Frozen Programs (Force Quitting)

The occasional unresponsive application has become such a part of Mac OS X life that, among the Mac cognoscenti online, the dreaded, endless “please wait” cursor has been given its own acronym: SBOD (Spinning Beachball of Death). When the SBOD strikes, no amount of mouse clicking and keyboard pounding will get you out of the recalcitrant program.

Here are the different ways you can go about force quitting a stuck program (the equivalent of pressing Ctrl-Alt-Delete in Windows), in increasing order of desperation:

  • Use the Dock. If you can’t use the program’s regularly scheduled FileQuit command, try Control-clicking its Dock icon and choosing Quit from the pop-up menu.

  • Force quit the usual way. Choose Frozen Programs (Force Quitting) Force Quit to terminate the stuck program, or use one of the other force-quit methods described in Section 4.1.3.

  • Force quit the sneaky way. Some programs, including the Dock, don’t show up at all in the usual Force Quit dialog box. Your next attempt, therefore, should be to open the Activity Monitor program (in ApplicationsUtilities), which shows everything that’s running. Double-click a program and then, in the resulting dialog box, click Quit to force quit it. (Unix hounds: You can also use the kill command in Terminal, as described in Section 16.2.)


If you find yourself having to quit the Dock more than once, here’s an easier way: make yourself ...

Get Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, Panther Edition now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.