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Window Activation

320 words

The advent of OS X brought us the 'new' way of managing windows allowing us to bring an application's window to the front without having all the other windows of the same application come with it. In most cases this turns out to be very useful as your view onto windows of other applications isn't obstructed by windows you're not using anyway at that stage.

There are, however, cases in which this behaviour is irritating or silly. For example when closing windows. After closing a window the application will bring one of its other windows to the front. This can be quite irritating. A prominent example for this is Safari's download manager. Its existence of it is annoying by itself, particularly the fact that it sticks around after the download is finished. As a consequence you'll grow tired of closing it over and over again and hence it'll be buried beneath many other windows after a while. If you happen to close your last Safari browser window in this situation, the little bastard window will pop up again. Silly.

Not only silly but outrightly stupid is OS X's 'window cycling' behaviour that is induced by the Command-> and Command-< keyboard shortcuts. In itself it is a good idea as it may save you trips to the 'Windows' menu to use a window that is obscured by other windows on your screen. I don't know what they thought they were doing when implementing this feature though. To reproduce the issue, just do the following:

First, make sure that you have some application with an opened window, say Mail. Then open TextEdit and generate three empty documents. Switch to Mail and then click into one of the TextEdit windows. Doing the window-cycling thing using Command-> now will work just fine. One window after the other will be made the frontmost window. Using Command-<, however, will bring the previous window to the front and send all the other windows to the back – behind the other applications.

Given that things seem to work OK for two windows only and for the Command-> shortcut, Bottom left bit of German keyboard the question is why this silly behaviour was implemented.

And to pre-empt the question why anyone would want to cycle through windows backwards – just note that Command-< is extremely easy to press on a German keyboard, while Command-> requires and extra Shift key.

April 5, 2003, 19:18

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