How to Minimize Windows in Elementary OS

Elementary Feature

If you are new to Elementary OS, particularly if you are coming from a Windows (or Windows-like) operating system, you might be confused on how to minimize windows in Elementary OS. While it seems like a simple task, there is no minimize button for you to click, which makes it an almost impossible task. Here we will explain how minimizing windows work in Elementary OS and also how to change this behavior if it’s not to your liking.

Okay, So How Do I Minimize a Window in Elementary OS?

Whether you launched an app from the dock at the bottom of the screen or launched it from the Applications menu at the top of the screen, an icon for that application should be in the dock below.

Elementary Pre Minimise

Click the icon to minimize the window. If you want to use a shortcut key, press Win + H.

Elementary Minimised

Click the icon again to bring it back up. That’s the quick answer, and if that’s all you wanted to know, you can stop reading here.

But for our more patient readers, hold on a second, because the dock system is an elegant interface that’s worth exploring properly. When used as intended, the dock becomes the central driving force behind Elementary OS: you launch your apps from it, you control your windows with it – the dock is what ties the desktop together and is meant to be tailored to your habits.

To make the most of the dock, you should remove any icons you don’t use and add any icons that you will. For anything you won’t use, right-click on the icon and uncheck the box that says: “Keep in Dock.” The icon will then disappear, and the dock will grow shorter.

Elementary Keep In Dock

For anything you want to add to the dock, first open the Applications menu. Now you can add the program to your dock by either clicking and dragging the application from the menu onto the dock or by right-clicking on the application and choosing “Add to Dock” from the menu.

Elementary Add To Dock

Compare the default dock layout:

Elementary Dock Before

…with a dock tailored to a user’s habits:

Elementary Dock After

Once customized to your tastes, the dock serves up only the applications and functions you really use, driving everything from one place. It’s clean, simple, and elegant.

Fine, But I Want an Actual Minimize Button

Minimalism isn’t for everyone, and sometimes there are features you want to put back. Elementary Tweaks allows you to add a minimize button and gives power users further control over the user interface. To install Elementary Tweaks, just run the following three commands:

Once installed, open System Settings, and in the Personal section, open Tweaks.

Elementary Tweaks

In the Appearance section, look for Layout in the Window Controls field. Open the drop-down box, from which you can choose multiple window layouts with minimize buttons, such as macOS, Windows, and Ubuntu.

Elementary Adding Button

Beyond just adding a minimize button, Elementary OS also has an extensive series of keyboard shortcuts built into its interface. These really add power to the desktop and are excellent for machines where mouse input may be cumbersome, such as ultra-mobile PCs.

Elementary Keys List

Tapping the Windows button reveals a list of the most important key combinations – a super-cool feature we’d like to see on other desktops!

Still not convinced about Elementary’s interface? Is it a bit too Mac-like for your tastes? Check out our list of the best Linux distros for Windows users. If you are still exploring Linux, check out some of the best Linux distros for beginners.

John Knight

John Knight is a writer, most notably for Linux Format (UK), Linux Journal (US), and Maximum PC (US). Outside of open source and general computing material, John has also written for automotive publications, and is currently writing material on vintage gaming and drumming. Other areas of interest include Psychology, French, and Japanese.


  1. It’s 2020 and we have to put up with this crap of making an OS usable. No wonder the year of the Linux Desktop will never arrive because of these head up their *** developers.

    1. To be fair to the Elementary team, it minimises and works perfectly fine, they’re just trying to get people to use the dock instead of treating it like Windows. I’m not sure I agree with their decision to not include a minimise button by default though.

      1. That’s true, they have their design philosophy and it’s their choice but imagine someone who hates terminals and typing out arcane code (and for sure there are many), someone who wants a simple minimize button and has to go through all this. The Linux Desktop people seem to have a love for reinventing the wheel and a square one at that. People love convention and familiarity for a reason and in this small instance I wonder if there really is a big usability advantage in hiding the minimize button and making it difficult to enable it when it’s a feature that is so commonly used by so many.

        It’s a chore to install a desktop and then spend hours bringing back features that we use but are missing just because the devs are so smart that they can’t figure out ways to make it easy to re-enable those features. If Linux is about choices then it’s alright to wonder what’s holding them back from letting the users have those choices. If they construct these self defeating barriers, in this world of plenty, there will be few left to muster the will to overcome such obstacles and taste the goodness within. Design choices need to be well thought out not only to flatter ones ego but also ultimately to attract customers and shield them from purposeless uncertainties.

        Thank you for the article :)

        1. I’m not sure I’d agree with the characterisation. Just look at GNOME and KDE for instance – GNOME “shields you from choice” so as not to overwhelm, KDE gives you every option under the sun, which can overwhelm, but at least you can do the thing you want to do. Both exist, and I’m glad both exist because I can’t stand GNOME, and I don’t want choice to be taken away from KDE! ;)

          There are plenty of “it just works” distros out there. My first recommendation to any new user would be standard Linux Mint (not Ubuntu). My parents (who are in their seventies) are both using it, understand it easily, and haven’t broken it yet.

          1. KDE and the current Plasma editions have really done a good job of keeping the wide range of choices available readily but presenting them in a sane manner as much as practically possible, I think. In the case of Gnome I completely concur with you, I simply fail to like or grasp where exactly they are heading and I can only hope that future versions can change my opinion about Gnome.

            I’m very glad you mentioned Linux Mint, I cannot love it enough. Through the years they have steadfastly kept only the user base in mind, no flashy stuff, no gleaning data for profit, gradual but consistent usability improvements and persevering even when their users were (unjustly) tough on them. Linux Mint 20 Cinnamon is going to be a blast, I’ve only read good things about it and I have very high regards for Clem and his clear headed vision. I think over the years I’ve donated more to his project than I ever did pay for the MS Windows license. I can quite understand why your parents find little problem in using Linux Mint and wish them all the best :)

            Thanks for the conversation and take care :)

  2. This is a great add for Elementary OS, but how about a Window List? If you can’t see what you have minimized it’s hard to switch back.

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