The macOS interface and its window metaphor is generally very user-friendly, but it can get confusing when you’ve got a load of applications, activities and system processes happening all at once – it would be nice to see at a glance everything that’s running, and from there be able to jump to or shut down any apps you select.
Well, if you agree with that then you’ve come to the right place. In this article we show three simple methods to see all the applications you’ve currently got running on your Mac.
For related (but subtly different) advice, you may like to also check
How to see all open windows on Mac, or
How to find background tasks on Mac.
Check the dock
The simplest method is to look at the dock: the line of app icons at the bottom of the screen. (If you’ve set this to appear only when moused over, you may need to move the cursor to the bottom of the screen until it pops up. You can change this setting by going to System Preferences > Dock, and ticking or unticking the option ‘Automatically hide or show the Dock’.)
The dock shows icons for all currently open apps, but note that it also shows apps that live there full-time whether they’re running or not, and documents that have been minimised. (We’ve set iTunes, Chrome, Photoshop and various other commonly used apps to live in the dock, for instance, so we can get at them easily whenever we like. This doesn’t mean they’re always on.) The dock puts a small white glowing dot below the ones that are running.
To jump to any of the open apps in the dock, simply click the icon. (If you click the icon of an app that isn’t currently running, it will open.) You can shut down an app directly from the dock by right- (or Ctrl-) clicking the icon and selecting Quit.
If you want to add an app’s icon to your Dock to make opening the app easier, read:
How to add apps to the Dock on Mac.
Press Cmd + Alt + Escape to see the Force Quit Applications menu. This shows all running apps, and lets you
force-quit them if necessary – just highlight the app and click Force Quit.
It’s not possible to jump to open apps from this menu, only to close them. But it is a somewhat clearer view of running apps than the dock, particularly if your dock is as crowded as ours.
The previous two methods only show traditional apps that run in windows. Activity Monitor shows everything.
Find Activity Monitor (in Applications > Utilities, or via
Spotlight) and open it. Apps, activities and processes are listed in alphabetical order by default, but you can click the column headers to order by processor load, memory and other factors.
If you highlight one of the apps/processes, the options at the top will light up, allowing you to Quit Process, or click Inspect for more information.