Nerdy Mac Window Control with Afloat

February 24, 2013 by Gabe | [mmd] |

Mauricio has a nice little overview of the Mac window manager Slate. His post led me down the rabbit hole to discover Xnomad and Afloat.

For a really great introduction to Slate, check out Tristan Hume's blog post too.

I'm a little afraid of moving over to Slate from Moom. I have a job and a family and I would miss them too much. Slate is an incredibly deep tool for window management but it comes at a high price. There's a lot of fiddling and configuring.

On the other hand, Afloat is a clever window utility that requires very little of me and gives a lot in return. Afloat provides a per-app control for setting window float, visibility and adjustment handles.

Once installed (and after restarting all apps) Afloat adds new commands to the "Window" menu and each is marked with a cloud icon.

The commands are mostly self explanatory but here's a brief synopsis:

  • Keep Afloat: Window hovers above all other windows
  • Transparency: Control level of window transparency
  • Turn Overlays Back to Normal: Stop applying Afloat effects
  • Adjust Effects: Show Afloat control panel on app

While Afloat has a keyboard shortcut for all commands, the popover control is very nice.

I particularly like the combination of transparency and the Make Opaque... toggle. Here's an example applied to Tweetbot. It stays mostly transparent until I activate the application or hover the mouse cursor over it. In this example, the Finder window below is visible.

It's also possible to pin a window behind all other windows (pin to desktop). Alternatively, a window can be turned into an overly. When in overlay mode, a window hovers over all other windows but clicks pass through them to apps and windows beneath. I'm trying this out when I have reduced screen space available and need to have reference material visible. So far I like it. I can see a document but it doesn't interfere with other actions.

Afloat does not work in all apps. Only Cocoa apps can be used with Aflot, which means apps like iTunes and the Finder are left out of the game.1 That's a real shame since those are the apps that I most want transparency controls for.

One last comment about Afloat: I really like the installer. It is very explicit about what it is doing and where files are installed. Simple and informative wins the day.2

Afloat | Mac | Free

  1. Really? iTunes and the Finder are not Cocoa apps? Unbelievable. 

  2. I'm using Afloat on Mountain Lion without any issue.