An Explanation Of The Apple Mac Desktop Window

The Window Components - Scroll Bar - Title Bar - Menu Bar - Status Bar

This category will teach you about the Apple Mac Window System - One the core components of OS X. You will be taught about its different types (the Standard Window, the Requester, the Pop-Up, the Edit Box and so on), its components (Buttons, Sliders, Toolbars and so on) and how to modify it (Move, Re-Size, Close, Minimize and Maximize it). There are also some examples.

If you have not read this page before, continue reading it (from top to bottom) as normal. Otherwise you can click on a subject below to get near/on the subject you was reading before. how to minimize a window is the next section - It is also linked at the bottom of this page.

Depending on the type of window (i.e. Standard Window. Requester. Edit Box) most windows normally have a display area (for displaying General Information, Folders and Files, Error Messages and so on) and interactive buttons for guidance (i.e. Cancel, OK, Search, Delete, Exit). Below I will explain how a standard (system) window is made up and throughout this category I will explain what some of its buttons are used for.

Only important examples will be given, as the window is more about knowing what each button is used for as opposed to actually using them. Meaning. Out of 10+ buttons available you will be lucky if you use 6 all the time - This is due to the menus having more options than buttons and because menus take up less space than buttons. And also because a particular button might be hidden due to the way your Window Options are setup (i.e. buttons removed in order to save window space).

Fig 1.0  The standard FINDER window, displaying the contents of the PICTURES folder.


A Title Bar of a window usually displays the title (name) of the folder or file you currently have open, but it can contain other things as well. For example. If you are working on a Microsoft Word 2011 document the title (.docx file name) of that document will be displayed at the top of the WORD Application window; on its (the WORD Application's) title bar.

Fig 1.1  The window title bar is displaying the name (title) of a Folder called PICTURES

If you open a folder its title (folder name) will be displayed at the top of its associated window; on its associated window's title bar. Or put another way; on the title bar of the window that is displaying the contents of the folder.

Fig 1.2  The window title bar is displaying the name (title) of a WORD Document called DOCUMENT1

One thing to note here is that a folder icon (or folder shortcut link) represents a folder you would find inside a filing cabinet. Furthermore; When you double click on that folder icon (or its FINDER shortcut link for example) in order to open the folder itself, and therefore view its contents (if it's not an empty folder of course), the window that opens is exactly that. It is a window (as in Fig 1.0 above) that displays the contents of a folder. In other words a window is a box/rectangle with a frame around it, perhaps with some buttons and/or menus on it, that has a white display in the middle of it for displaying the contents of a folder, document text or web page for example. You do not call a folder a window. A window is the displayer/viewer of contents whereas a folder is merely a representation of that actual contents.

When you use a web browser, such as Safari, the current website (or web page) title is displayed at the top of the web browser's title bar; on its window's title bar.

Fig 1.3  Safari's window title bar is displaying the title of this website

Titles, and the icons to the left-side of them (if any), are basically used to identify your folders, files and applications more easily when switching between different windows. The title bar itself is used for moving a window around the desktop screen as well as for displaying the standard Minimize, Maximize and Close/Exit buttons (explained in later sections) on its very far left-side.


The Address Bar is usually found on the window belonging to a web browser application (such as Safari, Firefox or Google Chrome), but can be found elsewhere too. Unlike Windows though, folders in the OS X (Mountain Lion) operating system do not use an Address Bar to display their path names. They use the Status Bar instead (see below).

The Address Bar normally made up of one Back button, one Forward button, one Edit Box and one REFRESH (or GO) button; collectively known as: The Address Bar, which is actually part the main Tool Bar that runs across this part of the window - The main Tool Bar is made up of the Address Bar (its buttons and edit box) as well as other buttons and menus that perform further functionality for the web browser application, such as the READER button and Bookmark (Favourites) button (not shown here).

Fig 2.0  The Address Bar is actually part of the main Tool Bar that runs across this section of the window

When you first open a web browser application its BACK and FORWARD buttons will be clear/unavailable (Fig 2.1), simply because there is no web page to go back to or advance to, but as soon as you visit a web page the BACK button then becomes available (Fig 2.2); because you can now go back and visit the previous web page. If you do go back and visit the previous web page the FORWARD button will then become available (Fig 2.3) which means you can visit the web page you just came from. Both the BACK and FORWARD buttons become available (Fig 2.4) when you first BACK out from visiting (opening) at least two web pages - I.e. visit a website (1), visit one of its web pages (2) and then click on the BACK button).

