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I am a recent refugee from Windows land (at least on one of my PCs).
One thing I really miss in Mac OS is the ability to minimize all windows.

I can't seem to find the shortcut that does it, or even a script. Anything would be good.

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Better Touch Tool (it's free) has a "Hide All Windows" shortcut that works like Windows, where it actually minimizes and hides all open windows (unlike OSX default of just moving them off the screen). You can assign it to any keyboard combo or mouse movement... I have assigned it to "OPTION_KEY + Move_Mouse_Into_Lower_Left_Corner". – jsherk Mar 16 '15 at 16:24

12 Answers 12

up vote 47 down vote accepted

Mac OS X calls it Exposé and the default key is F11 or Command-F3. You can change this — and also map it to moving the mouse into a screen corner — in the Control Panel.

This doesn't exactly minimize all windows though, it just swishes them all out of the way temporarily so you can see the desktop.

To minimize the current window, press Command-M. To minimize all windows of the app in focus, press Command-Option-M. Or you can press Command-H which hides the application. Command-H will minimize your apps one by one, but it won't work on the last open one. Command-Option-H will hide all other apps but the active one.

Another relevant shortcut is to hold down Command+Option and click the desktop, which will minimize everything but an open Finder window. Doing the same and clicking on a dock icon will minimize every other window but that program (and open that programs window if it is not open).

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This doesn't give a single click or keystroke to get right to the desktop. The ActionScript answer does. – johny why Mar 20 at 4:45

I use Command-Alt-Desktop (clicking somewhere on the desktop). All windows go away.

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You probably mean Cmd-Alt-Desktop... – Jonik Dec 22 '09 at 17:56
Apparently, it only works when a finder window is not active. I love mac usability… – Dmitry Chornyi Oct 25 '12 at 23:01
That's only helpful if part of your desktop is visible in the first place – johny why Mar 20 at 4:43

Here is an AppleScript that switches to Finder, hides all other programs, and then minimizes all Finder windows, basically the same as in the accepted answer, but combined into one script.

activate application "Finder"
tell application "System Events"
    set visible of processes where name is not "Finder" to false
end tell
tell application "Finder" to set collapsed of windows to true

You can use Automator to create a service for the script:

You can then give the service a keyboard shortcut from System Preferences.

Alternatively, save as application in AppleScript Editor and add it to your Dock. Click to run it an execute the script.

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Awesome! Works better than any other AppleScript I have seen ... pretty much instantaneous. Now how do we add it to the Menu Bar and it would be perfect! – jsherk Mar 24 '12 at 3:28
@jsherk Thanks. The downside is obviously the dependency on the available menu items. Translate Finder, and this breaks. Remove menu items (unlikely, but Apple isn't a backwards compatible vendor), and this breaks. Where your answer still works better is the Dock application context menu, creating a menu status icon, etc., everything outside the possibilities of basic AppleScripts. – Daniel Beck Mar 24 '12 at 4:14
If you save as an Application in the ActionScript editor, then you can drag the application to your dock. This give pretty much behavior, with the same effort, as the Windows 'Show Desktop' button. And yeah, i don't get why this action isn't built into MacOS. – johny why Mar 20 at 4:46

Somebody finally figured out how to Show Desktop correctly:

EDIT: This ShowDesktop app works like the Windows Show Desktop button... it will simultaneously hide/minimize all windows (with option to include Finder windows) with a single click on it's icon which you can put in the menu bar.

EDIT: Found an even better solution... Better Touch Tool (it's free) has a "Hide All Windows" shortcut that works like Windows, where it actually minimizes and hides all open windows (unlike OSX default of just moving them off the screen). You can assign it to any keyboard combo or mouse movement... I have assigned it to "OPTION_KEY + Move_Mouse_Into_Lower_Left_Corner".

