So I'm a semi-new Mac user (loving it btw), but one thing I'm finding super annoying is that when I hit the "+" to maximize/minimize windows it doesn't behave like I think it should.

I see many threads on here about windows but what I am looking for is some level of consistency about how to minimize/maximize them.

For example, if my monitor is 1920x1080, and I manually sized the window to 800x600 and then I want to maximize the window so I can see more, I'll hit the "+" button to maximize and one of the following happens:

  • Instead of the window maximizing to full screen (e.g., 1920x1080) it will ONLY maximize vertically, so if the window was 800x600 when I press the "+" button, it'll maximize to 800x1080 (it maximized from top to bottom but not left to right).
  • Sometimes, if the window is already maximized, when I hit the "+" to un-maximize it, it doesnt do anything; it just stays maximized.
  • And, sometimes, it behaves like Windows does and takes full width/height after pressing the "+" button.

It becomes annoying because I'm working on a 13" MacBook Pro and an external 23" monitor at 1920x1080 that I use at work. When I want to bring a window over from the 23" monitor to the 13", I have to always manually re-size things.

How can I make the maximize button behave in a predictable way no matter what Application I'm using? Even better if that predictable way matches the way Windows does it.

  • 2
    It's not exactly what you're looking for, but you might want to check out ManyTricks' Moom, which lets you take command of the mysterious green button.
    – Daniel
    Jun 27, 2012 at 15:27
  • 1
    I don't think there is anything built into the os. They let the application choose how to 'Maximize' itself. With that said, I prefer SizeUp, but I have tried Moom too (as @DanielLawson suggested).
    – fernferret
    Jun 27, 2012 at 15:43
  • 1
    This is a different question than the one linked to. That question focused on some way to maximize windows. This one focuses specifically on making the green button do something sane. Editing to emphasize the distinction and reopening.
    – Daniel
    Jun 27, 2012 at 17:19
  • The full screen mode introduced in Lion is made to be more like the Windows full screen. The green plus is not the maximize button, its a completely different concept than Windows. This functionality goes back to the Classic Mac OS as well.
    – jmlumpkin
    Aug 12, 2012 at 0:40
  • 1
    In some apps the Zoom button (green button) can behave like the Maximize button on Windows if you Shift-click it. I have tried it with Google Chrome and Xcode. You can also add a Keyboard shortcut that contains the Shift key to exploit the behaviour. (check this answer for a how-to)
    – nitsas
    Oct 20, 2012 at 9:45

8 Answers 8


If you want it to behave like Windows, the only real answer is to simply use Windows. I know that sounds flippant, but you cannot use one operating system and expect to be able to pick and choose it's behaviour based on your personal preferences of other systems.

The maximise paradigm simply doesn't work on Macs, where the ideal is that the function is to set the window size to best fit the content rather than the screen. The point being that the content is what is important, and that stays the same regardless of if you are on a 11" laptop screen or a 27" desktop behemoth. Now we all know that this isn't always properly implemented, but we also know that it is the developers prerogative to do the implementation, it's not a failing in the OS, and given a choice of "one size fits all full screen" that always does the same thing, or intelligent (when the developer adds it) maximising to meet the needs of the content, then I prefer the existing system.

If maximise as per the Windows system makes sense for a given app (bearing in mind that for many, I would say most, it simply does not), then you really want to be looking into the Full Screen options that are provided from Lion onwards, which are further improved upon in Mountain Lion for external displays etc, as this will provide you with exactly what you need, you just have to use another icon. If your app does not support this yet, then there are a number of workarounds like this one for the time being.

  • "..but you cannot use one operating system and expect to be able to pick and choose it's behaviour based on your personal preferences of other systems." - Ever heard of Linux? Apr 1, 2014 at 8:18
  • @Ing No, tell me more ;) I would argue that the bit of Linux that is "Linux" is just the kernel. That's why all the variants are known as distributions. There is no "Linux" operating system, just a number of distributions using the Linux kernel. If you want a Gnome distribution, go use one, is you want KDE, go get one, if you want one with Wayland or X11 as the underlying screen server, go ahead, but getting a Wayland based Gnome system and making it work like an X11 KDE system is as daft as making a Mac work like Windows.
    – stuffe
    Apr 1, 2014 at 8:33
  • ofc you are right - the point is that you could change minor annoyances with windows system when using a Linux distro if so inclined :) Apr 1, 2014 at 16:30
  • True, and on Mac, and Windows to some extent, my main thrust was that the OP wanted what he was used to, not what was appropriate etc.
    – stuffe
    Apr 1, 2014 at 20:02

It is easy to see why many users coming from Windows think that the green button means 'maximize' versus how it actually works on the Mac. On the Mac, this is called Zoom. This is actually a carry-over from the Classic Mac OS, closer to the button on the top right of a window starting around Mac OS 7.

