For some apps, I see this on right-click:

enter image description here

The checkmark: the top window.

The diamond: the minimized window/s.

The circles: what do they mean? Do they have a general meaning across different apps?


Those are buffers which have unsaved changes. I don't use BBEdit, but that is how SublimeText and Word do it. It's probably an attribute which OSX reads and uses automatically. Another signal for this state is a white dot inside the red close dot of the window.

  • What does "buffers which have unsaved changes" mean? – Pacerier Dec 7 '17 at 22:50
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    It's a document that has not been saved to disk. It's "buffered" in memory. Sorry, I used old unix terminology. – John Churchill Dec 7 '17 at 23:26
  • But in the screenshot, that's a search window, not a document. What then is the user to make of the circle? What does the circle in that screenshot mean? – Pacerier Dec 9 '17 at 10:47
  • For some reason Script Editor doesn't use circles in dockmenu, even as the windows are unsaved and have a black dot in the red button. – Pacerier Dec 15 '17 at 22:24

In apps such as Terminal, the circle indicates that the application has a window in which a process is running. The window in focus will always have a checkmark, so you will only see the dot when the process is running in a window which is not in focus.

  • "inactive windows" meaning? – Pacerier Dec 7 '17 at 22:49
  • By "inactive windows", I mean those windows which are not in focus. – Paul Brady Dec 8 '17 at 6:16
  • Btw, is this of the same "general meaning" as the circle shown by BBEdit? Or is Terminal using the circle in a specialized way? – Pacerier Dec 14 '17 at 11:13
  • @Pacerier Good question. I am only guessing here, but I assume that the circle is essentially meant to be a warning saying, "The window with a circle needs attention before closing this application." This would make sense both for unsaved changes in an app like BBEdit and for some unfinished process running in the Terminal. – Paul Brady Dec 14 '17 at 17:37
  • Is this something that the OS do by itself without the programmer concerning himself with it, or is this "opt in" by the app programmer? – Pacerier Dec 15 '17 at 22:24

It's a guideline of mac software design provided by apple. https://developer.apple.com/design/human-interface-guidelines/macos/menus/menu-anatomy/

Checkmark In the Window menu, the active document; in other menus, an attribute that applies to the entire selection. Dash An attribute that applies to only part of the selection. Bullet A window with unsaved changes (typically, when Auto Save is not available). Diamond In the Window menu, a document that is currently minimized in the Dock.

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