How to Close or Force Quit Apps on Mac

BY Parth Shah

Published 25 Apr 2020

close apps on Mac

I often run into apps freezing randomly or not responding on my Macbook Air. You may have seen a spinning beach ball beside the cursor on your Mac whenever an app freezes. It indicates that the current app has stopped responding for some reason. There can be a few reasons behind this behavior. Your Mac might have low-end hardware or your favorite app might be acting weirdly due to a recent buggy update. Whatever the case, you need to force quit the frozen app on your Mac in such a scenario.

Clicking on the ‘x’ mark at the upper left corner of an app in a Mac does not close it. Instead, it only closes that window but the app keeps running in the background. The process to quit and to force quit an app on a Mac is slightly different. If you are new to using a Mac and are wondering how to close or force quit an app, you can follow any of the methods mentioned below. Let’s talk about them. First, let’s understand the difference between closing an app vs force quitting it on the Mac.

When to Close or Quit a Mac App Vs When to Force Quit It

As I mentioned earlier, clicking on the ‘x’ mark at the top of a Mac app only closes the app window. The app still remains in memory and you can see the app running in the Activity Monitor as well. So, when you are running complex applications such as Photoshop, Chrome with dozens of opened tabs, a cloud storage app with continuous syncing and if your Mac is low on memory or you just want to free up system resources then consider closing or quitting unused apps. It is also recommended that you close/quit an app once you are done using it. Once you close an app, they will take more time to open when relaunched.

Force quitting apps on a Mac is an extreme measure. You should only use it when an app freezes or if you are seeing spinning beach ball on the screen. When you force quit an app, you are basically forcefully closing it. While this will quickly kill the app from the RAM, in many cases, it would do so without saving any of your work.

How to Quit or Close Apps on Mac

Use the macOS Menu bar

When you open an app on the Mac, the menu bar on the top adjusts itself accordingly. You can tap on the app name beside the little Apple icon and access the options such as app preference, the About app menu, and more. Scroll down to the bottom and select the quit app option and it will close the app on your Mac.

quit apps from menu bar


Use Keyboard Shortcut

Similar to Windows, macOS provides a keyboard shortcut to quit an app. When the user is in an app, they can always use the ‘Command + Q’ keyboard shortcut to close the current app.

Closing an App from the Dock

You can see all the active and running apps from the dock. They are represented by the tiny black dot below the app icon in the dock. Use a two-finger click on the app icon and then select the quit option from the floating menu. If you are using a mouse then hover the cursor on the app icon and right-click on it to open the floating menu. Then proceed to select the Quit option.

force quit from dock

Quit Apps from the Upper Right Corner of Menu Bar

Some apps like OneDrive, Dropbox, Adobe Creative Cloud, time-tracking software, etc. remain active in the menu bar. You can access them from the right side of the menu bar and select the app icon to open the floating menu and quit the app. For example, I can click on the OneDrive menu, tap on the more option, and select the Quit OneDrive option.

quit apps


How to Force Quit Apps on Mac

Force Quit Apps From the Activity Monitor

Similar to a task manager on Windows, macOS has Activity Monitor to let you keep track of CPU, memory, Disk, Energy and Network usage by each app on your Mac. You can close an app using Activity Monitor as well. Here is how to do it.

Step 1: Open Spotlight Search using the ‘Command + Space’ keyboard shortcut.

Step 2: Type Activity Monitor in it and open the app. Alternatively, you can open the Activity Monitor from the Launchpad. You will find the Activity Monitor app in a folder named ‘Other’.

Step 3: Normally, it will open the Energy section. Now, move your cursor to the app name and it will enable the ‘x’ option at the top.

force quit apps


Step 4: Select the ‘x’ icon at the upper left corner and it will open up the dialog box to force quit the app.

Step 5: Select the Force quit option from the floating menu and it will suspend the app.

force quit mac apps


Close Apps from the Force Quit Window

This is a must-have for every Mac user. From any screen, you can simply use  ‘Command + Option + Esc’ keyboard shortcut to open up the Force Quit Applications menu. Select the app name using cursor and use the force quit option from the bottom to close the app.

force quit dialog box


Force Quit Apps from the Terminal

Normally, I don’t recommend using the Terminal option but macOS provides a handy trick to force quit apps using the Terminal. Follow the steps below to perform the action.

Step 1: Open Spotlight Search using the ‘Command + Space’ keyboard shortcut.

Step 2: Type “Terminal” in it and open the app. Alternatively, you can open the Terminal from the Launchpad. You will find the app in a folder named ‘Other’.

force quit apps terminal


Step 3: Simply type “killall ‘app name'” and hit return. It will force quit the mentioned app. For example, I can type “killall Trello” and it will force quit Trello after hitting the return button.

Use the Force Quit Keyboard Shortcut 

This is handy when you run out of options. When in an app, you can use the combination of keys ‘Command + Option + Shift + Esc’ and hold it for two seconds and it will force quit the active app.

Using the mentioned ways above, you can force quit the unresponsive apps on the Mac. Which way did you find the most effective to close the app on Mac? Sound off in the comments section below.