Oops I Quit It Again

Here’s something that’s more than a just a bit annoying. Have you ever quickly shot the mouse up to the upper left-hand corner of the browser window in Safari to hit the back button, only to have clicked the “close window” button instead? I’ve been making a habit of this lately. And it’s awful.
Safari closeupThere’s just not enough space between the back/forward buttons, and the close/minimize/maximize buttons in the interface. You’ll notice that the back button (an oft used task) sits just a few pixels below the close button. Clicking the close button unintentionally when you have several tabs set up with whatever you’re working on will ensure certain anger, swearing and regret. Whenever I click it, for a split second I wish for an “undo” keystroke to cancel my missed mouse target. Sadly, all my current sites disappear and I’m back to square one.
Firefox closeupNaturally, you may suggest that I use a different browser — and indeed Firefox has a larger target for the back button, reinforced by a further separation of the browser’s controls from the window options. And I’ve also heard there are ways to strip Safari of it’s “chrome”, perhaps changing the spacing between the buttons. But I’m just here to complain about the initial design choice that Apple chose to make.


  1. Andrew says:

    I did, but i found that i use the short cut keys lots now. command + Left is back, and Command + Right. its faster and less likely to kill it. Now what kills me constantly is command + W to close a tab, but hitting command + Q instead. I wish it would warn you (as a person who often has 3 windows with ~10ish tabs ea, it would be a good thing)

  2. Yes, I hate that too. But as the above poster said, I think that short cut keys are the way to go. And although his/her shortcut keys work, the ones that I prefer to use are Command+ ] (forward) and Command + [ (backwards). But then again, this could just be me being wierd.

  3. brian w says:

    As far as I can tell, the active portion of the button in Firefox starts in the very first row of pixels below the…top… bar…thingy. The graphic portion of the button is lower, sure, but as far as live, clickable areas go, Safari’s is actually a pixel or two lower.
    Your point is still valid. I just like to niggle. (And I second Andrew’s comment: keyboard shortcuts are your friend)

  4. Use command-left arrow for back, command-right arrow for forward, command up and down for top and bottom of the page, space-bar to scroll 1 screen worth of content, and you’ll hardly ever need to touch the mouse… the more I use the keyboard, the more I detest the mouse.
    While we’re on the topic, command-w for closing the current tab is much faster than the tiny 11px “x” in each tab (Safari).
    Disabling the red button or a “are you sure” dialogue in as an option would be great too — any app that doesn’t have “documents” that need to be saved (a sort-of second chance on quitting) would benefit — Safari, iChat, Transmit, etc.
    Side note: Omni web saves the state of your browsing though, which would essentially solve your problem in one hit :)

  5. You could also use OmniWeb, which can warn you when you close a window with multiple tabs.

  6. Andrew says:

    Oh yeah, i forgot to mention that command+shift+left and command+shift+right to navigate tabs is why i tend to use the arrows for back forward. and i randomly discovered last night that shift+space scrolls up by one screen

  7. John Bruce says:

    Also OmniWeb will remember the pages that were open when the program quits and reopen them upon restart.

  8. Kyle says:

    I don’t know, I think Safari is a terrible browser. I’m not sure why people use and praise it so much… Just to twist the knife, Firefox also has the option to pop up a confirmation dialog when you quit (or hit the x) when you have multiple tabs open.
    Also (with extensions) you can choose to open the browser from your previous sessions (all tabs come back).

  9. While keyboard shortcuts don’t make this usability issue any less serious, I really like delete for back and shift-delete for forward. Much quicker than pressing two keys.
    (That’s backspace and shift-backspace for people with a PC background.)

  10. I’m with Andrew on that one. I tend to use the keyboard shortcuts more. Its pavlovian conditioning to be fair and I now use keyboard shortcuts on any system.
    I do have a major problem with Command W/Q which has totally ended a four hour tab opening session on important articles. The one thing I miss from when I used Firefox (back at college) was the session saver. I’m tempted to get that Saft but I simply would rather wait and see what Apple have in store for us.
    Apple have bent Fitts’ Law on occasion. The menu bar “Apple” for one but I don’t see it as a major inconvenience. CTRL F1 will focus upon the Menu with keyboard navigation turned on. I love shortcut keys especially as Photoshop is just a tool for improving memory when it comes to the googolplex of keyboard shortcuts

