Quick Window Management With Cinch

That little green ‘zoom’ button at the top of windows in Mac OS X has always puzzled me; it almost never seems to do what I want it to, and so I generally leave it alone. There are, however, some great applications out there which strive to make window management quick, easy and predictable.

One such app is Cinch from Irradiated Software which lets you instantly position and adjust the size of any window with a drag of the mouse. This review will have a look at what Cinch has to offer, as well as some other great apps.

We’ll also be showing you a quick video demonstration of just how Cinch works!

‘Cinching’ Windows

Cinch is a prime example of simplicity at its best. Cinch doesn’t do a lot, but what it does do it does very well. Basically, the idea is that you can ‘cinch’ a window to one of three areas on the screen.

If you’ve experimented with Windows 7, you may have used something very similar before, and it looks as though the idea for this app may have come from there.

This is done by dragging the toolbar of window to either the left, right, or top edge of the screen before releasing.

Cinching in Action

Cinching in Action


Dragging to the left and right sides of the screen causes the window to fill that half of the screen exactly. This can be very useful for when dragging files from one window to another.

Dragging the window to the top of the screen makes it enlarge to fit the entire screen, minus the dock and menubar.

To return a window to it’s previous size, simply moving the window from it’s cinched position will pop it back to shape.

Take a look at the short video below to get a better idea of how Cinch operates. You can see it being used to re-position and scale a web page, and an example of how the split screen can be used to drag and drop files between workspaces.

Compatibility

Cinch has been developed to work well even when dragging windows to the edge of the screen usually triggers another action such as Spaces or moving into an external monitor.

Spaces

If using Cinch in conjunction with Spaces, dragging the window to the edge of the screen will still activate Cinch, but if you hold the window there for one second, you will change spaces. To cinch a window instead, you just have to let go of the window within that second. This feels completely natural and is no problem at all. If you do feel the need however, there is a “handy trick” on the Cinch website detailing how to extend the time before Spaces activates.

External Monitor

If you have an external monitor attached to your Mac, Cinch will not work as well without a few quick adjustments. This is because the app responds to a boundary, usually at the edges of the screen. However, with an external monitor, one of the boundaries disappears and becomes a ‘gate’ through to the next screen.

You can still trigger Cinch by moving the window to the edge of the screen slowly, however a more practical way to solve the issue is to adjust the alignment of the screens slightly.

To do this, open up the System Preferences and select the Displays pane. Click on the ‘Arrangement’ tab and then drag the external display screen so that you have a small lip where the mouse can collide with the edge of the screen.

So in the example image below, dragging a window to the upper right edge of the main screen or the bottom left edge of the external monitor will trigger Cinch without dragging through to the next screen.

Multiple Displays

Multiple Displays

One Letdown

This app is near perfect, however if you close a window from an app such as Safari while it is in it’s cinched position, after opening again you will not be able to instantly ‘un-cinch’ it simply by dragging. Instead you are forced to manually readjust the window dimensions using the bottom-right drag corner.

This is because upon reopening the window, Mac OS X opens up a new window but keeps the previous cinched dimensions the same, however Cinch does not see the window as already cinched, but as an original size.

On Irradiated Software’s active and helpful support page the developer has acknowledged this issue, but it seems there is very little he can do about it due to the nature of the way OS X handles opening new windows. I guess the best workaround would be to get into the habit of moving the window slightly to un-cinch it each time before you close.

Cinch does also have a list of ‘troublesome software’ including Adobe CS applications which don’t work because of their odd interface design, however many apps like this have their own built in ‘workspaces’.

Other Apps for Window Management

A number of other great and different apps are out there for similar purposes. Here are a few that I have discovered:

SizeUp – Cinch’s big brother, SizeUp, is also made by Irradiated Software. This app is similar to cinch, but uses keyboard shortcuts rather than mouse actions to trigger various arrangements of windows on the screen. It also has many more options than Cinch including quadrant arrangements and adjustable partition sizes. It costs $13.

Breeze – Breeze lets you create your own custom ‘States’ for windows globally or application specific. So for example, if you make a finder window full screen, go to the Breeze icon in the menubar, and make a new state with a keyboard shortcut, hitting that short cut in the future will pop the window back to full screen. This app is very well designed and works well if you want a good dose of customizability. Breeze costs $8.

Breeze

Breeze


RightZoom – This application strives to finally fix that funny green zoom button included on most windows in OS X. There are a few different settings to play with, but essentially RightZoom makes the green zoom button enlarge all windows within the active application to fill the full screen, and back to their previous state. RightZoom is completely free.

