Managing the Resume Feature in the Mac OS

Pick up Mac apps where you left off

Resume is a handy method in macOS and OS X to quickly return you to what you were doing in an application the last time you used it. It remembers the window you had open when you quit an app and opens it (or them) automatically the next time you open the app.

Resume can be useful; it can also be one of the most annoying Mac features. Apple needs to provide an easy-to-use interface to manage how Resume works with individual applications, as well as the overall system. Until that happens, this tip will give you some control over Resume.

Information in this article apply to macOS Catalina (10.15) through Mac OS X Lion (10.7).

How to Control Resume

Resume has a system preference that lets you turn the function on or off globally. To turn Resume on or off for all applications, follow these steps.

  1. Select System Preferences from the Apple menu or click its icon in the Dock.

    Apple menu showing System Preferences option
  2. Select the General preference pane.

    Mac System Preferences menu with General highlighted
  3. To enable Resume, make sure the box next to Close windows when quitting an app does not have a check mark in it. To deactivate Resume, put a check in that box.

    The Mac General preferences screen

    To enable Resume in OS X Lion, place a check mark in the Restore windows when quitting and re-opening apps box.

Globally turning Resume on or off isn't the best approach to managing the feature. You probably wouldn't mind your Mac remembering some application states and forgetting others. There are several ways to accomplish this.

How to Use Resume Only When Needed

If you turn Resume off globally, you can still use its saved-state feature on a case-by-case basis, by using the Option key when you quit an application.

Holding down the Option key when you select Quit from an application's menu changes the "Quit" menu entry to "Quit and Keep Windows." The next time you launch the application, its saved state is restored, including all open application windows and the documents or data they contain.

Quit and keep windows option

You can also use the same case-by-case approach to manage Resume when you turn it on globally. This time when you use the Option key, the Quit menu entry changes to "Quit and Close All Windows." This command causes the application to forget all window and document saved states. The next time you launch the application, it opens using its default settings.

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