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How to put Leopard’s floating Help windows in the background

How to put Leopard's floating Help windows in the background

One of the most annoying things about Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard is its always-on-top Help Viewer windows. They’re constantly floating above other windows instead of falling into the background.

For whatever reason, Leopard’s Help Viewer does not behave like a normal application. It does not appear in the Dock, cannot be found with the Command+Tab application switcher, and refuses to sit behind other windows. Once it is opened, it will continue to float above everything else until closed. You may or may not have noticed this frustrating part of the Mac operating system yourself, but it’s one that has baffled many users for a while.

To see it in action, simply open any standard Mac application such as Finder or Safari. Go to Help in the menu bar and choose “[Program Name] Help.” Notice how the window that displays stays on top, no matter how many times you click to bring another program to the front.

So now that the problem has been presented, what’s the solution? Luckily, just a quick little Terminal command is needed to reverse the default behavior. Open Terminal (Applications > Utilities) and copy & paste the following sting of text:

defaults write NormalWindow -bool true

Press Enter/Return and that’s all there is to it! You will need to close and re-open any Help Viewer windows that are currently open before the change takes effect. You should now be happy to find Leopard’s floating Help Viewer windows rightfully move to the background when another window is selected. To reverse the change, copy the same exact command and run it in Terminal again – this time changing true to false.

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5 Comments Have Been Posted (Leave Your Response)

Now the Help windows appears below the main window, even when selected it won’t go above.

M. Jonker,
I haven’t come across what you’re experiencing, but maybe a restart would help set things straight. This tip has worked everywhere I’ve tested it. The Help Viewer should move to the front and back, depending on what’s currently selected.

This has bothered me since Leopard first came out! Thanks so much for the fix, it worked perfectly for me.

Doesn’t work in Snow Leopard :(

Yep… tried like crazy in Snow Leopard and nothing… I hate this feature!