  11. Nett says:

    I don’t mind these things so much as the amount of times I need to use the back button is nearly nil: I’m an open everything in one thousand tabs at a time kinda gal. What I DO wish Safari had though was, as Kyle mentioned above, was a “are you sure you want to close all of this and lose every single one of these tabs you have open?” alert.
    If I had a dollar for every time I’ve accidentally closed the window instead of just one tab because my other hand was holding a drink or something that prevented me from pressing apple+w, I could pay someone at apple to stick in the alert.
    Guess that’ll teach me to stop multi-tasking or sommat…

  12. Another thing that I like about Omniweb is that it uses the standard Aqua interface. Just edit the tool bar and place a space in front of the arrow to move it away from the edge of the window.
    Omniweb is so much better than the other browsers, I’m not sure why anyone would use anything else. Now if they can just get the latest web kit installed, it would be perfect.

  13. Russ says:

    I have swithced to the jon hicks button set for safari found here

  14. It doesn’t look like anyone has mentioned this yet….
    Dan, you can use Saft (which is a Safari plugin) – and I believe that it will save your browser’s state upon close. This way, if you should make that mistake again, you can open back up right where you left off.
    I’ve never done this, but you’re probably on a laptop, and it is most likely harder to control your pointer on the track pad. If your using a mouse, I say go back to mouse school. :)

  15. Mike D. says:

    One word: Delete
    There is no good reason to use the actual back button on a browser anymore unless your keyboard is broken.
    I’m a mouse guy myself too and I find myself avoiding obvious keyboard shortcuts for a lot of stuff, but for the browser, the Delete button is a real necessity.

  16. Rob Mientjes says:

    Use mouse gestures, or those little buttons on the sides if you got a mouse with those. Mouse gestures are ideal if you don’t want to use the keyboard, or can’t.

  17. Michael Gomez says:

    Undo should be a given in every application. It’s absurd at this point in the game that it’s not so. This is one example of how obvious it is!

  18. ramanan says:

    I use Whiteout to unchrome all the chrome applications on OS X, and it won’t help increase the space between the back button and the close button.

  19. It’s times like these we should remember how we take browsing for granted :)

  20. Jason Berry says:

    Confirm Close
    You are about to close 4 open tabs. Are you sure you want to continue?
    Gotta love FireFox =)

  21. Edward Dale says:

    Simon Willison posted something about remapping the shortcut keys in any application under OS X. It might be worth a read for the peple who accidentally hit Command-Q instead of Command-W. I’ve got Command-Q remapped to Command-Option-Q now and haven’t accidentally quit Safari since.

  22. Tomas Jogin says:

    Definately a glaring design mistake, fortunately one I don’t suffer because of. I use Firefox, which has bigger navigation buttons, but besides that I’ve customized the navigation toolbar; I put a “new tab” button and a “flexible space” in the far left, and since I always use Command+T to create a new tab, that button is barely ever used anyways. ;-)

  23. Krasimir says:

    Jason Berry said it. And he is right. Mozilla asks for confirmation too!
    I love Mozilla!

  24. Jarkko Laine says:

    Unfortunately, keyboard shortcuts for back and forward don’t always work in Safari. This happens mostly on sites that use frames (yeah, I know, what am I doing on such sites): you press command + left and nothing happens so you have to reach for the back button. Why back button then works, I know not. Probably a Safari bug.

  25. I don’t have this problem with ELinks ;-)

  26. Jon Hicks says:

    Colin – The options for saving browser sessions (such as Safts) won’t work, because you have closed the window, rather than quit out. I.e it was ‘your choice’!
    What Saft will do though is add ‘back’ to the context menu when you ctrl-click the page.
    In Firefox I have bookmarks and history set up on the far left, as these relate to the position of the sidebar.
    (I don’t use keyboard shortcuts for back either.)

  27. Rich says:

    I got mightily annoyed at quitting Safari with lots of tabs open.
    My Safari solution:
    My better solution: I switched to OmniWeb. :)

  28. Tom says:

    Does Safari not have Sexy Mouse Gestures?

