Washington Apple Pi

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Mac OS 9.1 -- What's New?

The Window Menu in Finder

by Dale Smith

Washington Apple Pi Journal, reprint information

Mac OS 9.1 was released (somewhat quietly) on January 9. It is an update to prior Mac OS 9 versions that improves the system, changes a few things for an organization closer to what I have seen in Mac OS X Public Beta (Mac OS X PB), and adds a few new features ... which also bring Mac OS 9.1 closer to Mac OS X PB.

The "Window" menu

One of these new features is the Window Menu in Finder. This kind of feature is also found in many applications such as Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, BBEdit, ProTERM, ClarisWorks/AppleWorks, etc. In every case it offers the capability to manage access to various windows which the specific application has open.

Menu bar

Fig. 1: Menu bar.

In Finder the Window Menu is placed between the View Menu and the Special Menu (see Fig. 1 - Menubar). It displays a list (Fig. 2 - Window Menu) of all the open Finder windows that you see in Fig. 3 - A Mess of Windows. Some of the windows in the list are totally hidden behind others and don't show in Fig. 3.

Window menu

Fig. 2: Window menu

Making another Finder window the active window, is an action that has its usefulness. It lets you get to files or folders in windows that are hidden behind something else in Finder. I often have multiple windows open in Finder and quite frequently find myself in the awkward position of having the window I want fully hidden behind others so that I cannot click on it to bring it to the front without closing other windows.

Mess of windows

Fig. 3: A mess of windows

Notice how the overlapping windows in Fig. 3 have hidden the window titles. Now in Mac OS 9.1, if I needed to access something in one of the background windows, I can find its name in the Window Menu and select it to make it the active window. Of course, since some of the windows are partially visible, I might also click on the window to do the same thing, assuming that I recalled its name correctly. It's for reaching fully hidden windows like "Journal Stuff" or "Screen Snapz" where the Window Menu comes into its own.

A hidden feature

Another action that is not apparent from looking at the menu is one that may prove to be quite useful. With the Window Menu, you can now close Finder windows that are in the background without first bringing them to the front. In Mac OS 9.1, you can close a window from the Window Menu if you press the OPTION key when you select the window's name from the Window Menu.

This capability is also present in Mac OS X PB but not in quite the same way. In Mac OS X PB you use the close widget on the window's title bar as you see in Fig. 4 - Mac OS X PB Widgets. The widgets in the background window have become active when the pointer approaches them, even though the window itself remains inactive in the background.

Mac OS X PB window

Fig. 4: Mac OS X Public Beta widgets.

A dead end feature?

Notice that besides the various window names, there is also a Desktop item ... one that is permanent since there's always a desktop. Selecting it doesn't actually bring the Desktop Folder "to the front" of other Finder windows so that you can see what's on it the way it does for other windows. I suspect this is due to the fact that the Desktop Folder is a hidden folder in Mac OS. Selecting Desktop only makes the desktop active. I'm not sure how I could use this action ... maybe I have a lack of imagination here <grin>.

I normally make the desktop active by clicking on a piece of it showing somewhere. As you see in Fig. 3, even with a mess of windows, there's a lot of desktop space visible to click on. But if your whole desktop were covered, you could use the Application Menu at the right end of the Menubar to make Finder active, then use the Window Menu to make the desktop active. However, since the desktop was presumed fully covered, I don't know what more you could do with it.


The window management feature has been a frequently requested addition to the Mac OS. A number of shareware or freeware extensions have provided this capability for the Finder in the past. Now, due to the popularity, Apple has included it in Mac OS X PB, hopefully in Mac OS X, and added it to Mac OS 9.1.

This is one of a number of short articles focused on Mac OS 9.1 and some of its new user features.

About the author: Dale Smith has been a member of the Pi since 1983. He is active on the TCS crew and has written occasional articles for the Journal. He does beta testing of various programs, some mentionable and others unmentionable :) He also tries to help members solve communication and OS problems via the Hotline or calls taken at times in the Pi Office.