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Lion Is a Quitter

Try this experiment in Mac OS X 10.7 Lion. Start up TextEdit. Close any open document windows. You’ll notice, from the name of the application appearing next to the Apple menu, that TextEdit is still running (it isn’t one of those applications, like System Preferences, that quits automatically when its last window closes). Now switch away from TextEdit and do something else for a while. Then use the Command-Tab application switcher to switch back to TextEdit. You can’t. It’s gone. You weren’t actively doing anything with TextEdit — it had no open windows and it wasn’t the frontmost application — so the system quietly told TextEdit to quit. Worse, if TextEdit appears in your Dock only when it’s running and this happens, its Dock icon mystifyingly disappears.

Unfortunately I can’t guarantee that the experiment will work the same way on your machine as it does on mine. It’s non-deterministic. I just tried it twice with TextEdit, and it worked both times; but I don’t know for a fact that Lion will cause a given application on your machine to quit while you’re not using it. (While it worked for both Adam Engst and Jeff Carlson, several commenters have been unable to reproduce it.) However, I do know that Lion can cause an application to quit while you’re not using it.

Yesterday, the same thing happened to me with Preview. I launched Preview because I wanted to open a certain PDF document. So I chose File > Open to summon the Open dialog. At that point, however, I realized that I wanted to make some changes to the folder containing the PDF document I intended to open. So I closed Preview’s Open dialog (and I may also have told Preview to hide) and switched to the Finder. When I was done messing about in the Finder, I tried to use Command-Tab to switch back to Preview to bring up the Open dialog again — but I couldn’t, because in the meantime, Preview had quietly been told to quit, by the system, behind my back, without notifying me.

As John Siracusa explains in his Ars Technica review of Lion, this is a Lion feature called Automatic Termination:

Lion will quit your running applications behind your back if it decides it needs the resources, and if you don’t appear to be using them. The heuristic for determining whether an application is “in use” is very conservative: it must not be the active application, it must have no visible, non-minimized windows — and, of course, it must explicitly support Automatic Termination.

As Siracusa goes on to point out, when Automatic Termination occurs, the terminated application may in fact not really be terminated. For example, right now on my machine, TextEdit is listed in Activity Monitor as one of my running processes. It’s using some memory; it has open files. Nevertheless, TextEdit doesn’t appear in the Command-Tab switcher or the Dock. Lion has faked me out twice: it has caused TextEdit to vanish from the visible display of running applications even though I didn’t quit TextEdit, and at the same time, it has kept TextEdit running in the background.

Reading Apple’s own discussion of Automatic Termination, we discover that an application can be told to quit even if it has open windows — provided that those windows are not currently visible to the user (because they are all minimized, or because the application is hidden or in a different space than the one the user is looking at). This presupposes, of course, that the application, if it is document-based, supports Auto Save, so that if the system does tell the application to quit, its documents will be preserved even if the user has not explicitly saved them. And the application should also support Resume, so that if the user relaunches it, it will reappear in the same state as when it was told to quit, with all the same documents open and scrolled to the same point as before. Automatic Termination, Auto Save, and Resume are separate opt-in technologies, but a developer would surely never adopt the one without having also adopted the others (and Apple explicitly turns that “would” into a “should”).

So much for the facts. The rest of this article is sheer opinion. In particular, I propose to discuss the big question of whether Automatic Termination is a good thing.

Is Automatic Termination a technical improvement? As far as I can tell, it is not, since quitting applications doesn’t actually save all that much on resources. A Mac OS X application’s event loop is non-polling, so an idle running application uses no CPU; and one of the main technical benefits that Mac OS X has always offered is its wonderful management of virtual memory, along with swapping of resources to disk, which means that running applications can request far more RAM in total than the amount of physical RAM your Mac actually possesses. That’s why many users leave literally dozens of applications running all the time, with no significant penalty, except perhaps a slight delay if an application’s resources have to be swapped back in — and in that case, the solution isn’t so much to quit applications as to get more RAM (which you might well have to do merely to run Lion satisfactorily at all). Besides, as the screenshot above shows, Automatic Termination doesn’t really cause the application process to quit, so it doesn’t save any resources in any case!

So the benefits of Automatic Termination must lie instead in the user experience. Now, on the one hand, I can imagine Apple’s own argument in favor of Automatic Termination. The ultimate goal here is to annihilate the distinction between running and non-running applications. Consider how, on iOS 4, with multitasking, you don’t know what applications are running, because you usually don’t quit an application yourself (you switch away from it and allow the system to tell it to quit if needed), and you don’t care what applications are running, because both running and non-running applications are listed in the Fast App Switcher, and because apps are supposed to save and restore their state — so that switching to a running app and relaunching a terminated app amount to the same thing. (See my “What is Fast App Switching?,” 23 June 2010.) Well, that’s how Lion would be if all applications supported Automatic Termination, Auto Save, and Resume. That’s why there’s an option, in the Dock system preference pane, to stop showing indicator lights for open applications in the Dock: In an ideal Lion world, the distinction between an open and a non-open application would be unimportant.

On the other hand, the fact is that when Lion caused Preview to quit automatically yesterday on my machine, I was using Preview. I wasn’t using it actively at that moment in a way that Lion knew about — there were no open Preview windows, and Preview wasn’t frontmost — but I was engaged in some activity involving Preview. I had switched away from Preview only in order to prepare things in the Finder so that the document I intended to open in Preview would be ready. But when I switched back to Preview with Command-Tab, Preview was gone. That’s not helpful or useful; it’s annoying, confusing, and a hindrance. I had to launch Preview explicitly again in order to continue with my task.

In my view, therefore, the attempt to copy the iOS experience to the Mac is inappropriate. Apple’s entire agenda here is misguided. On iOS, you can use only one application at a time, so it makes sense that the system can quit an application you’re not using; to help you, a recently used application is listed in the Fast App Switcher even if it is no longer running. But on the Mac, you can effectively use multiple applications at once — that’s what I was doing in this instance — and neither the Command-Tab switcher nor the Dock shows an application that has been automatically terminated. In this particular case, having studied Lion beforehand, I understood what had happened when Preview seemed unaccountably to have disappeared, and knew how to relaunch it; but Lion had effectively pulled the rug out from under me, slowing me down in the middle of a complex operation, and one can well imagine a beginner being not helped but bewildered by Lion’s behavior here.

Moreover, there’s a larger question at stake: Who, precisely, is in charge? I think it should be me, but Lion disagrees — and not in this respect alone. Automatic Termination is merely one aspect of an overall “nanny state” philosophy characteristic of Lion, and one which I find objectionable. When I tell an application to run, I mean it to run, until I tell it to quit; Lion thinks it knows better, and terminates the application for me. Conversely, when I tell an application to quit, I mean it to quit; but again, Lion thinks it knows better, restoring the application’s windows when the application launches again, and relaunching the application if I restart the computer. By the same token, when I tell an application to save, I expect it to save, and when I don’t tell an application to save, I expect it not to save; again, Lion wants to abolish a distinction and a choice that I think should be up to me.

On the iPhone and iPad, the interface is by necessity simplified, and the degree of control exercised by the system is not only appropriate but helpful. But on the Mac, things are otherwise. In iOS, the system is helping me; in Mac OS X, it’s fighting me. Whereas I think my computer is mine to command, Lion has other ideas.

(The result doesn’t remind me of iOS, actually, so much as of Microsoft. What most people object to in Microsoft applications is that those applications think they’re smart, whereas in fact they’re just being smart-asses. “It looks like you’re trying to make a list; would you like to use the List Manager?” Might a talking paper clip appear suddenly in Lion and take over my life?)

