Mac OS Applications Should Lose Focus After Closing Their Last Window

Since moving to Mac OS from Windows, only one usability problem continually trips me up. This problem is caused by the different ways in which Windows and Mac OS applications behave when their last open window is closed. When the last open window of a Windows application is closed, the application closes. In contrast, when the last open window of a Mac OS application is closed, the application stays open.

The advantage of keeping applications open is that opening a new window in a running application is much faster than having to open the application first. However, when the last window of a Mac OS application is closed, the application remains the active application—it’s menu bar is displayed at the top of the screen—but the window revealed by closing the last window of the application belongs to a different application. For example, the following image shows an open window of the Safari web browser.

Safari window when Safari is active

The following image shows that closing the Safari window reveals an OpenOffice window but Safari remains the active application.

OpenOffice window when Safari is active

Even though the revealed window doesn’t have the focus, its visual presence is so strong that I often find myself trying to invoke a menu option of the still-active application on the window without focus. In my Safari and OpenOffice example, I find myself applying Safari menu options to the OpenOffice window.

My solution would be to make the application of the revealed window the active application. Again in my Safari and OpenOffice example, after closing the last Safari window, OpenOffice should become the active application, as shown in the following image.

OpenOffice window when OpenOffice is active

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