I have noticed that some software disables the window exit button. On MacOS the window exit button is the Red X in the upper left side.

This forces me to browse thru the application for another way to dispose of the window.

An example of this behavior is the iPhone simulator. The iPhone simulator is a tool used by developers to test their software without having to own all different physical devices. It does not have ads or other reasons Apple would want to make it difficult for me to exit.

Why do the designers disable this button on some applications?

  • It was most likely not a UX Designer's decision. I'd look at the Marketing or Dev departments for an explanation. – Ken Mohnkern Aug 1 '17 at 12:41

Mac programs use a different model than Windows programs.

On a Mac, the OS mostly uses an "application-centric" model while Windows traditionally uses a "document-centric" model. This means Mac apps typically start once, and then live in the dock as multiple windows come and go over time. On Windows, an app can launch multiple times, each time corresponding to a specific window.

This is why closing the active window on a Mac does not actually quit most programs. They will continue running (in the dock) until quit using other means. On a Mac, "close" and "quit" are not synonyms.

Now to answer the original question:

Not all apps make sense to keep running if there are no visible windows. In this case you can choose to have your app act more like a Windows program and quit when the main window is closed, or you can prevent users from closing the window while still allowing them to quit normally. Apple has taken the latter option, most likely because it can take a while for the iPhone simulator to start up so it is better to prevent the user from quitting it accidentally.


My guess: Closing the application window in MacOS does not normally quit the application. It just keeps running with no window, which is indicated by the blue dot next to the application icon. Perhaps they decided that allowing the iPhone simulator to run without a visible window would mislead users.


It's bad design, you're right. Why do they do it? Because they want to keep you using their (often crappy) product for as long as possible.

There are other valid reasons which include the program having to run a fair few tasks in order to clean-up before exiting. This means that a box exit might be less intuitive.

I usually find this kind of exit though on, like you said, gimmicky and weak software. It goes hand in hand with the "Are you sure you want to exit?" designs. An iPhone simulator sounds like a kind of thing that both has the possibility to be really gimmicky and ad-ware like, but also would make sense having to clean up before exiting.

  • 2
    There is one context where I don't mind "Are you sure you want to exit?" which is IDEs- if I'm running something from my IDE, killing the IDE's process will kill the running program as well since it was forked from the IDE's process, and so I appreciate the reminder that I might not want to exit until I'm done running my program. – J. Dimeo Jul 31 '17 at 1:39
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    Apple maintains a device simulator to aid developers. No reason to assume this is gimmicky and infested with ad-ware. – maxathousand Dec 29 '17 at 14:18

Wild guess, but it could be that it's disabled to allow you to test quitting/exiting in iphone apps without accidentally quiting the emulator.

  • Similar to using RDP connections on Windows: the number of times I close the session instead of an application inside the session! – TripeHound Jul 31 '17 at 11:19

I can't comment with great expertise on Windows as I am primarily a MacOS user, however a lot of Mac programs seems to run differently and I wonder whether a lot of this is down to the way Apple guides developers for the MacOS.

For example, the majority of programs I use on Windows will close if I click the X in the top right. Even though I'm forced to use a PC at work and have done so for some time, as a long time MacOS use I find CMD+Q far more intuitive than ALT+F4, therefore is seems to work for me that I can have programs remain running on MacOS as I know they're memory efficient and if I don't close them, from their low memory state, I can quit them by using the CMD+Q.

Whereas, Windows seem to adopt the open and close model, which may or may not be more efficient for the way Windows is developed, releasing the memory back to the system.

So I think the difference is in the behaviour of the user. I can't say when I learnt about CMD+Q, it's been years, but I don't use it that often as the programs sit nicely on the dock and are available if needed.

  • 1
    A quick search on this on Mac forums tells me the 'official' line from Apple is; yellow to minimize, but to continue working on the same item later, red to 'close' the current document, but keep the app open and CMD+Q to quit the app. MacOS does indeed keep the app in memory unless you use CMD+Q, for efficiency. – DarrylGodden Aug 1 '17 at 10:57

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