Granted, I’m not a typical user. For users who are coming fresh to the Mac, perhaps an iOS-like Mac OS X is appropriate. Perhaps they find the Mac interface awkward much as I find iOS awkward, and they appreciate what Lion is doing behind the scenes in the same way I appreciate what iOS does behind the scenes. Some people think of their computer as a Prius hybrid; it’s complicated under the hood, but in actual usage it “just works.” I think of my computer more like an 1960s manual-shift VW Beetle: it does what I tell it, and I can often repair it if things go wrong. Lion makes me feel I’m being chucked out of the driver’s seat.


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Comments about Lion Is a Quitter
(Comments are closed.)

Michael E. Cohen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-08-05 09:48
The TextEdit example worked for me, and I didn't even have to go do something else for a while. Seconds after I switched away from the windowless TextEdit application, it disappeared from the Command-Tab list of apps.

Kinda creepy, really.
Not happening here; neither scenario.
trex67  2011-08-09 11:10
Me either. Wonder what the difference is? I'm glad it's not happening to me - it sounds pretty annoying. I tend to quit most apps when they're not in use and usually I only have 3 or 4 open at a time, otherwise I'd have 15 or 20 going at once. That would be even more annoying for me.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-08-05 11:51
Wow, this is instantaneous here. Launch TextEdit, close the Untitled window, switch to another app, TextEdit quits (disappears from the Dock). No hesitation at all. I presume I have a fair number of apps open, such that Lion thinks it needs TextEdit's RAM.

That said, it's not happening with Preview for me, for whatever non-deterministic reason.
Yup, exact same behaviour here. It isn't like I don't have 8GB of RAM either, over 2GB free!
Joachim  2011-08-05 10:09
I agree, I'd rather be in control myself. My girlfriend otoh, tends to not care about running applications at all so she easily stacks up 10-20 running apps that she isn't even aware of running. And as she hardly ever shuts down her MacBook Pro this can go on for a while... :-)
So for me I think you are right - control ! ...for her or my mom I think it's a great feature... so how about a setting / on-off ???

cheers Jo
If the intent is to let the system efficiently manage resources (how often have we seen naive users close the last window but leave the app running) surely the only mistake here is that it disappeare from the cmd-tab switcher. I'm fine with the os killing it if I'm not actively using it, but if it appears to still be running so I can go back to it as if it was then there's no 'nanny state.'
Matt Neuburg  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-08-05 10:23
You could be right about that, and that's part of why I laid stress on this aspect of the difference. I'd like to experience your suggested implementation in action before I judge, but it could work.
barefootguru  2011-08-05 18:24
Completely agree. It's meant to transparent to the user so I assume it's a bug causing the app to not show up in cmd-tab. I've had other issues with automatic termination where the app, like System Preferences won't actually return. Roll on 10.7.1
Gordon  2011-08-09 09:58
That's what I was thinking, too. Keeping the icon in the dock and/or switcher would be a good solution to this issue (perhaps grayed out to indicated that it has been automatically quit?).
Cailean  2011-08-10 07:58
Keeping it in the Dock would be good, but greying it out would be counter-productive; the idea is that it's transparent, and telling you the OS decided to automatically quit it is too much information (not to mention an overlap of the convention of greying things out that are disabled).
I agree with the author. A Macbook Pro with an i7 processor and 4 GB of RAM is not a big screen version of the iPod touch and doesn't require the same user management paradigm. Apple's desire to free new users from understanding the details of their device is admirable but shouldn't get in the way of long time OS X users. I don't want to incur the time penalty of an app restart unless I make the decision to do so. There really needs to be a switch that allows one to disable this sort of behavior.
Berend Hasselman  2011-08-05 10:55
I have Lion running on an older iMac for testing purposes. I have Preview opened with no active windows. In addition I have opened a VirtualBox virtual xubuntu and a lot of other apps.
No more free memory. Preview is still running. I can still Command Tab to it (but I'm using Witch).

So I'm not experiencing the described behaviour.

But I do agree with Matt. Mac OS X shouldn't be doing this.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-08-05 11:53
Try it with TextEdit, just for giggles. For me, Preview wouldn't quit, but TextEdit would.
George Chase  2011-08-05 12:17
Tried it with Text Edit, and it didn't go away after switching back to Safari. It is still in the Doc and on the menu bar as active as well as Switcher. Just tried again. Not too bad, because at my age, I wouldn't notice it. Ever walk in a room and forget why, so you "do something" just to justify being there? You'er way ahead of me, I'm still on Spaces in TC using Lion.
Matt Neuburg  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-08-05 15:10
I think you have to have all windows in Preview closed and also hide Preview in order to get it to auto-terminate.
George Chase  2011-08-05 15:44
Nope. I opened a photo in Preview, closed it off, and back to Safari. Not only is Preview still open, but as I checked, TEXT EDIT is also, a full 5 1/2 hours later. I thought Auto Termination was part of "ObamaCare" when start costing too much.
Try switching to a different desktop with TextEdit running with no open window. Watch the icon in the dock as you switch desktops. As soon as the new desktop arrives, the TextEdit icon disappears off the dock.
Richard  2011-08-05 11:14
I wondered whether there was any connection with the option to show indicator lights below the Dock icon for an application? When I turned the lights off, I could replicate what you're saying in TextEdit. With the lights on, I couldn't. However, when I switched back to indicator lights off, it initially worked and then, after repeating the 'lights on/off' test several times, it didn't, almost as if OS X was 'learning' that TextEdit was important to me (because I was opening it repeatedly), and therefore was prioritising it to keep it open?

Are other people seeing this behaviour with the Dock Indicator lights turned on, or only when they are off? It does make sense for OS X to reflect this option in its behaviour. With the lights off, I am effectively telling OS X that I don't care about the distinction between apps running or and not, so go ahead and close them if they're not doing anything … does that make any sense?

All of that was based on very quick testing, so I may be wrong!
Kendall  2011-08-05 11:38
Interesting, but I disagree that it makes sense. "Don't worry about what's running" in the Dock isn't the same as "don't be able to switch back to an app you had open 5 seconds ago," IMHO anyway.

Although I'm curious (I don't have Lion). With the "lights" off . . . if you don't have an app in the Dock, does it show up there when you launch it? If so, does it stay there even if you can't command-tab to it? If it did, then I could maybe see this making a twisted sense (though I still don't feel it's logical or desirable). I'm guessing that's not how things work -- or perhaps Apple really did just forget about command-tab when they set this up.
Kendall  2011-08-05 11:34
If Auto Term is supposed to make what's-running transparent, then it's working the opposite, from the sound of things. Nor does it accomplish its other stated purpose, to reclaim needed resources. It made it vanish but kept using resources . . . when instead, it SHOULD make it quit but leave it in command-tab.

(It also doesn't sound like Lion needed the resources, so even the resource-management argument goal, which it's not fulfilling anyway, seems way over-zealous.)

Separately: Can we I disable it, system-wide? I would (will?) find it incredibly annoying to have to keep launching apps just because Lion made a mistake trying to guess (a) if it need sresources and (b) whether I'm "really" using it."

Overall, I agree the direction Apple's going in is miguided in many ways, but I admit the auto-save/resume stuff will be a boon to some folks. But auto-term sounds totally screwed up.

I wonder if, among its many other faults here, Apple forgot that people use features of the OS (like command-tab). ;-) Maybe they'll remove command tab and force us to have 5000 icons in the dock (or the new iOS-like app launcher), just to open anything? YIPES! Shoot. Me. Now.

BTW, to those who think people new to the Mac will like this: I say, only if they've never used a single computer. Any "switcher" coming from Windows will be confused, annoyed, and get a bad impression of MacOS X . . . and might just "switch" back.
Dennis Munsie  2011-08-09 10:24
I'm not sure Windows switchers will be confused. The concept of an app continuing to run when all windows are closed is strictly a Mac concept. Windows users expect that an app is closed when they close the last window. This change to Lion simply makes OS X more Windows like.
Jim Huls  2011-08-09 11:13
I agree and I think this is a good thing making it much more than a windows thing but simply making sense. This has always been an issue with less computer literate people as I remember back in the 90's trying to explain to new users what closed and quit applications were in Mac OS. I always found it to be one of the more bone headed implementations that Apple has done.

