Make the OS X Maximize Button Work like Windows

One very, very common question/complaint from folks who have recently switched from Windows to Mac is “Why does the green button only resize windows and apps?”. It’s a totally valid question – the resizing behavior has always annoyed me too, and I made the switch years ago.

Fortunately, there’s a very small and perfectly customizable program called Right Zoom that will change the default behavior and truly maximize programs when you click the green “Zoom” button” (the green zoom or maximize button in os x). This tutorial will show you how to use it and set it up to best suit your needs.

First a brief bit of history. The green button is actually called the “Zoom Button”. In some applications it actually does maximize the window. Then, in some like iTunes, it changes the interface from the full iTunes layout to the mini-player. In other apps, it just resizes the window to what Apple thinks is the best ‘fit’. To say this is a bit confusing to recent switchers is putting it mildly. So – lets fix that button once and for all.

Start out by downloading Right Zoom. Unzip the file and drag RightZoom to your Applications folder. Double-click it to start the program.

finder with rightzoom selectedInitially, you’ll notice that nothing at all happened. RightZoom actually runs in the background, and doesn’t really show itself at all. Click the green Zoom button in that same Finder window you opened to launch Right Zoom, and watch it completely maximize – just like in Windows and Linux.

finder completely maximized

Out of the box, Right Zoom will truly maximize a number of programs, but not all of them. The ones included by default are Finder, Safari, MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Pages, Numbers and Keynote. To add additional programs to the “maximize” list (or remove some of the defaults) you’ll need to close Right Zoom. To do so, open a Terminal by selecting Applications -> Utilities -> Terminal. In the terminal window enter the command killall RightZoom.

os x terminal closing rightzoomNow hold down the Apple key (also known as the Command key) and double-click Right Zoom. You’ll be presented with the Configure Right Zoom window.

rightzoom configuration windowClick the plus sign ( + ) next to the Use Right Zoom in the following applications only: list. A list of your currently open applications will appear. Select one that you want to fully maximize when the green Zoom Button is pressed (in my example below, I selected VLC). Now each time you click the Zoom Button and Right Zoom is running, that application will completely maximize.

Repeat this step until you’ve selected all the applications you want to use Right Zoom with. Once you’re done, click the Apply button, and then the Close button. In the future if you want to add more applications to this list, make sure to close Right Zoom (step #4 above) and re-launch it by holding down the Apple Key.

rightzoom configuration window adding a new app to the allowed listAlternately, you can enable Right Zoom to maximize ALL applications, except the ones you specify. Just select Enable Right Zoom in all applications, but not in Exclusions: from the Configure Right Zoom options.

There are a few default programs included in this list as well, and you can add to them the same way you would add to the Use Right Zoom in the following applications only: list. Except this time, the apps that you add will never use the Right Zoom feature. One of the default apps added to this list, iTunes, you’ll want to leave in the list. See step #7 below for an explanation.

rightzoom configuration window adding a new app to the blocked listThere are a few known issues with Right Zoom – but none (in my option) that would stop you from using this app. They are: if you click Zoom Button in an inactive application, Right Zoom may not work. Activate the application first by clicking its window title. Also, Quick Time Player controls inside Safari show incorrect behavior while Right Zoom is running. This is Apple’s bug and there is no workaround at this time.

Additionally, you won’t want to allow iTunes to use Right Zoom – as it will disable the mini-player/full size player feature that normally happens when you click the Zoom Button.

By default, Right Zoom does not automatically start when OS X boots. To add it to your list of startup items, see this tutorial. That’s it – you now have a ‘normally’ functioning maximize (Zoom) button!

Comments [34]

  1. Hi, I just recieved my first ever Mac today, a MacBook Pro – and I was thinking to myself, "Man, this thing is SWEET! However, I'm not sure if I'll ever get used to the whole 'Best Fit' as opposed to 'Maximise' which all us Ex-Windows patrons have grown to know and love…" Dude, you made my day. My Mac experience just enhanced, tenfold. Cheers!

