Manage Your Windows Old-School Style With WindowMizer

How many windows do you have open on your Mac right now? How about when you are working? If you consider yourself a Mac power user, you likely work with a large number of windows open at the same time. There are a few ways to make working with droves of windows more manageable including the built in options (mission control and cmd-tab), using multiple monitors (like this guy demoing the new Mavericks multiple display features), or third part solutions. For the past couple of years I used Optimal Layout until recently switching to HyperSwitch — based on Paula’s review — for my window managing needs.

Another third party window management solution recently updated to 2.x: WindowMizer. It replaces the discontinued app WindowShade X as a way to “roll up” your windows similar to a window shade rather than minimize them to the dock. This is actually a previous feature for Macs back in the day, but is it still useful?

An Alternative to Minimizing Windows

The history of WindowMizer is actually pretty interesting. Apparently, back in the days of System 7, Apple included the window “roll up” feature in response to the window minimize feature in Windows 95 because there was no dock to minimize to in System 7. Later, Apple incorporated the dock and window minimization features; hence, the roll up feature was discontinued. In the early 2000s, WindowShade X came along to bring the window roll up feature to OS X. Eventually, quite recently actually, WindowShade X was discontinued, and WindowMizer took its place as the alternative to minimizing windows. I never used WindowShade X, but a fair amount of Mac users seem to prefer the roll up feature for managing windows so lets see how well it works.

Working with WindowMizer

Once WindowMizer is up and running on your Mac, there are two main ways to use the app: the mouse and keyboard shortcuts. I’ll review the workflows for both.

On first startup, WindowMizer will ask you to turn off the “Double-click a window’s title bar to minimize” option.

Mouse

Once WindowMizer is active, simply double click the title bar of a window to roll it up. For me, grouping all of the rolled up windows at the top left of the screen was most helpful because when switching to WindowMizer, all of my rolled up windows are in the same area. If you use the cmd modifier key while double clicking a title bar, all of the windows for that app roll up. Add in the alt key with the cmd key to restore or roll up all open windows.

I used WindowMizer to group all of my rolled up Windows together.

I used WindowMizer to group all of my rolled up Windows together.

In addition to rolling up windows, you can also set double clicking the title bar to make windows transparent. Transparent windows are not my cup of tea, in fact they drive me crazy, so I didn’t explore this function much. However, you can also choose to make the rolled up title bars transparent, which I did find useful.

The title bars are transparent in this shot.

The title bars are transparent in this shot.

Shortcuts

When running, WindowMizer also takes over the cmd-m shortcut key. So when running, pressing cmd-m rolls the window up in place rather than minimizing it. I always hide my dock, and I always use shortcuts, so this is where WindowMizer really shined in my workflow. I came to like having windows rolled up rather than minimized because with my hidden dock, they just disappear. WindowMizer also includes a keyboard shortcut for minimizing all windows in an app: cmd-alt-m. Oh, and in case you were wondering clicking on the minimize button still minimizes the app to the dock.

Other Stuff

So that’s the basics of WindowMizer. Pretty straightforward right? Not quite, there are a few odd cases to note in WindowMizer’s workflow. First, switching to an application does not bring rolled up windows to the front. This is the same behavior as minimizing windows to the dock, but for some reason I expected the rolled up windows to be brought to the front because the windows were being “rolled up” and not “minimized”. I’m sure this is because the roll up feature piggybacks off of the built in minimize feature, but if the developers can change this behavior, it would make the app more useful. Second, you can’t drag items onto a rolled up title bar. Well, technically you can, but nothing will happen. Adding the ability to drag items onto rolled up windows would be another welcome change. Third, I could not get the roll up feature to work in a couple of apps, including CleanMyMac.

A few other WindowMizer features are worth mentioning:

  • You can choose applications for WindowMizer to ignore in the preferences.
  • You can also tell WindowMizer what to do with rolled up windows when quitting the app.
  • There is an action menu for rolled up windows within WindowMizer that allows you to take certain actions on rolled up windows. For example, if you click on a rolled up Ulysses III window, the menu provides options for creating a new sheet and quitting or hiding the app.
Another shot of WindowMizer with more windows rolled up.

Another shot of WindowMizer with more windows rolled up.

Shortcomings

I was surprised at the lack of an option to have WindowMizer live in the menubar. This is the app’s main shortcoming. Being able to click on the menubar, or even better, activate WindowMizer with a global shortcut and have it run completely in the background would definitely make the app more appealing. The app performed pretty well for me and was not a memory hog, but I did get the spinning wheel when performing actions on multiple windows (e.g. cmd-alt-m to roll up all windows for one app).

Conclusion

Using WindowMizer takes some getting used to, and after using it for a while I can see where it would be useful, but it didn’t quite work its way into my workflow. Luckily, a 15 day trial is available so you can try it out and see if it works for your window management needs. For old school System users, WindowMizer might trigger some nostalgia from the days this was a built in feature. For previous WindowShade X users or users who find themselves often minimizing windows, WindowMizer is surely worth a try.


Summary

A nifty, old-school window management solution that allows you to "roll up" your windows instead of minimize them.

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