If Apple can make this new mechanism consistent across all apps then I'm all for it. Keep the app open while it's active even if no documents are loaded but when you switch from it in whatever manner, get rid of the process.
App quitting behavior from a user point of view (where the blue dot disappears and the app goes away from cmd-tab) is deterministic. If you close the last window in Preview or TextEdit, and switch away, the app quits.
This is a new HI guideline for apps, and has nothing to do with system killing apps to get resources back.

If you didn't open a window in an app, then you won't see the quitting behavior until at least a window is opened and closed. That may explain why some folks above weren't seeing Preview do this in some cases.

Having said this, some apps have the ability to have their underlying process killed independently of whether the user thinks the app is running or not. This should be an implementation detail, and not something user should notice (except if they're looking in Activity Monitor).
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-08-05 12:59
This all assumes that you have the app in your Dock to begin with. I don't use TextEdit much, so it's only in my Dock if it's running. When it quits automatically, it disappears from the Dock, which is truly disconcerting.
Kendall  2011-08-06 00:24
Ah, so it does disappear from the dock? Thanks for mentioning that--I'd wondered. Well, at least that's one point of consistency (when it's gone, it's gone). But to me, "app disappears from Dock" means "uh-oh, app crashed." Is this really the impression Apple wants to foster?!
Richard  2011-08-08 09:22
Anyone familiar with the concept of an application crashing is going to find the sudden disappearance from the Dock of "running app" icons worrisome.

UI experiences like this are where we'll get to witness some of the downsides of the iOS/OS X unification process.
Nick Hutchinson  2011-08-09 15:34
Apple obviously disagrees. As they see it, the new behaviour is neither sudden nor worrisome; the user intentionally chose to close that last window and switch away, and should not expect that app to stick around. Numerous apps already quit when you close the last window, so it's doubtful anyone will interpret this as a crash.

There's a lot of confusion about OS X's "no open windows yet still running" application model, and this new behaviour goes some way towards addressing it. If this thread's any indication, it'll be the geeks that have the most trouble adjusting, not the novice users.
Richard  2011-08-05 13:05
That doesn't tally with the behaviour I'm seeing. TextEdit can stay open, even with no windows open. Lion is definitely choosing to close it in some circumstances, and not in others - see my post below.

Some 'single window' apps, like iPhoto and iMovie, will always quit if that single window is closed.
Kendall  2011-08-06 00:23
Even if that's the case, this means it's inconsistent by design. Regular users won't think "oh I closed a window and now it's closing when I switch away" . . . they'll think "sometimes it goes away and sometimes it doesn't." Poor design, if it is by design.
Kernos  2011-08-09 12:33
It's on of the stupider things I've seen Apple do. FWIW. it also disappears from ASM. Preview behaves similarly, but Word 2008 does not. Thanks MS.
Maybe Apple has decided to "depreciate" Command-Tab in favor of multi-finder swipes and the miss-guided LaunchPad (as in "give me an icon list every - and I mean EVERY - app on my Mac over multiple pages and then when I attempt to cull this list to something manageable as a quick launcher, delete the app from my Mac instead")?!?

I have to agree with the others in this list, quitting the app isn't really the problem (IF the re-launch time is near zero), but it shouldn't disappear from the Command-Tab list unless I'm the one who specifically quit the app. Maybe, call the new state not "quit and resume," but "hibernate or deep sleep an app" instead?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-08-05 13:10
You have a point - if the only way you launch or switch among apps is via Launchpad, you would likely not notice this. It's another way of seeing how something can work in iOS but fail on the Mac, where Cmd-Tab and the Dock are both more common methods of determining what apps are running.
Stormchild  2011-08-08 20:34
I'm sure this isn't Apple's plan. There is no benefit to removing other means of launching and switching between apps. Launchpad is just there for those who need or want something simpler.

It's also inferior to most other app launching methods, in that you can't launch an app by dragging a document onto its icon. (Whereas you *can* drag documents onto app icons in the Dock, as well as the cmd-tab app switcher…and LaunchBar/Quicksilver too, if you use those.)
I don't consider these things part of a nanny state mentality. I think they are doing a good job of making the computer smarter to take care of reasonable things in the background so that you can focus on work. There is no reason to think about saving all the time other than that is how it has been done up till now. Why not let the computer deal with that and revert as needed?
And why should my mother need to worry about quitting apps? let them go away if they are not being used and if she needs it again, click on dock.
Richard  2011-08-05 13:07
I've just tested this with my empty 'Trouble Shooter' account (which I basically only log into to check whether an issue I'm having is profile-related).

My last message was rubbish. OS X will auto quit the app whether or not the lights are enabled.

However, it definitely learns not to close the app after repeated usage. Initially, when I logged into the account, Text Edit (with no windows open) would auto quit as soon as I switched to Finder.

I then created some files in TextEdit - random typing, copying and pasting from Safari, saving files to the desktop etc. I reopened TextEdit and closed all the windows. Now, TextEdit did not auto quit as soon as I move to the Finder. So it appears that OS X learns which applications you use a lot and prioritises them. Applications which you don't use often are auto quit more aggressively.

So, in the thread above, people who use TextEdit a lot will not see it auto quit. BBEdit addicts will - including the blog author.
Richard  2011-08-05 13:35
Restarting my iMac reset this, so TextEdit auto quit again ... until I used it, made some files etc., then the auto quit of Text Edit stopped again. So OS X doesn't permanently 'learn' anything about your usage patterns for an app. Whether or not applications auto quit is based on usage within the current session.

As speculated in the blog post, this behaviour might be linked to the idea that Lion sometimes chooses not to close an application process even when the user has chosen to quit it. Lion sees you using an application a lot within a session, so chooses not to close it fully, keeps its process open (as seen in Activity Monitor) and sets some sort of flag to turn off the auto quitting. Or something.
Kendall  2011-08-06 00:27
If I quit an app, it should quit. Sometimes one has to quit in order to trigger some kind of change, or if an app is acting flakey it might help. If Lion just decides "no, child, you don't really want to quit it" . . . this seems problematical. I mean come on, even in iOS we can force-quit apps. If quitting in MacOS X doesn't really quit then what do we do? Apple gave us a UI for this in iOS...but they're breaking the existing UI for this in MacOS X (without providing a replacement)? Hmm.
Stormchild  2011-08-08 18:17
Not true. You can still use Activity Monitor to (actually) quit apps.
Kendall  2011-08-08 22:45
Thanks--I didn't know Activity Monitor could do that--but I was really thinking of normal quitting. Most regular folks don't use Activity Monitor or even, if it still works right in Lion, command-option-escape. ;-)

(I think of command-option-escape as being more well-known, but maybe I only think that because I know it....)
Scott Rose  2011-08-05 13:28
Wow, this is truly ANNOYING beyond belief!!! IS THERE ANY WAY TO DISABLE AUTO-TERMINATION?!?
WPFleischmann  2011-08-05 13:55
I agree with the earlier commenter's reductio: "surely the only mistake here is that it disappears from the cmd-tab switcher" Perhaps there is a modification of the cmd-tab behavior required, to more closely mimic the "recent apps" of the iOS Fast App Switcher.

Arguments about "who's in control" may lead you down a path that results in your specifying which apps' memory allocations get paged to disk vs. staying RAM-resident
Rodney  2011-08-05 14:53
Exactly. The problem here is that Apple has not been thorough enough in implementing the "application switching" user experience from iOS in OS X Lion.

LaunchPad isn't enough - to be consistent the CMD-TAB switcher (and the Dock) has to remember all applications you have launched and not explicitly quit.