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You do realize that it doesn't do anything a 10 line AppleScript can't? It just hides all applications but Finder (Cmd-Opt-H), and minimized all of Finder's windows (Cmd-Opt-M). It's right there in the accepted answer. – Daniel Beck Mar 21 '12 at 5:18
@Daniel Yes it DOES... An AppleScript will hide/minimize one window at a time (one after the other) and cannot simultaneously hide/minimize all windows of all applications at the same. This application will simultaneously hide/minimize all windows at the same time, AND you have the option to include Finder windows if you want AND you can put it in the Menu Bar so no keyboard shortcut is required, just a quick single click of the mouse and it is done. As mentioned in question, they come from Windows background and Windows has a one-click button to hide/minimize all windows instantaneously. – jsherk Mar 23 '12 at 14:42
You're wrong. See my answer. Single click (if you go the application-in-Dock route), and just as quick as this program. And here's the dirty little secret: This application does the same thing. Repeatedly click the Dock icon to hide everything and while doing so, watch your menu bar. The Window menu of Finder is activated. I wonder why... – Daniel Beck Mar 23 '12 at 17:59
Wow. It even sends _CGPostKeyboardEvent instead of properly activating menu items like I do. I deliberately didn't use e.g. key code "m" using {command down, option down} because keyboard shortcuts can be customized. And unsurprisingly, if you change the keyboard shortcut to Minimize All in Finder in System Preferences » Keyboard » Keyboard Shortcuts » Applications, this program breaks when you select to select Show Finder after hiding all. Hardly what I'd consider figuring out how to do it correctly... – Daniel Beck Mar 23 '12 at 18:14
@DanielBeck I stand corrected.. you have come up with the first AppleScript that does this correctly! Where were you 2 months ago lol:…… – jsherk Mar 24 '12 at 3:17

You can assign you own shortcut key to the Desktop item in the Expose & Spaces category in the Keyboard (and Mouse) preference pane of the System Preferences application.

That will hide all windows allowing you to access any content on the desktop. The cool thing is that hitting that same shortcut again will restore everything as it was before.

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In windows, Start-D does the same basic thing, hide, then restore, assuming you don't bring a window back on it's own in the meantime and make it hide it instead of restore the others. – dlamblin Sep 6 '09 at 8:07

You can show the desktop directly without minimizing windows. You can create an Active screen corner, a corner of the screen where, if you go, an action is performed. Go to System Preferences -> Expose and Spaces, choose the Expose tab and at the top you have Active screen corners. Define one and choose Desktop from the combobox.

That way, when you go to that corner, all windows fly away, revealing the desktop.

Edit: you might also be interested to see how you can maximize a window (I'm a recent Mac OS user, so I know how annoying it is to press on the green button and not have the window maximize): you can read more here.

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This is the method I prefer. In the latest version of OS X, the setting is in System Preferences->Mission Control-Hot Corners. – SeanFromIT Feb 17 at 21:56

Best and fastest way to see desktop , just move your four fingers upside

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For what it's worth, that is the new multitouch trackpad way of triggering Exposé's Show Desktop feautre. – Chealion Sep 5 '10 at 3:01
How on earth do you get the mouse to stay still while doing that? – Trejkaz May 2 '14 at 6:56

Most of the other answers are about using Expose to push windows aside temporarily. If you actually want to minimize all windows, you can do that per-application by ⌘⌥M (some applications) or ⌥-clicking the minimize button on any window (always).

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No need for scripts,etc..

Just click:

+ + H + M

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This is also a Firefox hotkey, so if you happen to have it open and selected, you'll see a mobile preview instead. – 2C-B Mar 9 '15 at 23:24

My solution was to simply hold down cmd + option and Double Click just off the the side of the dock (i.e. double click on the desktop) to instantly hide all running applications and windows (oddly, except for Finder which seems to stay open).

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As a Windows convert your shortcut was Control-D. On the Mac it's F11.

This applies to Snow Leopard: I went to System Preferences » Keyboard » Expose & Spaces (in the left pane). In the right pane you'll see Exposé with a drop down and Spaces with a drop down. Under Exposé you'll see "Desktop", if it's checked then F11 will minimize all windows and show your desktop.

You'll see the "F11" to the right of "Desktop". Click on "F11" and it will give you the option to change the shortcut. I reassigned the "Desktop" command to Command-D.

Exit, and now you Mac will act like your old PC. I just figured this out after reading the posts above and not having them work for what I think you were trying to do.

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That bruteforce approach works for me:

  • hit + H a few times (to leave only the current window open)
  • then hit + M once (to close the current window)
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