  2. This is an excellent example of how to "help" and not be a cocky mac worshiper . You know the ones who respond on forums with "get used to it" or "this is how it should be" . Thank you for this solution…and one line for the "mac groupies", don't comment if you can't help. I don't hate windows and I don't worship mac.

  3. Thank you so much for this.

    I just ordered a Mac (after using a PC for past 10 years) and this REALLY annoyed me – I don't know why Apple don't permanently "fix" this.

  4. maximise is great on a PC because its fast.. you hit one button and instantly you get all data in the maximum screen space and then hit it again to return.. i find on the mac i am forever clicking and dragging and resizing to try and accomodate my preference for space at any given time.. Also the theory about macs being geared towards multitasking so they dont need maximise is rubbish IMO.. you can still drag windows around on a pc and multitask exactly the same way as a mac but you have an option to maximise also.. having maximise does negate a multitasking style interface…

  5. The Windows way of maximizing usually ends up showing empty whitespace. This may be great when you're working in one app an want to focus, but when multitasking, overlapping intelligently resized windows make more sense. I need both, so I use Isolator for slightly dimming an blurring background apps instead. Works well and looks cool.

  6. Where have you been all my Mac life??? A random conversation brought your tool to my attention. Great app. Thanks!

  7. It's a nice app, but I recently got into troubles, when using Adobe Reader. The application was reacting extremely sluggish, with a horrible delay of several seconds for each command. When I excluded Adobe Reader from interacting with Right Zoom (via CMND-Click on the application icon options), everything was fine again. You might want to keep that in mind.

  8. This app is definitely a life saver. This is one of the things i missed most about my PC, which trust me are not a lot. Anyways i've been using it for a few days and all the applications were working fine until today i noticed that it's not working on iTunes or iPhoto anymore. Is there something i can do to fix this issue?

  9. If you press SHIFT + button it will zoom like the 'real' deal. 🙂

  10. Oh… or not… it was just on some of those applications. Damn you mac!!! +waving fist+

  11. I am using rightzoom but cant figure our how to make it work in Photoshop CS5? Is this possible?

  12. Love this program but you will have to turn it off for Indesign en Illustrator cs5 because it will produces some weird bugs. For instance i could not select color swatches in Indesign anymore!

  13. Like Alex Schmidt above, I was tearing my hair out, trying to figure out why Adobe Reader was so slow. I tested Reader on a Guest Account and it was working fine. So I created an exception in RightZoom for Adobe Reader (both v9 and X), and voila! Reader was working fine again.

    Keywords: Adobe Reader slow, lag, mac, delay, selection, drag, rightzoom, problems, adobe reader x slow, adobe reader 9 slow, adobe reader x unusably slow, unusable

  14. Thank you. Works great in Finder and Safari and Fire Fox. Haven't tried I'd on other programs yet. Simple improvements on OS operations often used like this one make working a lot more relaxing. More possible keyboard shortcuts is the only feature I'd add to this program.

  15. Hey, I've always been a mac user and an occasional windows user; but I've always appreciated windows maximizing design. Thanks for the information and I'm sorry for whom ever had to deal with a cocky person; though I suppose its not up to me to apologize for the offender but I felt bad for the offended.

  16. Why not just create an app that adds a 4th button?

    1. Mac + PC both have the CLOSE-WINDOW button

    2. Mac + PC both have the MINIMIZE button

    3. PC has the MAXIMIZE button instead of the ZOOM button

    4. Mac has the ZOOM button instead of the MAXIMIZE button

    I see everyone is trying to convert Mac's ZOOM button into a PC-style MAXIMIZE button using apps, but why not just create an app that adds the MAXIMIZE button as a 4th option???

  17. Also, this isn't working with Photoshop, and this is the main reason I searched for such a program.

    Photoshop is one of those programs which contains and manages its own windows. When I open Photoshop itself, there are no minimize/maximize buttons. It's when I open a new file (an image) within Photoshop that those options appear, and now I'm working with a window that is housed within Photoshop.