  29. Ram Yoga says:

    Tom: Actually, you can install an excellent little app called Cocoa Gestures, which will give you mouse gestures in all cocoa applications. :) Gotta love (mouse) gestures! ;-)

  30. Jeremy says:

    When I was 100% Mac 100% of the time, ctl-clicking was no big deal for contextual menus. Spending a lot of time working cross-platform, I’ve gotten dependent on mult-button mice…and take advantage of the side buttons on my Intellimouse Exploder™.
    About the only time I use the back arrow is to go back multiple steps by clicking and holding. It’s an old habit from the old days before breadcrumbs or consistent navigation.
    As someone else pointed out, I more frequently hit cmd-Q instead of cmd-W…when I do, I figure it’s time to take a break :)

  31. Jeff says:

    I always wondered why they don’t make the browser completely customizable. I mean – why can’t we literally just drag and drop buttons where we want them to be in our browsers? If you don’t like the “exit” button so close to the “back” button? Go into ‘design mode’ (think MS Access or other customizable DB’s) and move it somewhere else. Save. Done.
    Maybe this is already offered somewhere, but I don’t think I’ve seen it.

  32. nickster says:

    This could never happen to me, and I’ll tell you why:
    1. My Windows mouse had back and forward buttons on the side, which I use almost exclusively.
    2. The windows menu bar (which appears on every window, not just the top of the screen) separates toolbars from title bars.
    3. The close button appears on the opposing side of the screen. Most software orients their toolbars, etc from the left, so on larger windows there is very little hangin’ out on the right side.
    Perhaps the person who designed the Mac interface viewed the button location in the same way as newlyweds pick sides of a bed. Sure, I can’t think of any reason why it matters now. But that’s your side of the bed now, forever.

  33. I have honestly never been a fan of Apple’s “brushed metal” look and feel. I always thought that Aqua was a nice user interface, and it was obvious that Apple spent a lot of time perfecting it. Why, then, have they abandoned it for this brushed metal stuff?
    I have also heard that Camino has a nice user interface, but I’ve never seen that many screenshots to prove it.

  34. Yannick L. says:

    I’m a windows user and so I don’t have the problem with the back button and the close button. Where I have my problem is with the minimize, maximize and close button in the top right. Many times I just want to minimize a window and end up maximizing it instead or wanting to maximize a window and end up closing it instead. It always seems to happen, just like you Dan when I have many tabs open in firefox or when I am working on something important.

  35. allgood2 says:

    I too recommend Saft. I’ve found it most useful in the exact same situation you describe. Sure I can use keyboards to go back. I just find that when I’m working intensely, that using the mouse in Safari seems to be more habitually. Maybe its because of having a slew of open applications, with multiple tabs, multiple windows, etc. Or possibly because most applications don’t offer an easy way to hide a window versus the entire application. But, the mouse allows me to select the proper window, unfortunately just not allows the proper button.

  36. James says:

    I have my mouse sensitivity low enough that I don’t have troubles with this.
    And I use Firefox, so the worst I’ll usually do is close a tab and open it back up via the “Go” menu.

  37. You’re on the ball with this one: I noticed this in my first few times using the browser. Not via the unfortunate mistake you speak of, but simple observation. They need to revisit that interface a bit, I think.

  38. web says:

    Thats why I use a PC … SUCKAS!
    You won’t see me accidentally quit an application when I try to click the back button.
    Instead, the browser will decide when its finishd and close [crash] on me by itsself!
    I dont even have to click anything, hows that for UI!

  39. Lalitree says:

    I did that exact thing a mere ten minutes before coming here and seeing this post. Lost a couple pages’ worth of forms I was filling out. Maybe I should stick to using apple-left arrow to go back (a habit picked up from using a laptop almost exclusively at home).
    Second most annoying Safari behavior: when you try to click the stop button and it doesn’t “take” until after the page loads, causing the stop to be executed as a ‘reload’. Happens to me all the time. I need to learn to use apple-period.

  40. Ramon says:

    why not use windows? they have the x to the right of the screen \o/ how smart of them!

  41. Scott says:

    I haven’t read all comments, so this may have been mentioned. It is in reference to comment 1.
    In addition to larger buttons, firefox will (by default) ask you to confirm anytime you try to close a window with multiple tabs.
    OSX really violates a fundemental usability principle in browsers by placing frequently used functions right next to the “kill switch”. Granted, they put the buttons where people expect them to be, and they can’t change their standard interface, but as Dan has discovered it really makes the application less usable.

