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When I'm working with certain applications / windows in Mac OS X (I'm using 10.8, although I'm not sure that's relevant), I sometimes see a black dot in the centre of the red window close button. What does this mean? I've seen it most often in Terminal.app, although I think it also happens in other applications too.

I'm talking about this:

enter image description here

versus the normal state of this:

enter image description here

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3 Answers 3

up vote 44 down vote accepted

Specifically, it means that hitting that button will produce a prompt rather than immediately performing the action of closing the window. While this is usually a save dialog, it could be anything requiring further user action.

In this sense, it is equivalent to ellipses on the ends of menu entries.

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6  
THAT'S WHAT THE ELLIPSES MEANS? I NEVER KNEW THAT! [/caps lock] –  Jason Salaz Oct 4 '12 at 21:03
2  
A fun example: open the Apple menu and press alt/option. Observe the ‘Restart…’ and ‘Shut Down…’ buttons. –  Iain Dawson Oct 4 '12 at 21:23
1  
The old explanation that the dot in the close button means the document is "dirty" and not saved or interruptible isn't called out in the Human Interface Guidelines. Now that versions and Auto Save are being pushed, this dot will mean there is a problem saving (disk full) more than just an unsaved change. See pages 105, 144, 160 and 178 in the PDF version of the HIG. –  bmike Oct 4 '12 at 22:40

In most apps, it's an indicator that there's an open file with unsaved changes (although this is less common now that many apps use OS X auto save). In Terminal it indicates a process is running in the window.

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I like to think that it's a gentle remainder: "Something is going on here, and if you close this window, whatever is going on here will be interrupted or lost".

On most apps, it means that the file has been updated (it's "dirty"), and that you will receive a prompt asking if you want to save it or not. Talking specifically about the Terminal, it's telling you that there's a task running, and closing the window will kill the task.

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