    On a PC, when using Photoshop, I could maximize the window (again, I'm talking about the file-window within the Photoshop window) such that the image would be coordinated into the center, and everything outside the boundary of the image would be a gray area. If I were to accidentally click in the gray area, nothing happens. That was great, because when I work fast, I'm prone to those accidental out-of-bounds clicks. But Photoshop does not act this way in Mac, and it's extremely annoying. In a Mac, again, Photoshop manages its own windows. But when you try to maximize (i.e., hit the green (+) button, you get the ZOOM effect, and the window shrinks. Further, the image window gets shoved to the top left corner of the screen rather than being coordinated into the center. But the most annoying aspect of all this is that, since the window doesn't maximize, there's no gray area outside the boundary of the image. So, when I'm in Photoshop and I have an image open, I'll be able to plainly see my desktop behind my workspace. When I accidentally click outside the boundary of the image, Photoshop minimizes by default because the Mac thinks I'm trying to get to my desktop or some other program that I could see back there. This has become such a nuisance that I find myself working a whole lot less with Photoshop and similar programs, which is ridiculous because these programs are supposed to thrive on Mac!

  18. Now if only we had a "minimize everything" / "show desktop" button…

  19. Current version is much simpler to customise than described here. Great app!

  20. Thank god 🙂 Having a PC and Mac at my desk this was the most annoying 'feature' from either systems…now if only I could somehow move the x – + across to the right hand side of windows on my Mac I'd be in nerd heaven!

  21. Been a mac user for several years and never got over the lack of a maximize. Thanks much.

  22. But it causes problems/delays for sliders in Photoshop and other apps. Maybe after they fix the bugs it'll be useful. For now, it goes in the trash can.

  23. @popo just use F11 (you will have to hold down "FN" and hit F11 if it is your "Volume Down" button)

  24. it was very annoying.. Thank You So much for this information.. it works exactly the way i wanted..Thanks Again

  25. Thank goodness I've not been the only one that has been frustrated by these three apparently normal, but debilitating, things:

    1. the windows control in Mac being located on the left hand side (instead of the right)

    2. the apparent "+" button behaving not like a maximise button.

    3. the inability to double click the title bar to toggle between maximize and restore.

    I agree with John's post of April 13th @ 4:35AM about adding a 4th button that's actually a Maximize button, instead of the substituting the oft confused "zoom" button and also soundly support Will's post of June 26th @ 9:35PM about moving these buttons to the right hand side!

    If anybody can direct us to an application that does as many of these things, it would be very much appreciated!

  26. This app causes a lot of issues with Adobe products. Illustrator running slow, Photoshop tool panels freezing, Adobe Reader not working properly.

    It was useful, but right now it is better not to be installed on a machine running Adobe products.

  27. Hi,

    Firstly – love the Right Zoom app – works a treat!

    John, I’m a Photoshop user on the Mac – I find toggling canvas views using the ‘F’ key to do the job swimmingly. One tap of the ‘F’ key, and the gray background fill the screen. I can move my artwork into view by using the hand tool (hold space bar and click and drag around). In this view I can hit the ‘Tab’ key to lose all my tools temporarily, or ‘Shift-Tab’ to just lose the larger panels on the right.

    Another tap of the ‘F’ key and you get a true full-screen/presentation view. The ruler, as always, can be turned off simply by hitting ‘CMD+R’.

    Popo – if you are on a Macbook/Macbook pro, you can reveal the desktop by sliding four fingers upwards on your trackpad. Or, hold “Opt+Cmd” and click on the Desktop.

    Hope this helps!

    Digital Media Teacher TAFE NSW, Sydney Australia

  28. the recent version is lot easier. no need to get into terminal. options window are added to choose the applications you want to be associated with right zoom. hats off. great app.

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