OSX #5: Alt-Tabbing in Mac (Switching between windows on Mac)

Alt-Tabbing in Windows shows currently open windows and allows to select one of them which then becomes the active window. If there are 3 Firefox windows, then it'll show 3 icons. A slightly different behavior is available in Mac where it shows one icon for all the open windows of an application and then provide a different keyboard shortcut to switch between all the windows of that application.

Switch between different applications: Command+Tab (for example if you have Firefox, Thunderbird and other applications). Shift+Command+Tab moves in the reverse direction.
Switch between different windows of the same application: Command+~ (for example if you have multiple windows of Firefox). Shift+Command+~ moves in the reverse direction.

However if the application is minimized then it is not activated (which is bizarre)!

If you are holding the command key and hit Q then that particular application will quit, if you hit H then that application will hide (go behind all the applications?).

A complete archive of all Mac OS X tips are available here.

Technorati: mac osxtips


Hello, I'd like to know what button the ~ is?
I can't remember, and I don't find it either...

Posted by Aasmund on January 11, 2008 at 05:06 AM PST #

This is the "tilde" button - right below Esc in top-left corner.

Posted by Arun Gupta on January 11, 2008 at 07:55 AM PST #

Hi Arun,

An interesting app I installed on my Mac (because the application switcher drives me nuts) is Witch:


This is a window switcher similar to that of Gnome or Windows, meaning that alt+tab will switch amongst \*all\* open windows of an app. And it will un-minimize apps that have been minimized to the dock.

With this app, I can manage many windows more effectively, bringing up only the window of an app I am interested in, rather than all the open windows for that app. cmd+m will put the window back into the dock...however that introduces a problem of dock clutter! (I wish it was possible to group minimized windows...)

Posted by Gabriel Carrillo on August 06, 2008 at 07:05 AM PDT #

thankyou so much for the ~TAB
this used to really get to me

Posted by james MacNeil on November 22, 2008 at 10:41 AM PST #

Cmd+` doesn't seem to work for OO.org windows. Yet another inconsistency in Mac OS.

Posted by @ibz on February 12, 2009 at 07:03 PM PST #

hi there,

I've been trying to work out if you can change the setting so that applications open even when they're minimised.. I'm glad to find out that i'm not the only person to think this is absurd!

"However if the application is minimized then it is not activated (which is bizarre)!"

Trying out Witch now to see if that helps me out. Really tho, surely this should just be an option...


Posted by Andy on November 22, 2009 at 01:35 AM PST #

> Cmd+` doesn't seem to work for OO.org windows. Yet another inconsistency in Mac OS.

Yes it does, this is what I use it for.

Posted by Coco on March 16, 2010 at 04:54 PM PDT #

Thanks... I was looking exactly for it!!

Posted by Alan on October 26, 2011 at 03:12 PM PDT #


Have just moving over from PC to Mac and this is all useful info.

David B

Posted by David WB on March 19, 2012 at 08:21 AM PDT #

For those of working with Latin keyboards, the Command+~ (command tilde) becomes Command + [ (command left bracket). This should be close to the ñ key.

Posted by drew on March 24, 2012 at 07:21 AM PDT #

Thanks Arun, Really useful tip :)

Posted by guest on July 30, 2012 at 11:03 AM PDT #

If you are using Windows keyboard then you can use Windows key + Tab to switch between different applications windows. :)

Posted by Syed Nasir Abbas on September 12, 2012 at 07:24 AM PDT #

Thanks Arun.
I really needed this.

Posted by Mohammad on November 29, 2012 at 07:59 PM PST #

Thanks, Arun! My lady friend was looking for this info, and now that I've found it, she is *very* appreciative!! ;-)

Posted by Ken on January 04, 2013 at 08:49 AM PST #

Thank you! It takes a little while to get used to when you are switching for windows :) great glassfish tutorials of yours by the way!

Posted by Miguel on February 07, 2013 at 11:33 PM PST #

Control + tab to move forward
control+shift+tab to move in backward....

Posted by gourav on February 21, 2013 at 11:43 PM PST #

thanks i was looking for this in the Apple official short cuts page. There i could not find it. That helps thanks.

Posted by guest on April 24, 2013 at 10:30 PM PDT #

On the Japanese Mac keyboard Cmd + ~, Cmd + [, or Cmd + ] don't work. Any ideas?

Posted by 黒い雪 on April 29, 2013 at 08:48 AM PDT #

is there a way to TAB between windows?
this is tabbing between applications, but what if I have several windows open in safari or firefox. not tabs in those applications, but several windows.

like if I click a link which opens a seperate window, like an email website.
it's very annoying that I cannot tab to that window, but have to minimize the main window first.

Coming from windows, where this is possible, then this seems a bit odd, that MAC does not allow this.

Posted by guest on May 12, 2013 at 05:40 PM PDT #

and yes, I read your comment about the tilde button, but the tilde button is not a button on the Danish MAC keyboard. to make a tilde you need to hold command, and shift - and hit a button. so it's not possible. But just discovered that CTRL - F3 does the trick for me.

Posted by guest on May 12, 2013 at 05:43 PM PDT #

Boys and Girls, I found the solution to all our problems :)


Now you can assign the cammand to which ever key you prefer... personally I prefer: cmd+§


Posted by the Solution :) on June 12, 2013 at 05:34 AM PDT #

boys and girls, here is the solution you can adjust it to which ever key command you prefer


Posted by the Solution :) on June 12, 2013 at 05:44 AM PDT #

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Arun Gupta is a technology enthusiast, a passionate runner, author, and a community guy who works for Oracle Corp.

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