Break free of a fullscreen app on Mac OS X

by Petruza   Last Updated November 04, 2017 03:01 AM

How do you break free of a fullscreen app on Mac OS X?

There are some, mostly games, that when they become unresponsive won't allow you to switch to another app with Command-Tab, and I know no other way to close that app or get away from it. Command-W or Command-Q won't work either.

Is there a shortcut to launch Activity Monitor, or Terminal, to kill the application?

Answers 7

cmd+alt+esc then Force Quit the offending application.

Sometimes cmd+enter will put it in “window mode”.

Martin Marconcini
Martin Marconcini
June 14, 2010 17:19 PM

Shift+Option+Command+Escape, when held down for three seconds, should force-kill the active application in Mac OS X, similar to ending an unresponsive task in windows.

Darth Android
Darth Android
June 14, 2010 17:42 PM

  1. First, try hitting esc. That'll make well behaved programs such as DVD Player or VLC exit Full Screen Mode.

  2. No luck there, try command+tab and see if you can cycle to another open program or the Finder. ( OP tried this, but just adding for completion's sake )

  3. Then try option+command+esc next, to try and Force Quit the application.

  4. If none of that could try to ssh into the machine and kill the offending process via Terminal..

  5. That'd be all I try before rebooting the Mac...

June 14, 2010 18:43 PM

in many cases, cmd-m is often the key sequence to toggle full screen mode...

Brian Postow
Brian Postow
June 14, 2010 21:33 PM

To exit Mac OS X Mountain Lion application full screen mode:

  1. Move cursor to top of screen to display the main menu
  2. Click the blue icon now on the far right of the menu:

In OS X 8.2, an app in full screen mode will display the now hidden application menu by moving the cursor to the top of the screen. At the far right of the menu appears a blue background arrows version of the "full screen" icon (with the diagonal arrows) that you used to initiate the app to full screen mode. Select that to toggle out of full screen mode.

October 10, 2012 14:20 PM

In Xcode, you exit fullscreen mode by holding the cursor at the top of the screen. This makes the menubar appear, allowing you to toggle the fullscreen button. (confirmed in Xcode 5.1)

John Walthour
John Walthour
August 06, 2014 18:54 PM

Games will usually run under different settings than your desktop (with 3d and stuff) - changing between those different modes can be taxing on the computer, and making it unresponsive is common, but it SHOULD eventually switch after a few seconds.

one way to make the switching faster is to run the games under "windowed-fullscreen" mode rather than "fullscreen" - this make them run with the same configuration as the desktop, albeit with a performance penalty.

August 06, 2014 19:05 PM

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