The guts of the idea is great - it frees users up to focus on using the apps rather than managing them.
Kevin Lepard  2011-08-05 17:02
I don't see this as much different than the system swapping virtual memory and other such tasks in the background to manage resources. Granted the described behavior is not what its should be. But if you eliminate what are, in my opinion, user interface errors then it makes a lot of sense when the ability to restart and restore applications to their prior state (regardless of whether they have windows open) is fast enough.

Intelligently managing the running programs to make more resources available to what I'm actively using is a good idea. I imagine the goal is for this to all be completely transparent. The problem here is that it isn't. Yet.

I think the idea of being able to revert a document to any condition in its history without explicitly saving it is a good idea, even though it grates on my 30+ years of techniques for document management. It is a significant, but in my opinion reasonable change, or will be once it is completely transparent.
Kendall  2011-08-06 00:32
I disagree; I don't think resource management (the computer's job) and managing my environment for how I work * (my job) are analogous. I don't know how the resources of my fridge are managed -- the compressor kicks on when needed, ice is made like magic! -- but if the light started going on and off randomly, or the doors opened and closed randomly . . . I'd get a new fridge.

(Okay, my analogy might be bad, too. ;-)

* I don't know how to describe this well, sorry.
Kevin Lepard  2011-08-11 00:59
But the work environment is related to resources available. If the performance of what you're actually using can be improved by _invisibly_ quitting other processes, etc., that makes your environment better. I still think the problem here is that it is not invisible. If it were, no one would notice it happening.
Matt Neuburg  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-08-06 10:30
But virtual memory swapping and other resource management already do exist, and have existed since the dawn of Mac OS X. That's part of my point. There has never been any need to quit an application, because while it's not in use its resources can be paged out to disk; many users have dozens of applications of open at once, without penalty (except the use of some disk space, if you haven't enough RAM). So why is this feature (autotermination) being introduced now? It cannot be for any technical or memory management reason, because that problem was already solved. That's part of what I find so mysterious here. Maybe I should have been explicit about this in the article...
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-08-06 14:01
I think that would be a good addition, Matt.
Matt Neuburg  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-08-06 20:03
Okay, I put in a paragraph about this.
Nick Hutchinson  2011-08-07 17:33
That's just not correct. In reality, paging is really, really slow, and can cause beach-balls galore. Automatic Termination is just another resource management technology, and Apple obviously believes that it's more efficient in many cases. As others have noted, it should be more transparent though.
Graham Cox  2011-08-10 05:13
Maybe its to do with SSDs? Perhaps they're trying to work towards minimising write cycles, or something? I dunno - just a thought. I agree that this is a silly feature for a desktop OS.
Philipp  2011-08-10 14:42
Yes, I had the same thought (and thanks to search I found the place to reply).

Considering the typical RAM+HDD environment, swapping makes sense - especially with a lot of application state _not_ being saved upon closure.
(I think this is why a lot of attempts on "restore my desktop session after reboot" never really worked before.)

However, considering a RAM+SSD environment with integrated application / UI control (iOS) the other paradigm makes sense as well.

Let's see, how they can be mixed - currently there are applications of all types in Lion... from Lion-native (like: TextEdit), to Mac OS native (where e.g. browsers like Firefix are pretty good at restoring themselves nowadays, due to many crashes, many open tabs, and frequent restarts due to updates), and even weird stuff like *nix/BSD/X11 applications...
... I just hope, most options stay available for non-casual users.
J R Staal  2011-08-05 21:50
My wife is a savvy user, but work-focused. She is most likely to become upset when Lion exhibits a behavior that is unexpected, such as is described above. I expect this 'feature' will cause me to make numerous panic runs into my wife's office. Maybe we will wait a few months before she upgrades.
Another good reason why I did not and so far will not rush into upgrading to Lion. I love Snow Leopard and it does all the things I need it to do. I like to keep open apps opened even when I am not using them. Often I have apps running in different spaces. Quitting them without my authorization defeats the purpose of using spaces or whatever it is they call it in Lion.
Apps with content in them or an open document won't quit. Twitter, iPhoto, or iChat won't quit for example.
Charles Prince  2011-08-05 23:26
I am not 100% sure about this, but I think this auto quit behavior may the cause of a problem I get using a dual monitor set up. I get to a point where I have open windows on my external monitor but a blank screen on my Macbook Pro. Problem is I have no cursor visible. So I have no means of control. I have to use the power switch to shut down. Not good.
BC Kelly  2011-08-06 08:24

Haven't run into this specific given example

But do agree with the 'Nanny State' in Lion

THAT is very annoying, and very UN-Apple


In particular for me - the Finder

Won't bore you here with all the details and failings
Save it for another forum/article on that topic
Although it's similar to much of what's in this Article
And any of you 'veteran types' should easily discover your own 'problems'

(to one lady above - yes, is nice of Apple to look out for your Mom, but we're not her and many/most of us don't want/need a Nanny/Caretaker. Apple could easily provide reliable options to 'turn on/off' various new 'features' ;-)

Now - will say this about Finder in Lion

It sucks so much, makes me think Microsoft wrote it

And soon as I get the time

Will be a 'switcher'

Back to 10.6


Mort de Lion  2011-08-06 09:39
Ah hah! This explains much about the recent behavior of my computer. I have felt like I was shooting at ducks trying to find applications. I actually had to resort to restarting programs just to get back to page...that's a timesaver! So many little things don't work in Lion I wish Apple would suck it up and provide us with an uninstaller.
I haven't seen TextEdit disappear. I dragged TextEdit to my Dock so I always see the icon, but it could be why I'm seeing long delays when select TextEdit to create a new file. It's so annoying that I'm moving to TextWrangler.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-08-06 19:21
Yes, of course, if it's always in the Dock it won't disappear. But if you have the indicator lights for running apps turned on, the light will go away.

The point is that not everything can be in your Dock when not running, and when such apps are terminated unexpectedly, they'll disappear from the Dock, giving the impression of having crashed silently.

TextWrangler is Carbon-based, I believe, so it won't support Auto Termination.
I keep applications running so they are there in command-tab when I need them. I don't want to be forced to navigate to the Dock and click on the application icon every time I suddenly have to write something in TextEdit, Pages or whatever.

I frequently even keep applications running to remind me of tasks to do. So, in Lion I will have to write a list of applications on a sheet of paper…
Never had got used to using Cmd+tab for some odd reason, so not much of a problem to me. More annoying to me are (other) bugs/changes in Lion, like: why change the default location of signatures in Mail? Why change the size setting of sidebar icons and put the setting away to General in System Preferences. Switching between spaces and pages (Safari) is too similar and I do not ever want to see the widgets anyway. When expanding a thread at the bottom in Classic view in Mail nothing visible happens (I am not moved to the last message); Safari often have problems loading pages now; I do not want all windows to open in all Apps (esp. not Preview where one usually never returns to a document after quitting); and as others have pointed out Address Book and iCal have not been improved in the layout. But otherwise most things are fine ... . Well, Mail creates a lot of duplicates and Mail can see some of them but does not offer much help in deleting them (rebuilding could create more dups).
Michael johnson  2011-08-08 08:38
It seems many "new" features of Lion are "nanny state gone wild" and dumbing down OS X.

Perhaps I am a Luddite. It shows.

If a user can opt out of significant User Interface changes (like the vanished scroll bars)(disable or return such features to earlier behavior) then most of my complaints would diminish.

