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A window is a rectangular area of the screen, usually with a border all around and a title bar at the top. You can think of a window as a screen within the screen. Each window displays an application, allowing you to to have more than one application visible, and work on more than one task at a time. You can also think of windows as pieces of paper on your desktop: they can overlap, or be side by side, for example.

You can control a window's position of the screen, as well as its size. You can control which windows overlap other windows, so the one you want to work with is completely visible. For more about moving and resizing windows, see the section called “Manipulating Windows”.

Each window is not necessarily a different application. An application usually has one main window, and may open additional windows at the request of the user.

The rest of this section describe the different types of windows and how you can interact with them.

Types of Windows

There are two main types of window:

Application windows

Application windows allow all the minimize, maximize and close operations through the buttons on the titlebar. When opening an application you will usually see a window of this type appear.

Dialog windows

Dialog windows appear at the request of an application window. A dialog window may alert you to a problem, ask for confirmation of an action, or request input from you.

For example, if you tell an application to save a document, a dialog will ask you where you want to save the new file. If you tell an application to quit while it is still busy, it may ask you to confirm that you want it to abandon work in progress.

Some dialogs do not allow you to interact with the main application window until you have closed them: these are called modal dialogs. Others can be left open while you work with the main application window: these are called transient dialogs.


You can select the text in a dialog with the mouse. This allows you to copy it to the clipboard (CTRL-C to copy), and paste it into another application. You may wish to quote the text you see in a dialog when requesting support on the Internet.

Manipulating Windows

You can change the size and position of windows on the screen. This allows you to see more than one application and do different tasks at the same time. For example, you might want to read text on a web page and write with a word processor; or simple change to another application to do a different task or see the progress.

You can minimize a window if you are not currently interested in seeing it. This hides it from view. You can maximise a window to fill the whole screen so you can give it your full attention.

Most of these actions are carried out by using the mouse on different parts of the the window's frame (see the section called “Actions” for a recap of using the mouse). The top edge of the window frame, called the titlebar because it also displays the title of the window, contains several buttons that change the way the window is displayed. Figure 2.1, “Titlebar for a Typical Application Window” shows the titlebar for a typical application window.

Figure 2.1. Titlebar for a Typical Application Window

Titlebar of application window frame. Callouts: Window Menu
            button, Titlebar, Minimize, Maximize, Close Window buttons.

All actions can also be carried out from the Window Menu. To open this, click on the Window Menu Button at the left-hand edge of the titlebar. Common actions can also be carried out with keyboard shortcuts: see the section called “Window Shortcut Keys” for a simple list of these. The following lists the actions you can carry out on a window, with the mouse or the keyboard:

Move the window

Drag the titlebar to move the window. You can click on any part of the titlebar except the buttons at either end to begin the drag action. The window will move on the screen as you drag the mouse. On less powerful computers, the movement of the window may be represented by moving an outline of its frame.

You can also choose Move from the Window Menu, or press Alt+F7, and then either move the mouse or press the keyboard arrow keys to move the window.

You can also press-and-hold Alt and drag any part of the window.

As you move the window, some parts of the screen will give slight resistance to movement. This is to help you align windows more easily to the edges of the desktop, the panels, and the edges of other windows.

You can also press-and-hold Shift while you move the window to cause it to only move between the corners of the desktop and other windows.


If the Num Lock key is off, you can use the arrows on the numeric keypad, as well as the 7, 9, 1, and 3 keys to move diagonally.

Resize the window

Drag one of the borders to expand or contract the window on that side. Drag a corner to change two sides at once. The resize pointer appears when your mouse is in the correct position to begin the drag action.

You can also choose Resize from the Window Menu, or press Alt+F8. The resize pointer appears. Move the mouse in the direction of the edge you want to resize, or press one of the keyboard arrows keys. The pointer changes to indicate the chosen edge. Now you can use the mouse or the arrow keys to move this edge of the window. Click the mouse or press Return to accept the change. Press Escape to cancel the resize action and return the window to its original size and shape.

Minimize the window

Click on the Minimize button in the titlebar, the leftmost of the group of three on the right. This removes the window from view. The window can be restored to its previous position and size on the screen from the window list on the bottom edge panel or the window selector in the top panel.

You can also choose Minimize from the Window Menu, or press Alt+F9.


A minimized window is shown in the window list and the window selector with [ ] around its title.

Maximize the window

Click on the Maximize button in the titlebar, the middle of the group of three on the right. This expands the window so it fills the screen (the panels remain visible).

You can also choose Maximize from the Window Menu, or press Alt+F10, or double-click any part of the titlebar except the buttons at either end.


If you prefer, you can assign the double-click action to roll up the window: see the section called “Windows Preferences”.

Unmaximize the window

When a window is maximized, click again on the Maximize button to restore it to its previous position and size on the screen.

You can also choose Unmaximize from the Window Menu, press Alt+F5, or double-click any part of the titlebar except the buttons at either end.

Close the window

Click the Close button, the rightmost of the group of three on the right. This could close the application too. The application will ask you to confirm closing a window that contains unsaved work.

Workspaces commands or a link to them still to go in this section, perhaps

Giving Focus to a Window

To work with an application, you need to give the focus to its window. When a window has focus, any actions such as mouse clicks, typing text, or keyboard shortcuts, are directed to the application in that window. Only one window can have focus at a time. The window that has focus will appear on top of other windows, so nothing covers any part of it. It may also have a different appearance from other windows, depending on your choice of theme.

You can give the focus to a window in any of the following ways:

  • With the mouse, click on any part of the window, if the window is visible.

  • On the bottom panel, click on the window list button that represents the window in the Window List.

  • On the Menu Panel, click the window list icon and choose the window you want to switch to from the list. The window list icon is at the extreme right of the panel, and its icon matches that of the current window's Window Menu button.


    If the window you choose is on a different workspace, you will be switched to that workspace. For more on workspaces, see the section called “Workspaces”.

  • With the keyboard, hold the [Alt] key and press the [Tab] key. A pop-up window appears with a list of icons representing each window. While still holding [Alt], press [Tab] to move the selection along the list: a black rectangle frames the selected icon and the position of the window it corresponds to is highlighted with a black border. When the window you want to see is selected, release the [Alt] key. Using [Shift+Tab] instead of just [Tab] cycles through the icons in reverse order.


    You can customize the shortcut used to perform this action with the Keyboard Shortcuts preference tool.

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  Published under the terms of the GNU General Public License Design by Interspire