Restore Leopard-like Exposé in Snow Leopard

When I switched to Mac, Exposé was one of the features that I fell in love with particularly. Switching from Windows XP, the animation alone was incredible. And it was not only a visually appealing feature, but a very useful one too. When activated, Exposé drags all the windows out from underneath one another, letting you choose freely between all open windows.

One of the reasons why Exposé was so useful was that it arranged windows in a very similar way to the way you already had them arranged. If you had Safari on the left of the screen and Terminal on the right, then Exposé would try to place them as close to their respective original positions as possible. This made it very easy to find any given window quickly: you already knew where it was, you just used Exposé to reveal it from underneath another window.

Unfortunately, Snow Leopard (10.6) kind of ruined Exposé by modifying this window arrangement algorithm. Apple changed it to arrange windows in a neat grid, where each window was given the same size. This looked clean and organized, but the relative positions between the windows was completely disregarded. The Safari window on the left could be placed at any place, left or right, in the grid according to a completely unpredictable rule.

In Mountain Lion (10.8), an option was added to restore the old window arrangement behavior, but the damage was already done, as far as many users were concerned. Having gone two entire versions of OS X without any real useful version of Exposé, people had learned to rely on other strategies to navigate their windows. And an option is worth little compared to a default.

Fortunately for Snow Leopard users, though, there is a way to restore the old Exposé! It involves copying the Dock.app from an early beta build of Snow Leopard (10A380), in which the new behavior hadn’t yet been implemented. I’ve gone through the effort and uploaded the 10A380 version of Dock.app to several places:

You can replace your stock Dock.app with this older version via Terminal, as Finder doesn’t let you replace a running application. Further instructions, including on how to make it support other languages than English, are available in my MacRumors forum post (archived).

Classic Exposé in Snow Leopard

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