For those of you who don't know, in OS X 10.10 Yosemite, Apple (rather quietly) replaced what was formerly a "maximize window" button with a "make window full-screen" button - in previous releases, these were two separate buttons.

Currently, the window control button triplet looks like this when hovered over:

OS X 10.10 window control button triplet

Whereas in past releases, the two, green, away-facing diagonal arrows would've been a plus sign, and the arrows would've been located at the opposite end of the window's toolbar.

Functionality-wise, the difference has been that the maximize window button would simply stretch the current window to the dimensions of the display; while the full-screen toggle window would slide the window over to a separate space (this allowed for multiple full-screen apps to run simultaneously; it resembles Windows 10's "virtual desktop" feature).

Was this design choice a good one, considering that maximize functionality seems to have been dropped completely (it doesn't show up in the Window system menu bar)?

  • 4
    Mac OS X never had a system "maximize window" button. The green "+" button was a "zoom" button. According to Apple's GUI guidelines, it should toggle between user's selected window size and a window size that show the document's content as much as possible. Oct 30, 2014 at 3:05
  • @Heng-CheongLeong Its functionality differs quite heavily between apps though. In chrome for example the plus button will fill the window in height, but stick to document width. In Firefox the plus button will fill both width and height. It's really a flawed interaction pattern to begin with in my meaning. Oct 30, 2014 at 7:53
  • Not a Mac user, but it seems the commenters are on to something: the previous behavior was inconsistent and not well-understood by the user. That seems like a good rationale for change.
    – user31143
    Oct 30, 2014 at 8:00
  • @dan1111 Yes, the Best Fit pattern died, because it was implemented badly by most application developers or not at all, which is especially common for cross-platform apps.
    – Crissov
    Oct 30, 2014 at 8:17
  • Noticed this the other day when it took Firefox to full-screen and then didn't provide a clear way to get out of it! That's exactly why I never used the dedicated "full-screen" button before, and now it's even worse because it differs by application. Used to be at least the stoplight btns would remain, or the fullscreen icon would appear on hover. Now in Firefox neither of those are true. "Esc" and F11 don't work - there's only a button hidden under a "hamburger" menu. Bad idea.
    – mc01
    Oct 30, 2014 at 22:13

3 Answers 3


It was wise to group all of the standard OS GUI window resize buttons, although the Miniplayer button in iTunes is still on the right-hand side, but neither the traffic light color scheme (which was kept from previous versions) nor the complete replacement seem very intuitive. Full Screen mode makes sense for some applications, others should have Best Fit windows and some (e.g. Finder and TextEdit) could benefit from both.

Similar considerations apply to the close button, which should usually just close the window (Mac-style), but sometimes it’s better to quit the application that way (Windows-style). The minimize button, too, has multiple possible functions: it should either put the window into the Dock or the app into the background possibly with a menu bar item (or mini window or Notification Center applet) appearing.

  • Wouldn't these kind of features be entirely at the discretion of the developer, though?
    – Jules
    Oct 30, 2014 at 12:17
  • @JulesMazur Not entirely, no. The OS would provide interfaces for the developer to describe the behavior of each application and render the GUI accordingly.
    – Crissov
    Oct 30, 2014 at 14:26

As a Windows transplant I always hated the 3 buttons that OS X offers on windows. Close is pointless when it doesn't actually close the application, only the window. Minimize is fine. And the previous zoom feature was just a complete waste...who needs to make the screen grow slightly, or increase in size only vertically? That's a pain in the ass. Hell, that's why the first app I installed on my latest Mac was BetterTouchTool.

The whole full-display way that OS X works is also not quite how I like it, though I understand why the company would go in that direction (compared to Microsoft's full-screen window versus full-display). Everything on Windows is layered; OS X can have layers but isn't really good for that.

So for me, the full-display view is slightly more useful than the previous function, which was completely useless...but at the same time I never open up multiple desktops and like the layered functionality. On OS X, I just work around the parts I don't like.


I'm a relatively recent Windows transplant (bought my first Mac in April). For me the Plus button translated to "Maximize" (I never worked with an app that broke that concept for me like others have mentioned). But what is Maximize, the idea is to take up a full screen. Once you've taken up the full screen, you can't readily work with other windows on the screen so it makes since to just give a "maximized" window its own desktop.

Seeing as such (that a maximized window on a shared desktop is cumbersome) it makes perfect sense to combine the two ideas, and remove Maximize out of the vernacular.

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