Full screen apps, auto terminate, auto save, auto resume, scrollbar debacle, and the list goes on.

diarbyrag  2011-08-11 17:40
Totally Agree, the new motto from Apple should now change from " Think Different" to "Just Don't Think" welcome to Steve Jobs brave new world of computing for dummies !
Rick380  2011-08-08 16:48
Whole heartedly agree with the "nanny state" assessment...I haven't updated to Lion yet but it's this general fear that I'm losing control of things that I want control of. I certainly don't mind if the options are there but I should be able to turn them off and work the way I want. I understand the success of iOS and it's potential as a tool to draw people to the OSX platform...but I want to be as "power-usery" as I want and it seems Lion is, as you said, taking away some of my control.
Wagner  2011-08-08 16:59
I discovered this "feature" yesterday after watching something on QuickTime Player. I watched it, closed it, then moved the QT file to the trash. Moments later, sure enough, QT Player disappeared from the cmd-tab switcher.

Ok, no biggie, probably a bug, I thought, but then I tried to empty the trash and the Finder refused to delete the QT file I had trashed, claiming that it was in use. I was puzzled, despite being a Mac user since 1988. It was only after I looked at Activity Monitor that I realised that QT Player was still running. Force-quit it from AM and then I could delete the file.

So, yeah, I completely agree that this is unnecessary, confusing (even to pros like Matt and myself), and a time-waster.
ironcorona  2011-08-09 10:59
QT's been annoying me too. If you pause a video half way through and minimise or hide the window and come back to it after a while QT doesn't bother to save your place in the movie.
Greg Sutherland  2011-08-08 19:32
I guess everyone has different needs. I don't care if it closes an app with no windows. But if it closes any apps with windows open it will be a problem. When I am working and get interrupted I open the app necessary for the new chore. When I'm finished and close that app I need to see exactly what I was doing before getting interrupted. This could be many hours later and I may not remember what I was doing or where in the process I was.

Lately Apple seems to be moving away from my needs. I've been using Macs as my workstation to bigger computers and as my personal computer since the mid 80s.
Dave Barnhart  2011-08-08 20:31
I fear that Apple is trying to turn my MacBook Pro into an iPad with external keyboard.
TheOtherSteveJobs  2011-08-08 22:27
Yes, that's what we should strive for in 2011:

50 year old death trap cars

Horseshoe-lanes for horses on the freeways

managing memory and processes manually (i would assume the author would prefer to manage processes from a command line, natch)

seriously - yearning for 50 year old technology simply shows that the writer is old, curmudgeonly, and unable to change with the times.

I'm trying really hard not to be the old man in the corner waving my cane and the whipper snappers...

This kind of thinking kept a lot of fat guys with big mustaches stuck in the CPU room while the rest of us moved onto personal computers. I don't know what the appeal is.

Maybe its because i use computers to get things done vice using computers for the sake of using them?
This is what I think too. Lion is a transition OS. A lot of the new features demonstrate a shift away from the Desktop and File System centric computing. We're heading for full screen apps that deal with their own files. Like the Command Line still available via the Terminal, you'll still be able to access the file system via the Finder but it won't be a necessary part of using a Mac.

What Apple has done though is make some unnecessary difficulties in this shift. The Dock and CMD+Tab should have changed along with the introduction of self quitting apps. The dock is divided into 2 now. Your favourite apps on one side, and stacks/recycle bin on the other. A space for the last 4 or 5 apps used could remain on that side so that they don't just disappear when they self quit.

For those wanting to keep up with the times, stop using the Dock and CMD+Tab and move on to LaunchPad and gestures instead.
Apple's new standard of reference for interface elements is simply this: would the average person understand it? If not, hide it or kill it.

The average person doesn't know what a Web browser is (although they use one all the time), and doesn't know the difference between a file, a document, a folder, a hard drive, a processor, a computer, or anything else computer-ish. All such terms are interchangeable to them (at least that's been my experience) and throw them into either a fog or a panic. They certainly do not know what an "application" is or what it would mean for it to be "running."

So if this Lion stuff bothers us, how are we going to react when the whole concept of applications, files, etc. goes away completely? Real soon now.

Hello, my name is Uncle Stevie and I'm here to help you! So, little Snookums, what did you want to do today?
Apple is moving towards the consumer, away from the pro - because that's where the money is. Everything is being dumbed-down to suit the lowest common denominator of use, so that anyone who actually knows what they're doing is losing choice. Matt's analogy with the manual-shift Beetle is perfect: but obese, lazy, America prefers the corporation to think for it. All in the name of choice, of course. Every day, Apple gets more like Micro$oft.
I've sent my feedback to Apple.
Paul Schächterle  2011-08-09 05:38
I don’t like Lion’s new app quitting behaviour either. I find the old Mac-style behaviour much better. The advantages of the classic Mac quitting behaviour IMHO are:
You can keep an app in the dock without having to place it there permanently.
You can choose commands from the app’s dock menu since the app is running.

I am not totally against auto-quitting apps, though, but it definitely should not happen immediately when you click on the desktop (and no windows are open).
Maybe after an hour of app idleness it should auto-quit. Apple could even make it a preference after which period of idleness an app should auto-quit.

In its current state, however, Lion’s auto-quit "feature" is very disturbing.
Charles Reeves Jr  2011-08-09 06:18
Yet another reason to not upgrade to Lion, for me at least, until Apple provides an option to turn this off. I use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, and leave them running all the time because they take so long to start up.
Illustrator and Photoshop don't support this "feature". The author said it had to be explicitly supported. It's not as big of a deal as everyone is making it, minus with the Apple apps, as it has to be explicitly stated that the app will auto terminate.
Morris Benveniste  2011-08-09 08:16
I couldn't agree with you more. The reason why I have not upgraded to Lion is because I want to remain in control of when I SAVE a document. I also agree totally with your Microsoft comment. I always found it frustrating when Microsoft applications were trying to make my life easier by doing things for me, when I didn't want to do them in the first place. Mac computer users, for the most part are savvy and know what they are doing. We don't need a nanny.
jonathan  2011-08-09 10:04
TextEdit opens a window when you open it. Same with Address Book. Preview doesn't open a window when you open it. The first 2 now close when you close the window, the first when you look away, meaning you bring another app to the front - because the system is giving you a chance to open a file - and the 2nd right away because you shut its only window. If you open a window in Preview and then close it and look away, then it will close but it will not close if you haven't opened a window and closed it. Pretty simple.

Good behavior? It has its benefits and problems. I like Address Book closing when I shut the window. It isn't a big deal to reopen TextEdit or Preview but I'd like to be able to set that in a preference.

Some things are in their infancy. I'm more interested in the development of autocorrect. It should know more about what I'm typing from what I've typed in the past.

Joshua Nozzi  2011-08-09 10:07
It seems like a lot of the comments here are based on a misunderstanding of how the automatic termination system works. You might want to view the WWDC session video. Specifically, pay attention to the conditions under which apps are terminated/resumed:
Orenge  2011-08-09 10:09
I never use Command-Tab, but I can see something needs to be tweaked here! And that seems easily done: Apple should just leave a force-exited app in the Cmd-Tab bar AND in the dock, until the user expressly Quits it manually. If a user hasn’t used the app in a while, maybe it has auto-exited, but ho harm done; the user can still see the icon, and still switch to it, either to use it or to “simon says” quit it. The user wouldn't have to know or care what happened in the background. As it should be.
Dont get your panties in a bunch. Try using the apple spacebar (spotlight) if you want to run an app - it is much faster.
Stormchild  2011-08-10 10:24
You missed the entire point of what's being discussed here.
Nate Clinton  2011-08-09 10:31
If the cmd-tab behavior is fixed, I think the argument can be made that this is a good thing. I can't tell you how many times I return to the family iMac in the living room to find that Safari (or some other app) is still running, with no open windows. This is because most new (or Windows) users don't think to "quit" an app - they simply close all the windows (those little red buttons certainly feel like the Windows-X-to-quit-the-app, so a lot of people expect them to act like it).
This is a transitionary clash between the new way of doing things and the old way.

The very valid problem that you present would (and will) be resolved if you no longer used the Dock and instead used LaunchPad (its replacement) to launch and switch to apps and if Cmd+Tab became an iOS like Fast App Switcher, showing you not the the running apps but the last 10 apps you opened.

