Is there a keyboard shortcut to fully hide all windows, showing only desktop?

(I know that the trackpad gesture four-fingers-up will sweep them all out of the way, i think it's an expose function. I was hoping for a full "hide" of them all instead.)


5 Answers 5


+H Hides the windows of the currently running application.

++H Hides the windows of all other running applications.

  • I just noticed that Command + H doesn't work if the current application is the only application that has visible windows. :-/ Commented Jun 24, 2011 at 10:45
  • thanks much -- yep, opt-command-H is the closest I have come. I would love it if the key command would have the same effect as "switching to finder and then opt-command-H." in other words -- wherever you were, you are now at finder with the decks cleared. Commented Jun 25, 2011 at 7:46

This not simply a keyboard shortcut but it does (I believe) give you the desired result.

  1. As many know, holding down the Option key while clicking anywhere outside the current active window will hide the active window. I've been using this for many years.

  2. Hold down Command and Option and click on the desktop and all active windows will hide.

I suppose the limitation is that if you can't see a little piece of the desktop somewhere you're sunk (maybe).

  • Good info!! Kind of hilarious I didn't know these. You know, there are always a couple odd keyboard shortcuts that one does not yet know. Commented Mar 23, 2012 at 7:48

What I do is map this to a mouse button. I have a Logitech Performance Mouse MX.

As you can see from the picture below, I've mapped the (otherwise useless) 'Zoom Button' to 'Desktop'.






Really handy for seeing if the file you're looking for is on the Desktop. You can even manipulate files if you keep the assigned mouse button held in (i.e. you could grab some files and put them in the Trash; or you could attach a document to a Gmail email; etc.)

NB: I just noticed that you were already aware of this technique via a touchpad swipe. Nonetheless, I'll leave it up here as an answer as mapping it to a mouse button is something I can't live without.

The other way to do this in a more 'permanent' fashion would be to use the ⌥⌘H combo. This, too, can be mapped to a mouse button as you can see below:



before (again)


enter image description here

  • huh! I hadn't done mouse mapping. I have to say, that is one hell of a mouse you are using. I have sort of converted to a touchpadder for now, but who knows. if I switch and want the mouse that can invade fort knox, I know where to find it! HMM, of course, part of its value is that mapping software. I wonder if the new OS X will really bowl one over with its gestures, which could maybe invoke a string like "switch to finder and then opt-cmd-H. anyway thanks! Commented Jun 25, 2011 at 7:48

This should work great.

  • Nope, I was mentioning above that the behavior I was hoping for was different than the expose clear. BUT thanks! Commented Jun 26, 2011 at 14:36

No, there is no such functionality, but if you want to interact with desktop (as opposed to just taking a quick peek which can be done with Exposé's Show Desktop function) you actually want to have Finder active with no windows showing, here's how to get there:

  1. Switch to Finder: + necessary number of times
  2. Hide all the other apps: ++H
  3. Close all Finder windows: ++W

1.&2. can be done by +-clicking on Finder icon in dock.

I usually have Spaces turned on, so whenever I want to reach the desktop without closing everything I just switch to a fresh space.

  • Actually, there is :-) Commented Jun 26, 2011 at 0:00
  • @Nathan: That's what I meant by Exposé's Show Desktop function, which is, incidentally, enabled by default and widely-known. But that's not what the poster is looking for. I believe that it is clear from both the original question and the rest of my answer.
    – marchdown
    Commented Jun 26, 2011 at 3:27
  • Oh, I didn't see your spaces line! That's what I'm missing. See, I thought you were just suggesting hiding everything and switching to Finder, which seemed like a step backwards to me... My bad, I see your point now. Commented Jun 26, 2011 at 13:53
  • In any case, I'm sure the Lion expose-revamp is going to probably do all of the desired things plus make toast. Commented Jun 26, 2011 at 14:37

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