Using Hot Corners in Mac OS X

Screen showing Active Screen Corners in Mac OS X.

If you’re new to Mac OS X and are more familiar with Microsoft Windows, you might be wondering, “How do I minimize all my open windows so I can see the desktop?”

In Windows, all you have to do is press the Windows key + M. With Mac OS X, the analogous keyboard combo is Command + M, but that minimizes the current application’s window only. You could press that keyboard combo repeatedly, but that’s a pain and it still may not work anyway, since not all applications obey the command.

A built-in feature of OS X called Hot Corners resolves this issue. As you’ll see, it also does some other cool things.

With Hot Corners, you briefly place your cursor in a corner of the screen to invoke a certain key action, such as showing the desktop.

Hot Corners only takes a minute to set up. You can define actions for all four corners of your screen to perform tasks such as displaying your Screen Saver, Launchpad or Mission Control. This way you can quickly open applications that aren’t on the dock or view all open apps for quick navigation.

Here’s how to set up Hot Corners.

1. Open System Preferences from the dock, as pictured below, or go to the Apple drop-down menu (the Apple icon in the upper left-hand corner) and select System Preferences.

System Preferences screen in Mac OS X.

2. Select either Desktop & Screen Saver or Mission Control.

3. In Desktop & Screen Saver, go to the Screen Saver tab and click the Hot Corners button at the bottom right. Or, in Mission Control, click the Hot Corners button at the bottom left.

Location of the Hot Corners button in each of the preferences options -- Screen Saver and System Preferences.

4. Now you can select an action for each corner of your screen. You can also choose the same action for more than one corner, if you want. Here are the Hot Corner options:

  • Start Screen Save
  • Disable Screen Saver
  • Mission Control
  • Application Windows (Displays all the open windows for the app currently in use)
  • Desktop (Minimizes all windows and displays the desktop)
  • Dashboard (Displays dashboard widgets)
  • Notification Center
  • Launchpad
  • Put Display to Sleep

5. To minimize all open windows and reveal the desktop, select Desktop.

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6. If you want no action to be associated with a Hot Corner, just leave the selection set to the default (“no action”) option.
7. Click OK.

Now you can see your desktop again with just a quick flick of the cursor.

We all have our own habits with the mouse or trackpad, so it might take some practice to get used to this and figure out which actions associated with which corners work best for you. If one corner seems to be a poor choice, choose another where you might not accidentally leave your cursor as often.

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