How to Switch Between Open Apps and Windows on Mac

Use App Switcher on Mac to switch between open apps and windows

When you install more apps and open new browser windows on your Mac, it can be difficult to switch between all open apps and all windows using only the Dock. Fortunately, there are better and faster ways to switch between open apps.

Toggle open and Windows applications using keyboard shortcuts

Fair like Windows, Mac has a built-in fast and robust application selector. It will be instantly familiar once you start using it.

Press the Command + Tab keys, then hold down the Command key to display the floating application selector. Here you will see all the applications that you have opened.

Mac Tab Chooser

Now, while holding down the Command key, press the Tab key to advance through the list of open applications, one at a time.

If you want to go back (left side) in the list, press the Tilde (`) key while holding down the Command key.

When you find the open app you want to switch to, just release the Command and Tab keys. Instantly, the window will be in the foreground.

Use App Switcher on Mac to switch to another open application window in a loop

You can also access a particular window of an open application from the application selector. When you have a highlighted application in the floating switch, press the Up or Down arrow key. This will show you all the windows open for the given application.

Display of all open Finder windows from the application selector

Then press the right arrow to move between the open windows. Highlight the window you want to switch to and press the Return key to access it.

Opening an application window from App Switcher on Mac in a loop

You can modify them Keyboard shortcuts at any time by going to System Preferences> Keyboard> Shortcuts. Here, select the “Keyboard” option in the left sidebar, then click on an action that you want to remap. From there, press the new keyboard shortcut to assign it.

Set keyboard shortcuts to switch between open apps and windows on Mac

RELATED: The 6 best tools to customize Mac keyboard shortcuts

Toggle open and Windows applications using touchpad gestures

MacBook users can also use touchpad gestures to quickly switch between open windows and spaces.

First, swipe your trackpad with three fingers to open Mission Control.

Swipe up to open Mission ControlApple

You will now see all open windows for all applications (on all desktops). Move your pointer to an application you want to switch to and click on it.

Click on a Mission Control window to access it

If you use several spaces, swipe left or right first with three fingers to switch to it, then swipe up with three fingers to open Mission Control.

Switch between open windows of the same application

If you’re the type of person who opens multiple windows of the same application (the best use case being a browser or document application like Microsoft Word), you’ll want to quickly switch between them.

You can use Shared view to open two windows side by side, but if you’re using a MacBook with a small screen, that’s not always possible.

RELATED: How to quickly manage shared view on Mac

In this case, simply use the Command + `(Tilde) keyboard shortcut. It will instantly go to the next window for the foreground application.

Quickly switch between windows of the same application on Mac in a loop

If you only opened two windows, you can also continue to use this key combination to switch between the two windows constantly. Unlike the application selector that we mentioned at the beginning of the article, there is no visible user interface and this happens instantly.

For experienced users: use the Contexts window selector

If you’re an experienced Mac user who spends all day working on your Mac and you’re frustrated with the limitations of Mac’s application selector, you should check out the Contexts app. It is a complete replacement for the Mac application selector and adds many useful additional features.

Contexts 3 comes with a free trial with a license costing $ 9.99. Contexts 3 can replace the Command + Tab keyboard shortcut, or you can map it to the Option + Tab combination (or any other keyboard shortcut) to continue using Mac’s default application selector as well.

Contexts 3 takes a vertical approach to the window switch. When you press the key combination, you will see a vertical list of all open applications and windows. You can use the Command + Tab / `(Tilde) shortcut to cycle through open windows (or arrow keys).

Context window selector

The app also comes with an auto-hide sidebar that lists all open apps and windows on all desktops (but you can turn them off in the app settings).

Using contexts to switch between open looped windows

Where Contexts really shines is its search function. After opening the Contexts window selector, press the S button to switch to the search view (you can also create a custom keyboard shortcut for this).

From there, find an application or window (while holding down the modifier key). Once highlighted, release the keys to switch to the application or window.

Background showing search with syntax

What’s really cool here is that Contexts assigns a shortcut to each application or window. You will see it on the left edge of each sheet. If you simply type this syntax in the search bar and press the Return key to open the application or window once it will now be mapped there.

That way, you can just type “S” in the search bar to quickly open Safari (instead of having to choose between the Slack or Safari app).

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