  42. I find it at disturbing to read most of these replies. The reason is that this is not a technology problem (that you can fix y adding extra technology), nor a customization problem (which put the burden of fixing the problem on the user). Instead this is simple example of a usability problem.
    Use the keyboard instead?
    This does indeed solve the problem, but it does so by making the program more inefficient to use. It takes slightly longer to move your hand from the mouse to hit a key on the keyboard and back again, than it takes just hitting a button with the mouse you are already holding. The difference is about -0.1 to 0.5 seconds. Not much, but any increase in operating time equals lower usability (Using GOMS to calculate the result).
    This is just the simple result, not including any command operators. If you use Command+(key) then it takes considerably longer time to do (about 4.1 seconds) vs. using the mouse (about 2.4 seconds). Although, for people that have developed this approach as a habit, this can be decreased to about 2.8 seconds.
    Adding a confirm dialog?
    This is even worse. It is one thing to have to move your mouse to hit a target. But to move it and then (accidentally) hot the wrong button, just to have to cancel out of a confirm box, and then try to hit the right button once more is a very time consuming task.
    As I stated above, it takes 2.4 seconds to click on a button with your mouse. Adding a confirm scenario into this would increase this time drastically and would take about 9 seconds to complete.
    Not to mention that many people never read a confirm dialog and simply skips it by clicking “OK”/”YES”, which will then result in the same problems.
    Why not just customize?
    Well, for one thing (as I pointed out above) it puts the burden of making the program usable on the user, instead of the software company. Adding customization has it usefulness in some very specific areas, but never in the general program areas and functions. It is like saying “we have giving up trying to make this program useful, now you try it”…

    The solution is very simple, although I do not expect this one to be fixed anytime soon. Apple needs to relocate the close button to an area of the screen where its space does not conflict with other buttons – like in the right hand side of the title bar (like Windows)
    BTW: Windows has the same problem just with maximize and minimize buttons.
    After all we all know that placing a “RESET” button right next to a “SUBMIT” button in a web-form is very bad website design. So is placing an action button next to a termination button in any other interface.

  43. Thom says:

    You’re crazy not because you’re missing your target, but because you’re not using CocoaSuite. Maybe you’ve heard of it, but is assigns certain functions to motions you make with your mouse. For ex: to go “back” in Safari, all I do is press and hold my right mouse button and move left. Fast, simple, global if you want it to be.
    Of course, this only works in Cocoa apps, but it is the dopest.
    Get that shit.

  44. Matt Wilcox says:

    #42 – is clicking ‘no, im not sure i want to close the window actually, cheers Firefox’ more time consuming than finding all the links in each of the tabs you just lost because safari decided not to ask you if you -really- wanted to do such a stupid thing as instantly dismiss twenty different pages in one fell swoop?
    I think not. Clicking ‘no’ is even faster than reading this reply. ;-)

  45. he he
    “no, im not sure…” does that mean that you are saying yes?
    We had a retail system with such an error message once, freaked the hell out of anyone using it. If I am saying no to not being sure, does that mean that I am sure – and does answering yes mean that I am sure sure that I am not sure… AAAIIIEEE…
    BTW: I do get your point, although I do not agree with you.

  46. Tim Buchheim says:

    One reason that command-left doesn’t always go back is that that keyboard combination has multiple uses… for example, while editing text, it means “move insertion point to the beginning of the current line” (same as the Home key on anything but a Mac) so it doesn’t work if a text field is active (either in a form on a page or the location/google fields in the toolbar).
    command-left also doesn’t work on a page with frames unless you click in a frame first (at least in older versions, I can’t seem to duplicate that right now) .. this is probably a bug
    The command-[ and command-] shortcuts always work, though. (And also work in other programs, such as the Finder or Help Viewer)

  47. ryan says:

    Thats why I stick with IE 6. That big ol “X” won’t get in the way of my back button! Ha! That was a very bad joke!
    I know at least with Firefox a promt opens saying, “you’re about to close 2 tabs, are you sure you want to continue”
    I usually hit the cancel button.
    Of course I’m on a clunky pc.

  48. Vladimir says:

    Ha ha, all you Mac duffers, now do you realise that this so called ‘modern’ OSx is nothing but pretty Unix crash prone tat! If any of you had any sense, you’d drop the “Macs are great” rubbish and start using windows! Not only is there a menu between toolbar and title bar, but you can set intelli mouse to slow the cursor as it passes over buttons. Long live Interent Explorer!!

