OS X’s minimize feature shrinks down an open window and stores the page on the right-hand side of your Dock (assuming you haven’t moved the dock off the bottom of the screen). It’s a handy way to leave a window open for easy future reference, yet not have it take up space on your screen. There are a couple ways to minimize a window to the Dock—press Command-M, or just click the yellow minimize button in the top left of an open window. When you do, an oh-so-pretty animation will scale the active window down into the Dock. When you need to use it again, click the small window icon in the Dock, and it will scale up to full size.
But what if you want to minimize all of an application’s open windows? Try holding down the Option key before clicking the minimize button. This trick will probably work in most, but perhaps not all, of your applications. All Cocoa applications support the feature automatically, from what I can tell. There are lots of Cocoa applications out there, including most anything Apple has shipped lately, plus programs such as OmniWeb, Camino, Path Finder, and many more. In any of these programs, Option-clicking the minimize widget will send all of the program’s windows to the Dock. If you find you want all the windows back at full size, Option-click on any one of the minimized windows in the dock, and they’ll all expand again.
So much for Cocoa applications. What about Carbon applications, such as Microsoft Office 2004, BBEdit, and Photoshop? The answer here is you’ll probably be able to use the Option-click shortcut to minimize all open windows, but it’s not guaranteed. On my system, it seemed to work in every Carbon application I could find, including the Finder, Excel, and Photoshop. It didn’t, however, work in Word, which seems quite odd. I’m not sure if Word is the only exception to the rule, or if there are other such apps—but if there are, I don’t have them on my Mac.
There’s another disadvantage to Carbon apps in this regard—you can’t release all of the minimized windows with an Option-click on one of the docked windows. Instead, you have to click on each window to release it from its temporary home in the Dock. You’ll want to keep this in mind before you minimize those 20 open BBEdit windows via Option-click.
Just to further confuse things, however, there’s one function where Carbon applications have an advantage over their Cocoa counterparts—when closing minimized windows. With Cocoa applications, you have to release a minimized window from the dock before you can close it. With Carbon applications, however, you can close a minimized window by control-clicking on its icon on the Dock and selecting Close (or by pressing Command-W). Try that with a Cocoa application’s windows, and you’ll only see Open in the contextual menu.
Hopefully, OS X 10.5 will bring further consistency to this functionality, as it’s confusing to explain in its current state.