Zooom/2 – A very quick and effective app for manually adjusting the size and position of windows using a combination of both the keyboard and mouse. It doesn’t sound that convenient but after trialling, it is much, much more efficient than dragging and sizing windows the normal way. This one’s a little more expensive, at $19.95

Conclusion

Cinch is a very cleanly executed app and, after playing around with it for a while, it becomes so natural that you forget it’s not installed on other Macs you may use. Though not perfect, it comes close – and the sheer simplicity makes it a pleasure to use.

Cinch is available for $7, with a free ‘nagware’ version for download. Let us know what you think of it, or if you use another app like the ones listed above to help make window management a little easier.


Summary

Cinch lets you instantly position and adjust the size of any window with a drag of the mouse. It's a unique window management tool, and lets you quickly arrange your display however you like.

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  • http://twitter.com/aziz_light Aziz Light

    Good Review.
    I have been using the combination Cinche + SizeUp + Mercury Mover for the past couple of months and I have been working a lot faster since then.

  • http://indibytes.com Mark Ladson

    Just installed this, works fine on the free version, so far…

    The one thing that is nice about Windows 7 is the ability to quickly size two windows side-by-side. It was only the other day I was wondering if mac users had something similar. Pleased to say this works really well, thanks.

  • Dak

    The green button, in its standard use, switches between the size the window is now and “full” size. Full size means the window is made large enough to display all of the content properly (or as much of the content it can show by enlarging). It is not a “fill the screen” button. (In Firefox it’s a fill-the-screen button.)

    If you want a fill-the-screen button, a lot of these utilities can help. But if you understand the function of the green button, you might find you don’t need full screen. The green button is “smarter” than just simply filling the screen.

  • http://www.ediyang.com ahhqx

    Better Touch Tool(http://blog.boastr.net/) Do the same job very good And It’s FREE!

    • http://www.james-harding.com James Harding

      I second this! BetterTouchTools does this, and more for FREE!

  • http://techhaze.com Florian Wardell

    Window management is the only thing I dont like on OSX. Switching from windows was easy, except for this.
    Thank god this app exists, it changed my mind. For once, something good came from Windows towards Mac.

  • http://novastormsoftware.com Justin

    I tried it but I definitely prefer SizeUp; I just use the keyboard so much it’s more natural. I seriously considered Cinch but after using the trial for a few days I realized I had only used it about two time, so I just stuck with SizeUp. Very nice app though; well executed is the right phrase!

  • http://www.timstringer.com Tim Stringer

    Great article!

    I’ve been using MercuryMover for quite some time and it has definitely made window management much easier and more convenient for me.

    I took Breeze for a whirl and finds that it has some advantages to MercuryMover – it’s more intelligent in the way it resizes windows in multi-display setups and I like the fact that I can assign window presets on an app-by-app basis. Where it falls short is there doesn’t seem to be a way to define a shortcut that allows me to move a window to my other monitor – the way I can with MercuryMover. For example, I might want to move a Pages window to a second monitor so that I can have the document there for reference and like to be able to use a hot key to move it there rather than having to manually drag it over.

    One bit of functionality that’s currently missing from all of these utilities (as far as I can tell) is the ability to save all window locations. When I’m at my desk I use my MacBook Pro with an external monitor and when I go to a meeting I unplug the monitor. Each time I plug/unplug the external monitor I need to manually resize and reposition all of the open windows. It would be great to have a way to do this automatically.

  • Frank Dermott

    WOW!! This is AMAZING. THANKS APPSTORM HEAPS

    BTW. I think M$ stole your idea. Fucking stupid pathetic M$. Can’t do anything right!!

  • http://twosixcode.com Alex Kendrick

    I’m still using Two Up which apparently is the precursor to Cinch and Size Up. Very useful.

    Another one to look at is Mondo Mouse
    http://www.atomicbird.com/mondomouse

  • http://alex-kendrick.com/ Alex Kendrick

    Woops, forgot to mention Afloat.
    http://infinite-labs.net/afloat/

    Along different lines, but a nice complement. I recently did a post on this topic
    http://alex-kendrick.com/tips/mac-window-management/

  • http://www.azadcreative.com Saddam Azad

    Cinch is a fabulous piece of software. I’ve been using it for the last few months.

    Great review.

  • Other Net

    Donelleschi’s Sticky Windows would be a great addition if only they get off their arse and update it to Snow Leopard compatibility!

  • Jake Hanson

    I just found another app for window management called Divvy that takes a totally different approach. It fits my workflow much better than the others mentioned here.

    http://mizage.com/divvy

  • Guy

    There is also SplitScreen (http://l.ginkapps.com/splitscreenapp), allows you to snap windows to the left / right of your desktop. At $0.99, its a far cheaper alternative.

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  • http://imacami.net/tri imacami

    Trí, at http://imacami.net/tri, may be an interested alternative.

  • Callum

    Too bad it doesn’t work for Chrome!

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