is that it doesn't create a new dock icon for them (e.g., it doesn't minimize them, it hides them).

    That and Quicksilver and I seem to navigation the OS w/o breaking my flow.

  5. Randy - September 22, 2007:

    I usually hide my windows (command+h). They don't clutter up the dock, and if I want the window back, I click on the application's icon in the dock (the one with the triangle).

  6. Patrick - September 22, 2007:

    Randy: Fancy that. I didn't even know you could to that. Thanks for the tip!