How to Always Show Window Title Proxy Icons on Mac

Jul 19, 2022 - 2 Comments

Window title icons in Mac Finder

The Mac Finder and apps like Preview offer window title icons when you hover over the window title text, and once defaulted to show icons in the window title bar too. Sometimes these window icons were referred to as “proxy icons”, because they’re interactive and allow for things like dragging and dropping, and right-clicking to access dropdown menus.

In modern MacOS versions like Monterey, Big Sur, and newer, these window title icons still appear if you hover over the title bar texts, but you can enable a setting in System Preferences to always show the window title bar icons if you’d like.

How to Always Show Window Title Bar Icons on Mac

Here’s how you can always see the title bar icons on the Mac again:

  1. Go to the  Apple menu and choose “System Preferences”
  2. Go to “Accessibility”
  3. Choose “Display”
  4. Check the box for “Show Window Title Icons”
  5. Show window title icons on Mac

  6. Close out of System Preferences

The setting change takes effect immediately, so if you have a Finder window open you’ll instantly see the window title bar icon for the currently active folder.

Showing Window title bar icons on Mac

Additionally, you’ll find the title bar icons available in other apps like Preview as well.

While there is obviously an immediate visual difference, the window title bar proxy icons aren’t just for looks, they actually are usable and can be clicked on, dragged and dropped, and you can even open files in a new app by using the proxy icon, handy advanced features that have been around for a long time on the Mac.

You can always toggle the icons off again too if you’d like, which then reverts to the default appearance:

Default macOS window showing no title icon

It’s not clear why Apple defaults to hiding the window title bar icons on modern MacOS versions for Finder, Preview, and other apps, but presumably it’s to try to offer the minimalist look that the modern MacOS graphical user interfaces are known for. But if you’re longing for the appearance of those title bar icons, the simple settings adjustment will show them all, where ever they are available.

Many prior versions of MacOS defaulted to showing the title bar icons, including Snow Leopard, and back then they didn’t offer an option to toggle their display off or on again. But now you can always see them, or never see them, depending on what you prefer.

Do you use the proxy icons and window title bar icons on the Mac? Do you show them all the time or prefer to have them automatically hide? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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

2 Comments

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  1. J Norris says:

    The article seems to indicate that this setting is available in Big Sur, but it does not appear in my preferences (11.6.7). The only options in Accessibility > Display are

    – Invert colors
    – Reduce motion
    – Increase contrast
    – Reduce transparency
    – Differentiate without color
    – Menu bar size
    – Display contrast

  2. Maddie says:

    THANK YOU!!

    I have missed these little icons SO much!
    I only learned that they are interactive several years ago -most likely from OSXDaily site – and used them frequently every day, ever since. …Until whatever update removed them. 🤨
    So thank you so much for pointing out where to find this setting!

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