Switching Between Apps

Learn how to switch between apps on your Mac. You can use the Dock to launch and switch between running apps. You can also click on windows to bring a document window from an app to the front. There are keyboard shortcuts for switching between apps as well. You can also use Mission Control to view which apps are running and choose one to bring to the front.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Switching Between Apps.

Hi, this is Gary with MacMost.com. Let me show you how you can switch between Apps and Windows on your Mac.

So I'm using Mac OS 10.9. We're going to look at switching between apps. I have several apps running here; Safari, TextEdit, and Notes. You can see that the windows are all on top of each other.

It is very easy to switch between apps. You can actually just find the window. Like for TextEdit you can click on it and switch to TextEdit. If you have more than one document open, here is two documents in TextEdit, they can intermingle with other windows in other apps.

So I can bring this TextEdit window to the front but the other one is still hidden behind here. I can bring this one. So you can just click on the windows to bring each thing to the front.

Also, of course, you can hide apps. So for instance in Safari here I can hide Safari. Command H is the shortcut for hiding. That will hide Safari and reveal what is behind it.

Now I can also go to different apps by simply clicking on them in the Dock. So I'm going to unhide Safari by clicking on it but if I want to bring those TextEdit windows to the front I click on TextEdit. I can bring Notes up to the front like that. I can even Control click on some apps, like TextEdit, and see the most recent items. But also down here, these are the two windows that are currently open. So I can bring this one only to the front and switch to having that document in TextEdit be in front of everything else.

So you can do that to bring them to the front. Also within an app you can use Command and the key that is just below the Escape key, which has a tilde on it. Do Command/tilde and it will switch between windows in the same app here. So I've got two TextEdit windows and it is switching between each one of those but it wont' switch to windows in other apps.

Now the big shortcut for switching between apps is to use Command and Tab and that brings up the Switcher which you will see in the center of the screen here. Now you see all the apps. I have the Command key held down and I'm going to continue to hit Tab and I can move to each app. When I release the Command key that is the app that moves to the front. So I can do that. I can use Shift to move backwards through the list. If the list gets long that sometimes is very useful. As soon as I lift up the Command key it is up. So it takes a little practice if you have never done that before but once you get the hang of it, it is really quick to switch between apps. Even bring the Finder to the front like that using Command and Tab.

Now another way to very visually switch between apps is to activate Mission Control. I do that by clicking on Mission Control here. Not only do I have space available at the top, something we won't look at in this video, but you can see the different apps here. It sort of separates them as much as it can. It is a little complex if there is a lot of apps running. But I can click on anyone to jump right to it. So I can jump to Notes. I can even click on a specific window here to bring that window to the front.

So you should check out System Preferences under Mission Control. You get a lot of options here. For instance using the Control and then the up arrow to go to Mission Control very quickly. You can also switch to just applications windows. So, for instance, if I'm running TextEdit, Control and down will bring up just the windows in this app. You have some other options here as well.

You can decide, for instance, to have the windows not grouped by application. So now when I activate Mission Control you can see the TextEdit windows are on the left and right, separate from each other. Different than before. You can also select your keyboard shortcut here for bringing up Mission Control or brining up just the windows inside the application as well.

There is another keyboard shortcut for hiding everything and just bringing up the Desktop which can be handy if you store files there and you want to quickly get to them.

Comments: 7 Responses to “Switching Between Apps”

    Jan Wille
    5 years ago

    Hi. When I click Cmd+Tab, the Switcher appears, and when I keep Cmd pressed and click Tab, I move along the Switcher from app to app. However, when I release both Cmd and Tab, the highlighted app does not start and nothing else happens and the screen stays unchanged. How come. I run 10.9.1.

      5 years ago

      I can’t think of why that would happen.. Try it with different apps. Try a restart and see if that helps. Experiment.

        Jan Wille
        5 years ago

        I have tried different apps, I have tried restart, but still the same. Could it be my keyboard – Logitech Wireless Keyboard K750?

          5 years ago

          I doubt it, but if you could try another keyboard to see that would eliminate the possibility. Maybe check to see if you have any accessibility preferences turned on that would get in the way. Otherwise, have an expert take a first-hand look and perhaps they will spot the problem right away.

    Doug Lindal
    5 years ago

    I used to use Tab Command, but now like to put my primary apps into different Spaces (screens) and just swipe back and forth between them using my Trackpad. This would also work with the new Magic Mouse. I admit I sometimes have to use Tab Command or Mission Control to find apps buried on different Spaces!

    Tom Abbott
    5 years ago

    When I have an application minimized to the dock and then I navigate to it using Cmd+Tab the application does not restore out of the dock. I’m using 10.9. This is one area that I feel MS Windows a better job.

      5 years ago

      Minimizing applies to document windows, not applications. So when you have all of the documents minimized in an application, and you bring the application to the from with Command+Tab, the application is now in the front and can accept commands and such. But the document windows stay minimized.
      If your intention is to hide the application, then use Hide instead of minimizing the document windows.

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