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

Aug 14, 2013 - 10 Comments

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

10 Comments

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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.

  2. t1n0m3n says:

    I have found that you can move the app window if you position the mouse over the edge to get the horizontal or vertical resize arrows. The trick is to move the mouse horizontally if you have the vertical resize arrows or vertically if you have the horizontal resize arrows. It is a bit tricky, but it works on Mavericks 10.9.x This trick does not work with the diagonal resize arrows. The trick works better if you get the resize arrows the furthest away from the window without turning back into a normal pointer. You can practice this trick on any window, off screen or not.

  3. Dominik Schreier says:

    Thanks for your effort. This helped me.

  4. pekapa says:

    Or you can use BetterTouchTool and set a modifier key to move your window around (i.e. hold the modifier, click and drag with the mouse/trackpad)

  5. magichabits says:

    t1n0m3n, thank you. I moved my mouse to the left edge of the window. While the cursor was left-right, I clicked and dragged the edge down and was able to drag the whole window.

  6. Vincent says:

    Both these tricks do not work for the Android Emulator launched from Ecipse.

  7. Marjon says:

    Both tricks in the article didn’t work for me but thanks to the suggestion from t1n0m3n I was able to get my screen back!

    Thank you very much t1n0m3n!

  8. Mic says:

    Nothing worked for me until I’ve discovered something by accident, hold Option key and resize window from bottom it resizes it equally eventually brining the top of the screen within viewport.

  9. Chris says:

    Thanks for this post, and thanks Mic! On my 13″ mac book pro (retina) none of these options worked (I couldn’t choose a specific screen resolution in the display preferences) but the option key worked like a charm! Thank you.

  10. Kriti says:

    Option PLUS resize is probably the best solution…

    This worked too:
    “… just erase /Users/youruser/.config/filezilla/filezilla.xml ”

    from http://trac.filezilla-project.org/ticket/7175#comment:8

    Not sure it it messed anything up, but I see my bookmarks are still there.

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