How to Move an Off Screen Window Back Onto the Active Mac Screen in OS X

Aug 14, 2013 - 1 Comment

Ever had a window get lost partially off screen in OS X, where the window titlebars and close/minimize/maximize buttons are no longer accessible? Typically this looks something like the following screen shot:

Window stuck off screen in Mac OS X

There a variety of potential causes and even random situations for windows to move offscreen like that, but it often happens with multi-display situations where one display is disconnected, leaving a large window behind where it’s titlebar is inaccessible off screen. The next time you find yourself in such a situation, try these two tricks to move any window back onto the Mac screen and regain access to the title bar and buttons again.

Try Window Zoom

The Window Zoom trick has been around for a long time and it often works, but it isn’t perfect. Nonetheless, it’s so easy it’s always worth a shot before anything else:

  • From the application where the window is stuck off screen, pull down the “Window” menu and choose “Zoom”

Zoom window to bring it back on screen

Not all apps have the Window Zoom ability though, and in some rare occurrences the zoom feature is still not effective at bringing a windows titlebar back into the usable on screen region. In that case, use the next trick to forcibly resize all windows.

Force Resize Windows to Fit On Screen in Mac OS X

When zoom fails, you can forcibly resize windows so that all of them are realigned and resized to accommodate the screen, pulling the titlebars and buttons back into the usable display region. This happens as a result of changing the screen resolution, here’s what to do:

  • Quit out of any active apps whose windows you do not want to resize
  • Head to System Preferences from the  Apple menu and choose “Displays”
  • Choose the “Display” tab and check the “Scaled” box next to “Resolution” to reveal all screen resolutions available for the Mac display(s)
  • Select a smaller size resolution and confirm you want to switch to the scaled resolution
  • Force windows to resize in Mac OS X

  • The screen resolution changes and all active windows are resized to fit onto the smaller resolution, and also pulled back onto the display to reveal the window titlebars again
  • Now go back to Display > Resolution > Scaled > and choose the normal resolution for the screen (or optionally just choose the “Best for built-in display” option
  • Exit out of System Preferences and enjoy access to your windows again

Resizing a window and bringing it back on the Mac screen

The resolution trick always works, but because it resizes all active app windows it can be a little frustrating if you have a carefully crafted window arrangement.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks

One Comment

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  1. Sean says:

    I have run into at least one app that even zoom or changing the screen resolution will fix.

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