Fig 2.1  Unavailable
Fig 2.2  Back Only
Fig 2.3  Forward Only
Fig 2.4  Back & Forward

The edit box is explained in detail in the Edit Box section and throughout these lessons where applicable. Basically, you can either type the address of a website or web page into the address bar's edit box or the path name to a folder or file. For more information on the address bar read the Path Names section, as well as the Edit Box section. For more examples read the Internet category.

Fig 2.5  The address bar Edit Box - You can use it to enter a website or web page address (url)

Fig 2.6  The address bar Edit Box - You can use it to enter a folder or file path name

The REFRESH button, which also doubles up as a GO button, is used after typing an address into the address bar edit box. You click on the REFRESH button to view the website, web page, folder or file content whose address or path name you have just entered into the address bar edit box. So if you type into the address bar edit box and then click on the REFRESH button you will be shown the contents of this website within the display area (window) of the Safari web browser application.

Fig 2.7  The REFRESH button re-loads (updates) the web browser's display with content from the current url

If you type the path name to a file inside the address bar edit box (i.e. file:///Users/john/Desktop/Websites/Apple_MAC/index.html) and then click on the REFRESH button you will be shown the contents of that file within the display area (window) of the Safari web browser application.

The path name could point to a local file (a file that is on your computer only) or to a network file (a file on someone else s computer but within your wireless network). Basically, a path name is good for accessing (i.e. downloading) and displaying files from a computer as opposed to the internet. If the contents of a file or web page cannot be displayed properly, for whatever reason(s), you click on the REFRESH button to refresh (reload/update) the contents; and therefore redisplay that contents. Alternatively, you can press the ENTER keyboard key which does the same job as the REFRESH button.


On the Microsoft Windows operating system each application (program), folder and sub-folder has its own window whereby each window has its own Menu Bar attached, depending on settings and if it is programmed to have one. So if you are using a folder and want to copy something from it you just click on its window, to make it the active window (active folder), and then click on its EDIT Menu and select the COPY menu-item. This makes the Menu Bar, and therefore its Menus and Menu-Items, easily accessible; because they are attached to the window (folder) itself.

With the Apple Mac, OS X (Sierra), operating system there is only one Menu Bar, which sits at the very top of the desktop screen. The Apple Mac, OS X (Sierra), window system works in a similar way to the Microsoft Windows window system, as described above, except that when you click on a window (i.e. folder's window or application's window) to make it the active window (active folder or active application) you then have to move the mouse pointer to the top of the desktop screen just to access that active window's Menu Bar and therefore use its Menus and Menu-Items. This is all because the Apple Mac window system uses one Menu Bar for all applications, folders and sub-folders.

Fig 3.0  This Menu Bar belongs to the active web browser application called Safari

Fig 3.1  This Menu Bar belongs to the FINDER application which the active PICTURES folder is using

Fig 3.2  This Menu Bar belongs to the Microsoft Word 2011 application which the active Document is using

What the above means in reality is that you often have an active window located towards the bottom of the desktop screen and/or behind the window of another, non-active, window whereby you have to keep going backwards and forwards, relaying, between the menu bar at the top of the desktop screen and your active window at the bottom of the desktop screen and possibly behind another window.

In other words, with the Microsoft Windows window system you are using a folder and can click on its menu bar fairly quickly whereas with the Apple Mac window system you have to move the mouse pointer around the desktop screen a lot more; which might seem a small detail but it can become quite tedious and time-wasting. You will only know what I mean when you actually start using your Apple Mac computer for the first time; especially if you are used to using a Microsoft Windows computer. Wait until you read about Minimizing and Maximizing a window!!

The most common menus always have a FILE menu and an EDIT menu. Although every menu has to have Menu-Items, they do not have to contain Sub-Menus and Sub-Menu Menu-Items - Many menus do though. The standard menu bar has a FILE, EDIT, VIEW and HELP menu (as those above). Menus in general are exampled in other sections around this website, including the Folders & Files sections (which you should of read already).


The traditional Tool Bar (also known as: Toolbar) is primarily made up of Buttons, with modern tool bars having Drop-Down menus on them as well. A traditional tool bar will have standard buttons on it that, when clicked on, allow you to OPEN a file, PRINT a document, SAVE a document and so on. Whereas a modern tool bar might have buttons on it that interact with the Internet and drop-down menus that give a greater choice of options for your document. Here are some example Tool Bars:

Fig 4.0  This Tool Bar belongs to a standard folder - Its tools allow you to organise folders and files

Fig 4.1  This Tool Bar belongs to the Microsoft Word 2011 app - It allows you to create, edit and save documents

Fig 4.2  This Tool Bar belongs to the web (internet) browser application called Safari

Fig 4.3  This Tool Bar belongs to the e-mail application called Mail

The above tool bar descriptions are only main descriptions - Each tool bar has much more to offer in terms of functionality. Also. Unlike years ago where most tool bars looked like the traditional, buttons only, tool bar (similar to those in Fig 4.1 above) these days the tool bar has become more advanced with the addition of drop-down menus and buttons whose functions do more complex things. For example. Some internet tool bars, such as the Yahoo Toolbar and Norton Toolbar, stop bad websites from appearing (popping up) and may have a button to switch this option off/on. They might also have a drop-down menu that gives you a choice of news items to view and/or a button that either takes you to a weather website or simply displays the weather inside a window. Another advanced feature, found on many tool bars, is the ability to customize the buttons on the tool bar.