I believe that Apple is replacing the Dock with LaunchPad. If you no longer use the Dock to show you which apps are running, and instead go to Launch Pad (your Home screen in iOS), then your apps including Text Edit and Preview will always be there, regardless if you left them running or not.

Apple seems to have hesitated in implementing their new vision, at first dropping the "App running lights" and then making them optional. The Dock needs to stop being a place for open apps to go and become either a most used App shelf or a quick App launcher of recently used apps.

I'm just completely baffled by this. What's the point of automatic "termination" if the process doesn't actually terminate? And where's the option to disable this abomination?
> "so an idle running application uses no CPU"

No true for some Adobe CS programs running with no windows open. CS3/CS4 apps like Illustrator and Photoshop continue to consume CPU cycles even with no window open. On many occasions I have observed Illustrator taking up as much as 10% with no windows open nor minimized (I don't know if changed in CS5)
Like autosave and remember state, autoquit has to be expressly allowed by the app. Next generation Cococa apps will have to define whether it's safe to close the app after they've saved documents and/or closed all windows.
Stormchild  2011-08-10 10:23
Nope. CS5 still wastes resources in the background for no reason. But that's just Adobe and their sloppy programming.
I'm definitely with the author on this. I can also relate to the description of the app "fighting me" as I feel that way constantly when using Windows.

But even for non-power users who close the last window without quitting the app, this still seems like a bad idea. Were I a novice user, if there was suddenly movement in the Dock (like the app quitting and its icon disappearing) without my doing anything, I would be left wondering "what just happened?" And no, showing a dialog to tell me would not be the answer.
D Corban  2011-08-09 10:56
I can reproduce TextEdit and Preview quitting 100%. Open TextEdit, close the empty window, switch to Safari and TextEdit quits. Preview has the same behaviour if I close the last open window. Both apps quit the instant I switch away.

I have to say, it's about time! While I am usually the type who tends to leave apps running after I am finished, I appreciate this new behaviour. I no longer have to manually quit apps when I am finished.

However, I did notice that both apps still show as a running process (and consuming memory) in Activity Monitor. That part baffles me.
Chuck Shotton  2011-08-09 10:55
I concur wholeheartedly. After lengthy discussions with fellow co-workers, the consensus is that Lion is more of a nuisance than an upgrade for power users.

I was hard-pressed to name a single feature that I would miss if I reverted to 10.6.8. On the other hand, I have a raft of features that I find range from annoying and useless to downright infuriating and dumbfounding. Top of my list is the inscrutable decision to hide a non-persistent setting for restoring running applications and windows in the shutdown confirmation dialog, of all places.

This feature alone is unequivocal confirmation that Apple has hired ex-Microsoft engineers to replace its previously brilliant human factors team with gratuitous feature-generating code monkeys..
Buzz Lightyear  2011-08-09 11:16
My first thoughts on Lion's new features like Automatic Termination was "how Microsoft-like" in the assumption that the system is smarter than the operator. Glad I'm not alone in that assessment. Personally I'd rather see efforts to make users smarter rather than the OS but that just might be me.
I'd go one step further and ask if this is even good for iOS.

When I let iOS manage running/quitting apps for me, I have to manually reboot the device about once a week. Beyond that, and apps just start silently quitting in the middle of an operation, without saving or dumping an error log or anything. Once it gets that far, no amount of manual quitting of apps seems to help.

If I manually close apps when I'm done with them, and it goes fine for months. Maybe the concept could work if the implementation was better, but it's not.

On the Mac, I think Apple isn't entirely happy with the classic app-oriented interface. Maybe they're trying to move to something else, like OpenDoc, and this is a halfway point? Who knows...
I still think no user, not even a power user, cares if an idle app is running or not. In fact, the memory used by idle apps could already be swapped out if another app needed the memory--you just didn't know about it because it didn't affect command-tab. What you're really complaining about is the app disappeared from the command-tab switcher.

The correct solution to the problem is for the command-tab to bring up all recently used apps--whether or not they are actually running (or perhaps Apple can make command-tab more configurable in general.) So Apple's real mistake was they didn't update command-tab to work correctly with the new way of managing applications.
El Aura  2011-08-09 11:31
Why do we have to use the incendiary term 'agenda' to describe what used to be called neutrally a goal?
Apple wants to make the best computers, the best OS possible, and although we might disagree with them what is best and Apple often does not get the implementation right at first, describing their actions as driven by irrational ideology and wholly self-serving (and not with the idea of improving the overall computing experience for as many people as possible), as the term 'agenda' implies, feel just like some leaden bitterness has overcome as all.
Darren Stone  2011-08-09 11:34
There are two distinct behaviors related to auto-termination that the author is confusing.

1. If a document application has no open documents and is not active, it will *appear* to quit automatically. It is removed from the dock and command-tab menu. It is however still running in the background and will then start up immediately when a new document is opened.

2. If an application is not active and has no visible windows on screen, the OS can ask this application to quit in low-memory conditions. In this case, the application *appears* to be running, it remains in the dock and the command-tab menu, but is in fact not running nor consuming resources.

In both cases, it's up to the application to ultimately decide whether is should quit.

The ultimate goal is to allow users to not worry about quitting apps, or about system resources.

I don't have a problem with it but it does require you to think a little differently. I've been able to take great advantage of it.
Michael Argast  2011-08-09 12:07
From a security futures perspective, I like this feature. Let me explain:

On a regular basis, applications and the operating system require patches to be applied. Applying them today is annoying - I need to save/close all my different applications, apply the patches, restart my machine, get going again.

I can see a day in the near future where with Lion I'll be able to simply 'apply updates' have it do the restart (application or system) and bring me back to my current state with minimal effort/impact on my part. This is a big win to me.
Stormchild  2011-08-10 10:21
This article isn't about restoring open apps/windows. That's a different matter altogether.
Anthony Reimer  2011-08-09 13:59
Re: Relaunching.
Photoshop is the prime example of an app that I don't want to auto-quit because relaunching is painful. Luckily, we probably won't see the Creative Suite support any of the new Lion features until CS7 in 2014 because it comes too late in the development cycle for CS6 and then CS6.5 is only incremental.

Re: Command-Tab
An app should not disappear from the Command-Tab switcher if it was auto-closed but has at least one process still running. As well, an option should be added to the app's Dock menu to "Keep Available" for this session.

Re: Pro vs. Average User
I have long believed that computers are too complicated for what most people want to do with them. While Lion moves that ball forward, for some of us (and almost all long-time readers here), a computer is a highly specialized, professional tool with fine-grained controls to customize it to the user's needs. If Apple wants to continue to sell a professional tool, they will keep such controls available. If not…
Photoshop is slow to load the first time I launch it, but if I quit it and then relaunch it, it's quite fast--3-4 seconds on my early 2008 MBP (although I admit not as fast as if it hadn't quit.) MS Office is a similar situation although it doesn't greedily hang on to RAM like Photoshop does.

If I wait long enough, then photoshop becomes slow to launch again, but that only happens because other apps needed the memory and photoshop was de-cached. If Photoshop stays running (and hogging RAM), it forces the apps I am actively using to work with less RAM and they are slower as a result. Eg., I often quit Photoshop so that Photomatix and Bridge have more RAM to work with.

BTW, didn't Adobe say they will update CS5 to take advantage of Lion features over the coming months? I reckon they were already working on it during Lion Beta.
This is not really about Automatic Termination. This is about a separate UI decision Apple made in Lion to remove apps from the dock and cmd-tab switcher when all windows are closed. This decision was presumably based on studying user behavior.
I don't relate this to iOS at all. In iOS, I've notice apps always stay in the fast app switching list, which I've hated because it eventually becomes so long that it's no more convenient than using the home screens.