This also doesn't work with the menu structure in the Mac OS either, with how the menu bar is on the 'system' level, not per application like it is in Windows. Exactly what stuffe mentioned - the focus on the Mac has been content versus real estate.

This button has two features, depending on the application, content, and development:

  • Fit the content of the window better (similar to stuffe's answer).
  • Switch between a user state and standard state.

This is somewhat like what you see in iTunes now, but it actually works two ways in iTunes. In iTunes starting with Mac OS 10.7 Lion (it may be slightly before or after), the green button now switches from the normal player to the mini player. But before that, it acted like many other applications did (and if you hold down Option and click the button, you get this feature back). Basically, the application would switch between several different possibilities:

  • Full-screen (somewhat) - as in filling the remaining area of the screen, minus the menu bar with the window.
  • Reset the window to a view that the developer thought was an 'optimized' way to use the application. This may be a certain window size, snapping to the full height or width.
  • Switch between the standard view and a user defined resized view (for example, resize your window in Safari, click the green button, and it usually goes to the height of the screen, click it again, and it goes back to your resize - basically between 'optimized' view and 'user' view. )
  • A developer chosen 'other feature' view - which is like what you see now in iTunes, switching from full player to mini player. As in, completely changing the window state.

Being a very long time Mac user, I personally prefer this setup than the Maximize functionality in Windows. Once you know the power and actual use for it, it can actually really help ones workflow.

The closest you would get to the Maximize functionality in Windows would be full screen mode introduced in Lion. This is the two arrows pointing away from each other in the top right of the screen. enter image description here While it doesn't work exactly like the zoom button either in Windows (since it puts the full screen application on a different virtual screen), it is rather close, and much closer than the Zoom buttons behavior.


Shift+green button. works for me!

  • This only seems to make a difference in Chrome vs the applications I tested (Finder, Mail.app, Messages, Terminal).
    – tubedogg
    Aug 25, 2013 at 0:44
  • this does indeed work in chrome which is the reason i found this thread. thanks May 22, 2016 at 6:53

I haven't tried it my self, but there is an App called "RightZoom" which runs in the background and makes the zoom button function as a maximise button (RightZoom is not available on the AppStore). There is also an App called iSnap on the AppStore which brings Areo Snap to the Mac. There are many handy tools like this that fill the gaps in the Mac experience.

  • RightZoom is excellent. Configurable to do exactly what the OP (and I) want to do! Thanks
    – user46942
    Jan 16, 2014 at 2:27
  • I love RightZoom, but unfortunately, it does not provide a zoom animation, like the default zoom behavior of macOS. Oct 25, 2020 at 14:46

For lion and above the nearest equivalent of Windows Maximize is go to full screen.

Many apps will have the icon at the top right to go to fullscreen.
Windows and OSX just do window management differently and so there are no exact mappings between the behaviour on the different OSs


Press Option(alt) key, this will turn the green button to '+' sign. Many times clicking the '+' sign does not maximize the window (esp. when you have two monitors).

To overcome this I found this method...

While keeping the Option key down click and hold on the '+' sign in the window. Now release the Option key first and then release the mouse.


Move the mouse to the corner of the window where it becomes a resizing arrow and option double click to fill the screen, WITHOUT going into full screen mode.

More details:

Double clicking on any side when the resize arrow is visible will move that side to the edge of the screen. Adding option makes it affect the opposite side as well.


Press Opt while clicking on the green button.

  • 4
    And what happens if you do?
    – nohillside
    Oct 24, 2012 at 11:15
  • I concur with suggestion of pressing Option+green button to maximize the app Windows-style. I just upgraded to Yosemite and don't know how long this functionality has existed, but it does what I wanted. (Sorry, Charbel, but I don't have enough rep to upvote your answer or comment on it.)
    – SteveW
    Oct 27, 2014 at 21:08

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