Why does OS X have both a "Hide" and a "Minimize" feature? This seems somewhat redundant to me, and also introduces some inconsistency when I am trying to find an arbitrary window. If it's hidden, I need to activate the application and use the "Windows" menu to bring it up; if the window is minimized, it appears in the dock.

What are some scenarios in which you'd use these two features differently?


"Minimize" minimizes the program to the dock where you can see a thumbnail of the program's window.

"Hide" hides the window without adding the program's thumbnail to the dock.

I will minimize a program if I need to get it out of the way for a few moments while I'll hide a program if I need it out of the way for an extended period of time. Most of the time I will hide icons.

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    It appears in the Dock, but only the icon appears. If you minimize it, there's also a small icon representing the window on the right side, next to the Trash. – alex Oct 6 '09 at 17:12
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    You can set Snow Leopard to combine the two options as a minimize to item setting on the dock. – Rich Bradshaw Oct 6 '09 at 17:12
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    Minimize minimizes a single window. Hide hides the entire application. – Chealion Oct 6 '09 at 21:04
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    The dock shows you running APPLICATIONS, and then shows or lists the applications windows when you click or click and hold, respectively. It is NOT a window list, like in Windows XP. I think it's much more logical. Also, interestingly, Windows 7 seems to be attempting to copy this idea. – Lee B Oct 6 '09 at 22:29
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    A minimized window does not maximize when you select its application in the app switcher (cmd+tab). However, all windows of a hidden application will reappear when selecting it with the app switcher. – dhulihan Sep 12 '15 at 23:46

To start, there are cosmetic differences: Minimize does a little graphic effect and puts a shrunken icon of the window into your Dock (on the right hand side, not with the apps, although this can be changed). Hide makes all of the application's windows simply disappear from view without any changes to the Dock.

But the big difference lies in how you make the windows reappear.

  • Minimized windows require a mouse click in the Dock to summon them.

  • Hidden apps will reappear if you Command-Tab to the app, so you can bring back the windows using the keyboard only.

    (You can also click in the Dock to get a hidden app back.)

Because I use Command-Tab heavily, and try to avoid the mouse, I use "Hide" quite a bit but never use "Mimimize" as it requires mouse interaction to get the window back.

As others have noted, you can set the Dock preferences to "minimize into application icon". This doesn't change the keyboard/mouse equation; all it does is prevent a "minimized" window from getting its own icon in the Dock - instead you have to click on the app icon in the dock to un-minimize the window.

  • As there are menu items for all windows in the application's Window menu, they can be restored by using the keyboard only. It might be a bit more work though. – Daniel Beck Jan 29 '13 at 17:31
  • @DanielBeck - how? Those window entries don't necessarily have a hotkey associated with them. You can't create a hotkey, either, as the windows will have varying names (eg, in Firefox, it's the name of the active tab), and hotkeys created via Preferences > Keyboard have to match the name of the menu option exactly. Is there a way to keyboard through OS X menus that I'm not aware of? – John Hart Feb 1 '13 at 18:19
  • You can type the window name into the search box usually accessible via Cmd-? (System Preferences » Keyboard » Keyboard Shortcuts » Application Shortcuts » Show Help menu), and you can use the keyboard to navigate the menu bar by pressing Ctrl-F2 (or whatever shortcut is assigned in System Preferences » Keyboard » Keyboard Shortcuts » Keyboard and Text Input » Move focus to the menu bar). As I said, it's possible, but a bit more work. Some applications also have no (or not only) dynamic window titles and may even assign default keyboard shortcuts (iTunes, Things, ...). – Daniel Beck Feb 1 '13 at 18:32
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    You could also use Witch to get customizable window switching menus and shortcuts ("Deminimize all minimized windows", "Cycle through frontmost application's minimized windows", etc.). I only use it to get a keyboard shortcut for the zoom window button, but it's capable of a lot more. – Daniel Beck Feb 1 '13 at 18:34
  • Ah, thanks for the Ctl-F2 bit - I didn't know that shortcut. Bringing "Witch" into the picture of course changes the answer, as third party tools will let you configure all sorts of things. – John Hart Feb 14 '13 at 17:03

Hiding will remove the application from view (while still being visible in the application switcher and dock).

Minimizing will minimize a single window to the dock, not the entire application.


Copying the answer @Rich Bradshaw gave in the comments to an official answer, since it's exactly what I was looking for.

You can set Snow Leopard to combine the two options as a minimize to item setting on the dock.

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    For the record, this option is available in the "Dock" System Preferences applet, labeled "Minimize windows into application icon". – seh Dec 25 '10 at 19:37

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