Lion is expressing itself differently than iOS, as Matt Neuburg has noted, by not leaving the app accessible from the Dock/Command-Tab switching.

So, Matt Neuburg, I think what you're really complaining about is that Lion is NOT expressing itself in the same way as iOS, because Lion is not leaving the app accessible to the user from the Dock/Command-Tab switching, unlike iOS which does leave it accessible.

Personally, I'm adjusting because I really appreciate my Dock not being so cluttered with temporary apps (apps I don't keep in my Dock). It is feeling nicer and cleaner.

As such, I wouldn't mind if iOS could express this like Lion does by shortening up the fast app switching. I don't know how iOS could, but it does seem very appropriate and overdue for the Mac OS.
Andrew  2011-08-09 14:48
If you use command-alt-escape you can see the running applications
Holland  2011-08-09 15:13
TextEdit vanishes the moment I switch back to my browser. I only have four programs running. My browser, Mail, Adium, and Terminal
John Ward  2011-08-09 16:07
This is a decisive move towards iOS functionality without the "real" benefits of iOS devices.

The fast app switcher is actually pretty useful and the "return-state" works pretty well. In OS X you still expect it to act like a desktop machine and it behaves WORSE than an iOS device.

On top of this all iOS devices have super fast SSD's for quick app opening which gives the impression an app was never actually closed to begin with. My 2011 MacBook pro with the 5200 rpm HDD doesn't have that same experience at all.

Hence, I'm still on Snow Leopard after two trips to Lion. Lion just annoys me.
Tom Limoncelli   2011-08-09 23:41
5 years from now you will gripe about any app that doesn't support Automatic Termination and AutoSave.

(let me dig up all the Anti-Amiga hit pieces saying that multitasking is bad for you and causes tooth decay. Where are those pundits today? Oh, writing for PCMag still.)
Ian Goss  2011-08-10 00:28
This behaviour should be Preferences-switchable; on or off. Though, I thought immediately of InDesign’s hyphenation slider (developed from a suggestion made on an Adobe roadshow here in Australia, I’ve been told). A slider interface could provide a carefully-calibrated range for when termination takes place (considering time since last command-tab, number of open apps, level of VM activity, etc.). Bit like energy prefs too.
I have tried the TextEdit and Preview suggestions. I never use TextEdit, I have BBEdit. TextEdit has been sitting hidden in my dock with no open documents for long enough that I have read all the comments here.

TextEdit is still in the Dock (dock has lights turned off) and in the Command+Tab switcher display.

Have you folk with the "disappearing TextEdit syndrome" submitted a bug report?
I've had the same experience. Was using Grab the other day to get a series of screenshots, but saving and closing each window, Grab would automatically terminate while I was prepping my desktop for the next screenshot.

Oddly enough, after I started leaving windows open for a while to stop Grab from quitting, it stayed open even after I'd closed all windows later.

Strange behavior.

Worst is that the dialogue box for reopening windows keeps popping up during shut down and I always have to uncheck it because I prefer not to have a deluge of previously opened apps run at startup.

I would prefer it to be a permanent preference not a continuous dialogue!
Patrick Quinn-Graham  2011-08-10 01:48
What you are talking about is NOT automatic application termination. Or at least, this is not the way automatic application termination is meant to work - these are apps deliberately quitting.

The automatic stuff only kicks in when memory is low, which is how you know this behaviour is unrelated.

You can see it working properly with Safari or System Preferences (no open windows or the app is hidden), the process is killed even though the app stills appears in the dock and in the cmd+tab switcher. See:

This happens to me because I'm using all of my 4GB of ram, but there's a terminal command you can use to force this to happen.

And to people worrying about Lion keeping a process around for an app you have quit: apps have to opt in to this behaviour, so apps that require a quit to force things to happen obviously won't be affected until the author updates the app.
Pit Garbe  2011-08-10 10:55
Thanks, and this is exactly what they said in the session at WWDC. All you nay-sayers: Go watch the session video if you haven't and reflect on it. That is all.
I like the feature, however, it seems it requires improvements. I haven't had a problem, but it's the way of the future. Remember this is the first implementation.
Stormchild  2011-08-10 10:18
I'm mostly in agreement with this. I understand the problem they're trying to solve, and I believe it's an important one, but it's another situation where power users are being inconvenienced by the inability to disable a behavior they don't need or want.

Another example: to keep Spaces from getting too complicated, Apple decided that multiple displays should be treated as a single space. That's fine…I simply don't use Spaces…no problem. But the new full screen mode is now tied to Spaces, and the Spaces feature is now mandatory (you could disable it in 10.5 and 10.6, but now you can't), so for those of us who have two or more displays, entering full screen mode now renders all your other displays useless -- which is incredibly stupid.

All they need to do to solve this is add a simple setting:

[ ] move full screen windows to a new space

The ability to disable that would allow a window to go full screen without disturbing what's on the other display(s).
Working as intended, but textedit is not quitting. repeat the test with Activity Monitor running. Text edit doesn't quit, it only removes itself from the dock and cmd-tab views, it still there in the activity monitor.

This is not happening due to memory constraints. This is a new paradigm, when you close the last window, the app goes away. it is still in memory, if you relaunch the app again it doesn't need to start from scratch.

The wide range of results that people are seeing is most likely due whether or not their textedit is a permanent dock icon or whether running lights are on or not.
Additionally, when an app is terminated due to resource constraints, the app does not disappear from the doc or the command tab window, but it does disappear from the Activity Monitor, it's process is shut down.

So what the article describing is the exact opposite of automatic termination due to resource constraints
Adam Fields  2011-08-10 03:08
For years, I've mostly switched apps using either Quicksilver or more recently Alfred. It's been a long time since I really cared if an app was already running when I switched to it.
Tobias  2011-08-10 08:18
The cmd+tab equivalent on iOS (double-tap the home button) does list non-running app, so reporting a bug to Apple might help. But I think they want to migrate everybody to launchpad. It doesn't have dock indicator lights in the first place. Personally I abandoned both dock and alt+tab for LaunchBar long ago.
Stormchild  2011-08-10 10:05
Actually, there is no equivalent. The iOS app switcher isn't really like anything on OS X. It's a list of recent apps, which may or may not still be in memory (none of the apps shown in the app switcher are running -- not even the current one, as it's paused while the switcher is visible). Neither the Dock (a mix of running apps and *favorites*) nor the cmd-tab switcher (currently running apps only) does this.

This isn't a bug; the cmd-tab switcher is still doing exactly what it was meant to do -- show currently running apps. It's really just evidence that closing apps without the user's consent is a bad idea that doesn't fit well with a desktop OS.

That said, I'd be fine with the idea of having this as the default behavior (since the majority of Mac users don't understand the difference between closing a window and closing an app, and often suffer performance penalties as a result), but there should be a way to disable it.
Peer Stritzinger  2011-08-10 09:57
IMHO its a good idea, and also think its about resource usage. What happens to me all the time: lots of memory using applications open most of them swapped out already. Then when the system gets slow I want to quit most of the manually. But then what happens ist that in order to quit they have to be brought to memory again. Usually you are then in beachball hell.

Sure if I use a faster mac with solid state disks and huge ram I won't need it ... yet. At least my machines tend to get to the state where they are running on the limit no matter how powerful they get.

So I'm always glad when Apple finds new ways to conserve resources, basically extending the usefull livetimes of my machines.

