Back in the earlier days of the Mac, OS X used to have a built-in feature that let you focus in on a single window while hiding all the others. For whatever reason, Apple decided to get rid of that. As a result, it’s also now difficult to hide all your open windows to protect against wandering eyes nearby.
Fortunately, a new Mac app called Hides restores these features. The app lets you use your Mac in “Single App Mode” as well as quickly hide all of your windows with a single click or keyboard shortcut. Hides is $4.99 in the Mac App Store but well worth it if you’re often in a busy environment but need to get some private browsing done.
Hide Your Entire Desktop
If you want to hide your entire desktop with Hides, utilize the Preferences panel that opens upon first launching the application. You can decide whether you want to hide every running application or just use Single App Mode. For our purposes, make sure Single App Mode in the left sidebar is switched off.
While Hides sits in your menu bar for easy access, you might want to set a keyboard shortcut hide the windows even quicker. Select Hide All Apps in the Preferences to do this. Then click Record Shortcut and choose your key combination to set.
From there, either click Hides in the menu bar and choose Hide All Apps or just use your keyboard shortcut. All your windows will click vanish from the desktop.
Tip: The application icons will still appear in your dock even if the windows are gone. A good way to quickly get rid of this is to hide the dock too by using the shortcut Command+Option+D.
Hide Individual Applications
To hide individual applications on your Mac, you’ll want to head back into the Hides preferences, accessible via the menu bar option. This time, click the switch on the left that turns on Single App Mode.
Single App Mode essentially only lets you use one application at a time and it will automatically hide the rest. If you have Safari, Messages, Calendar and Mail open and Single App Mode is enabled, you’ll only be able to see one of the four that you choose. If you decide you only want to see Safari but then attempt to open Messages, the Messages window will open and Safari will automatically minimize.
This is a great tool if you need laser focus on a specific application and don’t want the distracting clutter behind it on your desktop. Hides lets you pick a keyboard shortcut to enable Single App Mode too, so take advantage of that if you want quick access.