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Using Leopard’s Expose Preferences Pane

Exposing Your Desktop


Expose & Spaces Preference Pane

You can assign useful functions to the hot corners of your display.

Screen shot courtesy of Coyote Moon, Inc.

Expose is Apple’s window management system. It allows you to manipulate windows on your desktop, so you can quickly locate or hide them, and quickly access the desktop when it’s obscured by open windows.

Before Expose, working with multiple open windows could be difficult, because they tended to obscure the desktop as well as each other. Trying to access a window that was hidden behind others required using the mouse to move windows around until you uncovered the one you wanted and could click it to bring it to the foreground.

Expose solves this problem by providing shortcuts that can display all windows, display only windows of a specific application, or hide all windows so you can access the desktop easily.

Launch the Expose Preferences Pane

  1. Click the ‘System Preferences’ icon in the Dock or select ‘System Preferences’ from the Apple menu.
  2. Click the ‘Expose & Spaces’ icon in the Personal section of the System Preferences window.
  3. Click the ‘Expose’ tab.

Expose Functions

Expose has three functions that make it easier to work with multiple open windows.

  • All Windows. This function displays open windows as thumbnails, so all windows are visible. You can easily click on a specific window to select it. Once you click it, the selected window moves to the front and the windows resume their normal sizes.
  • Application Windows. This is similar to the first function, but only the windows associated with the application you’re currently working with display as thumbnails. Once again, you can click any thumbnail. The selected window will move to the front and all windows will resume their normal size.
  • Show Desktop. This last function sweeps away the clutter of open windows to reveal the desktop.

Configure Expose

You can control Expose by using your keyboard’s function keys or by moving the mouse cursor to a corner of the screen. You can configure each corner to invoke an aspect of Expose. If you have a multi-button mouse, you can assign Expose functions to specific mouse buttons.

Active Screen Corners

Within the Expose preferences pane is the Active Screen Corners section, an area that depicts your display with a dropdown menu for each corner. You can use each dropdown menu to assign a function to its corner. All corners offer the same options.

  • All Windows. Displays all open windows as thumbnails.
  • Application Windows. Displays all of the windows associated with the current application as thumbnails.
  • Show Desktop. Hides all windows and reveals the desktop.
  • Dashboard. Switches to Dashboard and brings all active Dashboard widgets to the screen.
  • Start Screen Saver. Activates the currently selected screen saver.
  • Disable Screen Saver. Turns off the currently selected screen saver.
  • Sleep Display. Puts your display in sleep mode.

Make a selection from an Active Screen Corners dropdown menu. You can disable any active corner by selecting the ‘-’ (dash) item from the corner’s dropdown menu.

Expose Keyboard and Mouse Shortcuts

You can assign any available function key or a mouse button to any Expose function. Each Expose function (All Windows, Application Windows, Show Desktop) has a pair of dropdown menus. The first dropdown menu allows you to assign the Expose function to a function key. The second dropdown menu allows you to assign the Expose function to a mouse button.

Use the dropdown menus to make your selection. One thing to note: F9 through F12 are the default function keys for using Expose and Dashboard. Unless you have a pressing need to use these function keys for some other application, I recommend leaving them as they are configured by default.


The last section of the Expose preferences pane allows you to select the function key and mouse button that will activate Dashboard. Use the first dropdown menu to assign a function key to hide or show Dashboard, and the second dropdown menu to assign a mouse button to hide or show Dashboard.

Now that you’ve configured Expose to your liking, you should find it much easier to navigate your desktop and open windows.

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