Fig 4.4  The Yahoo Toolbar gives quick links to Facebook, EBay, Yahoo E-mail, YouTube, The Weather and more.

Fig 4.5  You can customise the Yahoo Toolbar by adding and removing certain apps from it

Tool Bar and Toolbar are the generic names for a tool bar - They can be called Bookmark Toolbar, Format Toolbar, Drawing Toolbar, Music Toolbar or whatever name the software developer/programmer has chosen.


The Display Area is really an Edit Box that is used equally as a display area and as it is an edit area. On the display side of things the edit box is used mainly with Text Editors (such as Microsoft Word 2011 and TextEdit) to display the text (Document) you are viewing. It is also used with File Requesters (to display Folders and Files) and Web Browsers (to display a Web Page). On the editing side of things the edit box is used mainly with Text Editors (for editing text) and with windows that allow the editing of folder and/or file names (such as a File Requester and a folder's own window with sub-folders and/or files inside it).

Fig 5.0  This is the display area of the FINDER window (app) - It is showing you what is inside the PICTURES folder

Fig 5.1  The display area of the Safari web browser application is displaying the Click Wise PC Services web page

Fig 5.2  This is the display area of a file requester - It is displaying the contents of the DOCUMENTS folder

Fig 5.3  This is the display area of the application called TextEdit - It is displaying some text I have typed into it

A Display Area is basically the mid-section/main section of a window, that can be one piece or cut up into smaller sections known as window panes (below). This is usually done by the programmer or software developer who created the program and therefore who created the window. Regardless of this though, you should always take the biggest window pane to be the display area so that in the future you know what you are looking at/for and have a better understanding of navigating around a window.

Fig 5.4  The display area of the Mail application has many window panes, but only one display area.

As an example of the just said; The window of the File Requester (Fig 5.2 above) is split into two window panes, with the display area being the right-hand-side window pane that is displaying the Microsoft User Data folder and the Accounts.xlsx file. The Mail application on the other hand has multiple window panes, but only one of them can be classed as the main display area and that is the window pane on the far-right that is displaying the actual e-mail message (photo in this case).


The Status Bar, if it is available, is the tool bar you see on the very bottom of a window. Its purpose is to provide you with information relating to the task you are currently performing with that window. So if you are selecting multiple files within a folder for example, perhaps to copy or delete them, the status bar on that folder's window might display the number of files selected (i.e. 7 Items Selected), the file's size (i.e. 66.7 MB) and/or how much space is remaining on the hard drive.

In this first example of a Status Bar I have selected 4 Items (2 folders and 2 files) out of a possible 16 Items from the PICTURES folder, ready for copying. I currently have 429.01 GB of space left on my hard drive.

Fig 6.0  The status bar of this folder's window is telling me how many items (sub-folders/files) have been selected

In this next example I am currently on the Click Wise Computer Services website whereby I am just about to click on the About John link. As I hover over that link the Safari web browser application's status bar tells me what web page I will be visiting if I click on the link. This is extremely valuable information from a security point of view because it lets me know, to some degree, if I will be visiting the correct web page and therefore the correct website.

Fig 6.1  The Safari status bar is telling me which web page will be visited by the link being hovered over

This third example is from Microsoft Word 2011. It shows how many pages and words are in the currently opened document (file), as well as which layout I am using. This status bar also has the Spelling & Grammar option (button) on it.

Fig 6.2  The Microsoft Word 2011 status bar changes to show you various statistics about the current document

In this final example the status bar is from the e-mail client (application) called Thunderbird. I am currently checking for new e-mail messages (e-mails) whereby the status bar is reporting back how many e-mails I have received per e-mail account so far - Four E-mails received at this point.

Fig 6.3  The Thunderbird status bar is currently stating how many new e-mail messages have been received so far

The status bar is one of those things that is rarely used or taken notice of, even though it can be of great help. If you really want explanations as to why you are not receiving e-mails, why you cannot connect to a website or why an application is taking too long to open you might find a clue on the status bar.