For this I have no trouble changing my usage patterns, if we don't do this regularly innovation would grind to a halt.
Just want to add my own 2 cents. I do "computer consulting", and because I love Macs so much I'm always convincing my clients to make the switch. The single biggest hurdle in teaching someone the difference between Windows and Mac has always been how you close programs. They've been trained from years of using computers that when you want to close a program, you simply click the red x. When I tell them that with a Mac the red button doesn't close the "program", it just closes the "window", it always flies right over their head. You need to understand that the VAST majority of users not only don't ever use hot keys, but they don't even know what that means, so trying to teach them to remember hitting command-q to "fully" quit a program is close to impossible. In my opinion, this is a looong overdue feature that's going to help way more people than it annoys. That's not to say I don't understand why it would be annoying to some. They should just make it an option and be done with it.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2011-08-10 14:08
All true, but most of the time, closing the last window (but not quitting the app) is a perfectly fine thing to do - the app likely isn't using any CPU or significant RAM.
Tom Hawkins  2011-08-10 10:58
Before complaining about what happens in the Dock as a result of this change, do consider that the Dock itself has always had flaws from a user experience point of view - e.g. the mixing of 'favourite' and running application icons. I suppose if we remove the concept of a 'running' application the Dock becomes more focused on favourite apps, and anything I'm using right now appears there as a sort of 'temporary favourite', with no need for the little lights.

I'm quite attracted to the idea of Mission Control / Launchpad allowing me to do away with the Dock altogether though. It's never been a part of OS X that I was terribly attached to :-P
This appears to be just a bug. The way the feature is indented to work is 'seamless' without the user knowing when apps come and go (they will continue to show in the tab switcher/dock and show their GUI). If you watch the WWDC session on state restoration, which I attended, you'll see how the feature is supposed to work.
Guy Plunkett III  2011-08-10 21:22
Count me as another curmudgeonly Luddite -- hey, you kids get off my lawn! -- but the reasons to avoid Lion just keep mounting up: dropping Rosetta without warning (and Java will be next on the chopping block), the push for full screen apps, vanishing scrollbars (and bass-ackwards scrollbar behavior), auto save, auto resume, auto terminate ... I don't want an iOS device with a permantly attached keyboard, I want a computer that allows me to Get Stuff Done, even when the 'Net is down, and even if the applications I need aren't pre-approved by Uncle Steve. Forget Microsoft and talking paperclips; Apple is starting to remind me of SyFy -- can the computer equivalents of wrestling and ghost hunting be far off?
skapa flow  2011-08-11 11:32
Is it a feature or a bug?
thanks for the great article. i see there are other people besides myself deeply questioning the usability of things.
i myself are running win7 for a number of reasons (mostly historically and because of some applications) on the client and linux on the server.
i recommend to you, if you doubt the way apple handles these things to switch to linux. you have all the options you wish - only limited by the amount of time you want to spend on it. for apple i think this is a feature, and it is one more reason to think about migrating soon.
TarzanBuzzyMan  2011-08-12 21:41
There is an apparent problem with this though. when you start playing a video through quicktime and then hide it (cmd + h), all of a sudden the music/sound cuts out. Now I would have thought that it still has a window, but is unselected, out of sight and running sounds, instead it quits/freezes quicktime rendering it useless till its manually force quit. Do try and see the results. Thanks
clint.macdonald  An apple icon for a TidBITS Supporter 2011-08-14 18:22
Although an auto-quit application (like Preview) does not appear in Apple's command-tab app switcher, it *does* appear in the Keyboard Maestro app switcher. Keyboard Maestro is the correct behavior, in my opinion, and Apple got it wrong. What is Keyboard maestro seeing that command-tab misses?

Best wishes,
David Dannemiller  2011-08-16 03:36
I agree with Matt's assessment that auto termination will be annoying.

From what I've been reading, it looks like Apple plans to dumb down the Mac. That's too bad. I prefer Mac over Windows because simple things are simple, but the power user can make the machine sing. I hope the future includes singing.
I noticed that Quicktime would disappear from the dock after I closed a movie. I figured it was something unique to it or perhaps something was causing to to crash. I had no idea, but my Mac also does the TextEdit trick, so...

This is a horrible feature. Even though I have a relatively fast machine, not all applications open quickly and that could eventually be a real hassle.
Graham Nelson  2011-08-18 16:45
Here's yet another case where auto-termination is a bad idea. I'm working on a program which produces PDF files, and I test it about once every quarter of an hour. I do this by opening the PDFs in Preview. They look fine, I close them again, I go back to coding. Preview quits the moment my back is turned.

What's annoying about this is that my computer is connected to external hard drives which spin down when not in use. Preview's start-up - for some reason, and in my view wrongly - forces the Mac to spin up all its drives. This means it launches in about thirty bounces, not about three, and that's on a Mac Pro. That's why I want Preview to keep running, and NOT TO QUIT.

Why can't we turn this off? It's no more than a curiosity when it works, and it's a pointless interruption of service when it doesn't.
Ariella  2011-08-26 19:53
I tried the Textedit quitting test and it exited automatically. A partial iOS implementation like this definitely doesn't improve computing on a desktop.
Unfortunately we are all running into a "nanny state" condition. I am pretty sure that in a short time there will be a law compelling us to wear a wool underwear in winter (with a CE marking, I live in Europe) to make sure we don't get a cold.
I did not made all the way from the 512k "fat Mac" to have the system decide if I am finished with an application or not.
Why a wonderful environment like the Mac OS is trying to copy the worst parts of the Windows world?
Steve Norman  2011-09-05 15:43
Good that you used a car analogy at the end of the piece. Once, you had to know how a car worked, and might have even had a driver and a mechanic to keep it going because cars were so complex and unpredictable. No one would buy that car anymore. Lion might be confusing if you keep trying to run it as Tiger, but if you use it (not run it) as Lion, these things are not noticeable.
What you are describing is, to me, another sign of the levelling down imposed on computer systems, and on applications and web sites, on the basis that smartphones are a (commercial) priority. An anti-progressive trend based on pure market considerations, that is very unsettling for the future -- and contrary to what we have been expecting of Apple in the last 30 years.
I hope that in 10 years time, there will be another innovative company which will revolutionize electronics but in the meantime, chances are our computer experience will suck.
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2011-09-11 07:55
I think this issue is a small part of a bigger picture for Lion: Many of its features seem incomplete, as with LaunchPad and Mission Control; too many of its functions lack user control or management options, like Resume, Auto Save and Versions. Then there's this Auto Stop feature which works inconsistently. It's not unusual for a new OS version to have problems. But Lion makes some major changes to the Mac OS X paradigm and it just seems to have been released too soon, before all the changes have been coherently developed and integrated. The result is a hodge-podge of bugs, missing and incomplete features that does not represent Apple at its best.

I am warning friends and clients away from Lion. Given its unfinished state it's not a viable upgrade for people who rely on a stable and predictable system to do their work. For those who enjoy road testing new products, and who have the time to explore Lion's idiosyncracies, it can be an entertaining experience. But it's an acquired taste.
Matt S  2011-09-16 06:16
I don't understand. Don't you want your $2500 computer acting exactly like some $49 cell phone? Who wouldn't want that?
I'm glad to see others are as aggravated as I am about this. Indeed, one of windows' worst features now on the mac. Don't say "just don't upgrade"--I needed a new mac and had no other choice. I live by the app switcher--bad enough Apple took away the four-finger swipe to use it. What was standard now not even an option! Apple has lost its mind.
Chris Tiee  2011-09-22 19:47
I've been running scripts to generate movie files from simulation data, and opening them automatically in QuickTime Player. Sometimes I compare two or three movie files, and then after closing all the files, it quits as soon as I switch to another app (whether by Cmd-Tab or just the mouse). So far, so good... that is pretty much what I'd expect auto-termination to behave, except the fact it disappears from the dock and Cmd-Tab switcher, and it does so despite having plenty of available RAM. And since QT Player launches almost instantly, I hardly batted an eye until today.

Today, my script attempted to open the movie file, and it showed up for a split second, and then it quit. That's right, it quits even with an open, unhidden document. I can't reproduce it every time, but I think it has to do with the fact that it gets opened in the background by a script. If I opened the file manually, it would stay open.