In Mac OS X 10.10 (Yosemite), Apple changed the window interaction buttons. This change does not improve Mac OS X usability. This post explains why this is so.
Before Mac OS X 10.10 (Yosemite), Mac OS usually provided three buttons for window interactions:
The green button was used to “zoom” the window, meaning that the window would enlarge to display all the window content. Because the application would decide how to handle the content, the zoom behaves a bit inconsistent: sometimes it would make the window as large as the whole screen (maximizing it), sometimes the window would only enlarge to fill a certain amount of the screen.
Mac OS X also displayed a fourth button to make the window fullscreen, for applications that supported this mode:
But in the latest version of Mac OS X, 10.10 Yosemite, the situation has become an unfortunate mess for the long term Mac OS user.
Fullscreen mode did (and still does, as of Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite) have the following negative effects:
- The dock becomes harder to access: In full screen mode, the dock is supposed to automatically display when the mouse cursor touches the bottom of the screen. However, the dock
neveroften does not appear right away in fullscreen mode when doing this, and the mouse needs to be be moved a second time towards the bottom edge of the window.
This behavior seems to depend on the application and the content it is showing – e. g. in Chrome showing the Google search results page or Google Maps, it does not work reliably.
- Fullscreen breaks workspaces: Fullscreen doesn’t work well with Mac OS workspaces (it spawns a new workspace for each application that uses fullscreen), so if you’re using workspaces to structure your application windows, that won’t work. Each fullscreen window is a new workspace.
- Showing desktop doesn’t work: Mac OS X provides a very useful hot cornrer shortcut to display the desktop when the mouse touches a corner of the screen. In full screen mode, this doesn’t work.
Other reasons against using fullscreen mode are outlined in the following sections.
Fullscreen Doesn’t Make Much Sense for Most Applications
I understand that a fullscreen mode does make sense in some cases:
- Applications that display images or video content – avoiding clutter on the screen is nice in these cases.
But: Most of these applications (e. g. Quicktime Player, Apple Preview, VLC) have always had their own fullscreen mode exacly for this reason, so a fullscreen mode centrally provided by the operating system is not necessary.
- Applications that have huge user interfaces in a single window and are used for long periods of time exclusively. I can imagine a CAD/CAM (Autodesk) or image manipulation (Photoshop) software as an example.
But: Most of these applications use several windows for their tools and pallettes, and fullscreen doesn’t make much sense then, because several small windows need to be managed anyway.
Except for the examples above, for most applications fullscreen doesn’t make much sense. Who needs a fullscreen mode for a Terminal window, for example? Or for Finder windows, which often require using several windows for dragging and dropping?
Fullscreen Doesn’t Save Much Space
Mac OS X’s fullscreen mode does not save much space if you have the dock set to hide automatically. It saves so little space that it is not worth using in my opinion.
To compare, here are two Finder windows, one is maximized, the other in fullscreen mode:
As you can see, going fullscreen saves 36 pixels of vertical space – on a 27″ Thunderbolt display this is only 2.5% of the screen height!
In some applications, (e. g. Google Chrome) you only save the height of the Mac OS menu bar, which is 23 px (or 1.6% on the Thunderbolt display):
Fullscreen In Yosemite
So in Mac OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) Apple decided to make this fullscreen mode, which is really not very useful as described above, the default for maximizing/zooming a window. Apple did this by changing the green button in the window title bar to trigger fullscreen mode (in most applications):
I understand that Apple often changes basic stuff around in its operating systems and apps, but this is again one thing where they have gone a bit too far.
As going fullscreen is now the default action for this button, this now has even more negative effects:
- Inconsistent behavior: Not all applications support fullscreen mode. For those applications, the green button still zooms the window.
- If you’re used to working a lot with maximized/zoomed windows, it interrupts your workflow. It’s really hard to get used to!
- Slow animations: At least on “older” hardware (late 2012 Macbook Air, which is really not that old!) the fullscreen animation is choppy in many applications
Other People Don’t Like Fullscreen Either
The internet is full of people who dislike the new fullscreen button, some examples:
- Fill screen good, full screen bad
- I really dislike the fullscreen behavior in Yosemite…
- Maximize button in Yosemite sucks!
- The *true* full-screen aspect of Yosemite is hard to get used to
There are some workarounds for the “Yosemite green button problem”, described in another post: Fix Mac OS X Yosemite Green Zoom/Maximize Button
But these are just workarounds. Please, Apple, give us an option to turn this feature off!
Please, Apple, Change It!
If you don’t like the new window controls in Yosemite, please leave Apple a feedback for Mac OS X and ask them to give us a setting (even a hidden one) to restore to the old behavior. Fullscreen could still be used by alt clicking the green button!
- Corrected paragraph regarding dock access in fullscreen mode
- Added screenschot of Google Chrome comparing vertical space in maximized and fullscreen mode