  49. applefans says:

    I actually had this problem…but as you said I’ve been using Firefox a lot too lately.
    Now, I usually don’t hit the buttons. I decided to get the Logitech MX510 mouse with back and forward buttons.
    (i own a Powermac G4)

  50. Kyle Jones says:

    First off, shut up Vladamir, macs rule! But anyway, yeah, i close the winodow like that too! but what i usually end up doing is going to click on the close button and end up selecting the window behind my current one, then i gotta move that one to get back to my original window, sometimes i accidentlay close the window behind mine! arghh

  51. Scott Frazer says:

    I’ve had this problem all too often. Made use of keystrokes to exit out of programs recently.
    Unfortunately, I don’t think this is in Apple’s priority list of stuff to fix :)

  52. Russ says:

    I’ve been a pc user for years…now I won’t even own one. I only will use a Mac…no virus, no spy ware…oh yea those are the apps the require a 9.0 GHz processor for you pc people ;) I have a simple ibook, 1.2 GHz, that out performs my 2.8ghz p4 pc…..what’s the odds on that.
    Oh you say you just a sour pc user…no I hold all credentials mcse +i, IBM also a novell MCNE, but hey isn’t novell just dos with extensions? Oh cant forget the best one CCIE, if you have to ask…don’t
    If you think pc’s are it…then you have a cracker jacks mentality!
    Afford a Mac and you will never scream the word FU*K again when your browser suddenly crashes for no reason what so ever!

  53. G. I. says:

    Mac OS X interface is trashable, not lickable.

  54. bort says:

    Why use tabbed browsing at all? If you just open a new window whenever you’re browsing, instead of a new tab, then if you close that window, you’ve only lost the one thing.

  55. BTW: Windows has the same problem just with maximize and minimize buttons.

    Pfft… says you. Who would actually use the maximize button? The whole freakin’ title bar is that button… double-click… double-click… much more usable. Minimize and Close are sufficiently seperated in that context.
    I almost never have this problem. It’s not the same. The OS X configuration is flawed in this respect. That’s all.

  56. Jarod says:

    Completely off topic, but I figure you might have the answer. Do you (or anyone here) know how with CSS I can prevent Firefox users from increasing the font size? specifying font-size: small, or 12px doesn’t lock it.

  57. Anonymous says:

    In Safari 1.0 (v85) and IE 5.2.3 and FF 1.0, Control+[ will go back one page, and control+] will go forward one page. That’s what I do sometimes with my left hand while right hand stays on mouse.
    I use a 3rd party two-button wheel mouse, with control-click as right button. Wheel scrolls up and down pages; much better than moving cursor over to scroll-bar.
    Back on topic: Option+wheel-spin acts as a back/forward button on webpages. And it will scroll pages sideways in BBEdit; very cool for long lines of code.

  58. Anonymous says:

    OOOPS!!! Two errors corrected:
    In Safari 1.0 (v85) and IE 5.2.3 and FF 1.0, Command+[ will go back one page, and Command+] will go forward one page. That’s what I do sometimes with my left hand while right hand stays on mouse.
    I use a 3rd party two-button wheel mouse, with control-click as right button. Wheel scrolls up and down pages; much better than moving cursor over to scroll-bar.
    Back on topic: Shift+wheel-spin acts as a back/forward button on webpages. And it will scroll pages sideways in BBEdit; very cool for long lines of code.

  59. nix says:

    Firefox with Session Saver extension. Set the extension preferences to open all tabs and windows from last Firefox session. You can also actively save different sessions by name and come back to them later. When I’m working late I just shut down without even thinking about it and in the morning, when I start up again, all the tabs and windows come back up when working with Firefox. With this extension you’ll want to quit the application, not close the windows, to save the session automatically. The extension assumes that by closing the window you are done with that window.
    This all just makes managing sessions easier and more productive – to address your specific concern is the Firefox feature that confirms whether you want to close all tabs or not.

  60. Douglas says:

    “for a split second I wish for an “undo” keystroke to cancel my missed mouse target”
    It is Ctrl+Alt+Z in Opera…

  61. David House says:

    I do have problems typing URL: I sometimes mean to press shift but end up holding the windows key instead, so it goes something like this:
    Windows key: brings up start menu
    U: brings up ‘shut down’ dialogue
    R: resets computer
    L: gives me time to curse

  62. Ryon says:

    It’s impossible to lock font size for Firefox users, AFAIK, unless you set it in images.
    And that’s the way it should be.

  63. Peter Usewicz says:

    And this is why Windows is better than OS X :D (kidding)