Tech Tip: See All the Mac’s Open Windows at Once


Q. I’m new to the Mac operating system. I recently hit some button on my keyboard that shrank down all the open program windows and returned them to normal when I clicked one. What happened and how did I do that?

A. If it felt as if you suddenly got an overhead view of all the open windows and programs on your Mac’s desktop, you have stumbled upon the Mission Control feature. When intentionally summoned, Mission Control can be used to quickly locate a particular window on a cluttered desktop, temporarily move aside a program open in the full-screen or split-view modes, or see any alternate desktop spaces you may have created for the different tasks at hand on your Mac.

Depending on your Mac hardware, you can land on the Mission Control screen in several ways. Some Mac laptops put a shortcut to the utility on the keyboard’s F3 key. You may also see a Mission Control in the Mac’s dock; it features three colored squares on a black background. (The same icon is also available in the Launchpad, a system tool that displays the clickable icons of all your Mac’s installed applications in the center of the screen when you click the silver rocket icon in the dock, or press the F4 button on some Mac laptops.)


The Mission Control feature of the Mac operating system instantly shows you all the open windows on your desktop.

The New York Times

Unless you have turned off the gesture in your settings, Apple’s Multi-Touch and Magic Trackpads take you to Mission Control when you swipe up with three or four fingers at once. You also can get there by tapping twice on a Bluetooth-enabled Apple Magic Mouse.

To learn more about using the feature, go to the Mac’s Help menu in the main toolbar, enter “Mission Control” in the search box and press the Enter key. You can change the way Mission Control behaves in the Mac’s System Preferences.

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