How To

See All Open Windows on a Mac with Mission Control

Activate Mission Control to see all windows on a Mac

Mission Control is one of the better productivity enhancing features on the Mac, allowing you to quickly see all open windows, documents, and applications on Mac OS in a broad overview screen. This offers a fantastic way to quickly navigate through depths of open apps and windows and to quickly get to what window or app you’re looking for.


For the unfamiliar,Mission Control will quite literally show all open windows from all applications and documents, so whether you have dozens of Finder windows, Terminal, TextEdit, Pages, Photoshop, or Safari windows open, you can instantly see them all on one screen in little easily browsable thumbnails, and then quickly jump around to specific windows or documents with ease simply by clicking on one of the little previews.

Despite Mission Control being around for quite some time (it used to be called Expose in earlier Mac OS X releases), it is underutilized by many Mac users not only regarding the more advanced Mission Control tricks but even on the more simple window management and active window discovery level. With that in mind, we’re going to review how to use the simplest Mission Control feature which of immediately seeing all open windows, documents, and apps on the Mac.

How to See Every Window on a Mac with Mission Control

There are at least three different ways to access the most simple Mission Control overview feature: with a keyboard shortcut, with a trackpad, and with a Magic Mouse. Each activation method is different but the end result is always the same; you will see all open windows on the Mac.

Use Trackpad Gestures to See All Open Windows on Mac with Mission Control

For MacBook, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, Magic Trackpad, and Mac trackpad users in general, you can access Mission Control immediately with a gesture:

  • Swipe Up Four Fingers on the Trackpad to activate Mission Control
  • Click on any small preview to bring that window to the forefront

If this does not work for you for some reason you likely need to enable it within your Trackpad settings in  Apple Menu > System Preferences > Trackpad > Gestures

Mission Control activate with Trackpad on Mac

Use a Mac Magic Mouse to See All Open Windows in Mission Control

The Magic Mouse also accepts gestures and can access Mission Control easily too with a simple two finger double tap:

  • Double-tap with Two Fingers on the Magic Mouse to activate Mission Control
  • Click any thumbnail to open that window immediately into the forefront

If this isn’t working with your Magic Mouse, you can enable this or adjust it to a different tap option in  Apple Menu > System Preferences > Mouse > More Gestures

Opening Mission Control settings on Mac Magic Mouse

Use a Keyboard Shortcut to View All Windows and Access Mission Control

You can also use a keystroke to quickly jump to Mission Control and see all windows open on a Mac:

  • Hit Control + Up Arrow to open Mission Control
  • Choose any thumbnail preview to open that selected item into the forefront of th Mac

You can enable or adjust the keyboard shortcut in  Apple Menu > System Preferences > Mission Control if you find the keystroke is not activating mission control as expected.

Mission Control keyboard shortcut on Mac

I use this Mission Control gesture feature so often to view all open windows, apps, and documents, that I often forget many other Mac users are not aware of it, until recently someone was watching me use their computer and asked what they were seeing and how to use it.

So the next time you’re looking at a chaotic cluttered desktop full of windows, apps, and documents like this:

Many windows open on a Mac see them all with Mission Control

Just use your trackpad, mouse, or keyboard to view all of the open windows in Mission Control like this:

See all open windows on a Mac with Mission Control

Do you have any tips or tricks for Mission Control on the Mac? Share them with us in the comments below, you might also want to browse other Mission Control articles too.

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