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I'd like to permanently see a clickable list of windows I have open, in the same way that the taskbar allows in Windows. Can I do this on Mac?

Some details:

  • i have many virtual desktops (spaces), so often a single application has windows on many of them.
  • I often have multiple windows of each application, such as the terminal or browser, on the same virtual desktop
  • I have multiple monitors, if it matters.

Edit: When I say 'permanently see a clickable list of windows I have open' I mean that I want to see every window I have open, and I'd like to be able to click on each one to open that window. I'm not looking for the newer behaviour where tasks are clustered by application.

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There is a piece of software called Fantasktik which acts like a task bar for Mac OS X.

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+1. Havent tried it myself, but this looks to be (close to) exactly what OP is asking for. – trolle3000 Sep 27 '10 at 10:16
This is exactly what is being asked for and should be the answer. I installed it and placed it on the bottom of my screen. I put the dock on the left now (with auto-hide), where it acts as a simple launcher. – Wayne Bloss Mar 26 '11 at 22:48

On Mac there's a visual window management tool called Exposé. On recent Macs, the default key is F3. (I think it used to be F11 on older MacBook keyboards.)

  • F3: show all open windows
  • Ctrl F3: show current application windows
  • Cmd F3: hide all windows to show the desktop

Clicking on a window will bring it to the foreground.

While in Exposé, you can use the Tab key to switch apps and see their windows. Google "Exposé keyboard shortcuts" for more tricks.

You can assign the Exposé key and see the assigned shortcut keys in System Preferences.

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Thanks for the answer, but I want to see it all the time, not just when I click a button. As in, I want a taskbar. (My question had a typo which may have obscured this, sorry!) – Paul Biggar Sep 25 '10 at 22:59

I use DragThing and have simulated a windows style taskbar along the bottom of my screen.

See here:

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I'm not too familiar with the Windows taskbar so maybe I don't know what I'm missing, but the Dock seems to serve the same purpose. Maybe it just does it differently than what you expect.

  • Click an app icon to switch to it. All of the app's windows will be brought forward.
  • Right-click an icon to select from the list of windows for that app.

Update: The Dock fulfills the basic needs of a task bar, but in your comment you mentioned that what you're looking for is specifically tailored for virtual desktops and shows separate lists for the tasks in each desktop. You're right, the standard Dock represents all of the open windows & apps together.

Unfortunately Apple's virtual desktop implementation "Spaces" is lacking for true task-oriented separation like you're used to. Spaces feels like an afterthought: the window manager & applications just weren't designed with it in mind. This extends beyond just the Dock: it's conceptual.

The Mac is more application-centric than window-centric and the virtual desktop paradigm doesn't fit as well as other operating systems where each window behaves like its own independent application instance that acts as a unit.

As an example, note how Mac applications typically remain open when their last window is closed. Consider which "space" should an app belong to when it has no open windows, and how would it be shown in your concept of a task bar?

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If this answer is incorrect or inappropriate, please comment why you think so! – Andrew Vit Sep 25 '10 at 23:34
I too would like to know what you think is wrong with the Dock in OS X. It's the equivalent of the task bar in Windows. Right click on a Dock icon to select from many running instances. Click and hold and OS X 10.6.2 will open Expose but for just that app so you can pick from an instance on any Spaces desktop using the graphical Expose browser. Better than a Windows task bar IMO. – Ian C. Sep 26 '10 at 1:44
Nothing in your description is not done by the Dock. Try removing all the icons from the Dock for non-running programs and get rid of folders and stacks. Then it works almost exactly as requested: it's available on every space; it only shows you running programs (and if you have multiple windows for a program it can let you chose between them). Only think missing is it showing on every monitor, but last time I used XP in multi-monitor mode it only displayed the taskbar on the primary monitor. – Ian C. Sep 26 '10 at 17:59
This is not an answer. SU is not a Question and Opinion site, it is a Question and Answer site. – Phoshi Sep 26 '10 at 19:51
Andrew: While I appreciate your effort, your answer is not helpful. I'm looking for a list of windows. Dock does not display this. (You say it 'does list windows when you select an application'. That is clearly not the behaviour I want when I say that I'd 'like to permanently see a clickable list of windows I have open'). – Paul Biggar Sep 27 '10 at 17:20

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