Macos – Difference between Command + H and Command + W in Mac OS X

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I am brand new to Mac OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) and was going over the keyboard shortcuts.
I wanted to know what the difference was between command+H and command+W.

From what I have seen is that command+H hides the application to the background (i.e) its minimized. When I use command+W on Google Chrome the tab disappears and I am not sure how to get it back and it does not work on certain applications (i.e. Skype).

Whereas If I use command+H in the “Finder” application the “Finder” window is minimized and when I click on the desktop it’s maximized and brought in focus again which I do not want. So instead I have to use command+W with “Finder.”

I would appreciate it if someone could clarify this. What is the difference between the two and why do the two behave differently in the “Finder” and Google Chrome.

Best Answer

First, none of this is idiosyncratic to Mac OS X 10.10 (Yosemite). The functionality of command ⌘+W and command ⌘+H is standard Mac OS X behavior that I am fairly certain dates back to Mac OS 9 (Classic) and earlier.

Here is Apple’s official page that explains the functionality connected to all of the keyboard shortcuts in Mac OS X, but what follows is an explanation of the specific differences in functionality between command ⌘+W and command ⌘+H.

Short explanation:

  • Closing a Window: command ⌘+W closes a window and possibly can be used to quit an application if that is part of the functionality a developer has added to their application.

  • Hiding an Application: command ⌘+H hides an application, removing it’s interface/windows from your view and sets the priority of the application to the background but it does not ever quit the application or interrupt it’s processes.


Longer explanation:

Closing a Window with command ⌘+W

Using command ⌘+W in the “Finder”—and in some applications—means “Close Window.” In many apps, “Close Window” can also mean “quit the application if the window is closed.” That is not normal behavior, but something to keep in mind. You can see the non-shortcut version of this command in the “File” menu of whatever application you happen to be in. For example, here is a screenshot from the “File” menu in Chrome:

enter image description here

As you can see from that screenshot, you use command ⌘+W to close the “Tab” since the “Tab” is many times considered a “window” in an application such as Chrome. But that is application specific behavior.

Hiding an Application with command ⌘+H

In contrast command ⌘+H means “Hide the application you are in.” You and see the non-shortcut version of this command in the application specific menu to the right. For example, here is a screenshot from the application specific menu in Chrome:

enter image description here

Hiding an application takes the whole application and throws it to the background. So not only do you no longer visually see it as a part of your “Finder” view, it’s system priority—compared to non-hidden apps—is lower. This is useful in scenarios where you need an application open, but you don’t need it to be hogging up resources right at that moment. So you “hide” it and the system knows to not pay as much attention to it as others.