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

Guest Author
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
: 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 href="http://blogs.sun.com/arungupta/tags/osxtips">here.

Technorati:  href="http://technorati.com/tag/mac">mac  href="http://technorati.com/tag/osxtips">osxtips

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Comments ( 22 )
  • Aasmund Friday, January 11, 2008

    Hello, I'd like to know what button the ~ is?

    I can't remember, and I don't find it either...

  • Arun Gupta Friday, January 11, 2008

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

  • Gabriel Carrillo Wednesday, August 6, 2008

    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...)

  • james MacNeil Saturday, November 22, 2008

    thankyou so much for the ~TAB

    this used to really get to me

  • @ibz Friday, February 13, 2009

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

  • Andy Sunday, November 22, 2009

    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...



  • Coco Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    > 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.

  • Alan Wednesday, October 26, 2011

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

  • David WB Monday, March 19, 2012


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

    David B

  • drew Saturday, March 24, 2012

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

  • guest Monday, July 30, 2012

    Thanks Arun, Really useful tip :)

  • Syed Nasir Abbas Wednesday, September 12, 2012

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

  • Mohammad Friday, November 30, 2012

    Thanks Arun.

    I really needed this.

  • Ken Friday, January 4, 2013

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

  • Miguel Friday, February 8, 2013

    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!

  • gourav Friday, February 22, 2013

    Control + tab to move forward


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

  • guest Thursday, April 25, 2013

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

  • 黒い雪 Monday, April 29, 2013

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

  • guest Monday, May 13, 2013

    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.

  • guest Monday, May 13, 2013

    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.

  • the Solution :) Wednesday, June 12, 2013

    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+§


  • the Solution :) Wednesday, June 12, 2013

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


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