Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

How do I easily switch to an open folder on a Mac?

In Windows, which I'm used to using, I can see all my opened folders in my vertical taskbar, all I need to do to switch to another window is click on the folder in the task bar.

There's no taskbar on a Mac, and when I have a lot of folders opened, ie. lots of Finder windows, how can I switch between them?

The way I'm doing it is, I put expose on an active corner and switch that way. However that's still damn hard, because first I have to bring up expose, and then find my window. The folders are placed in a random position between opened apps, the folders are not in a list, and on a big screen I have to scan the whole screen in order to find the one I want... etc.

Is it really this hard just to switch to a different folder on a Mac?

Is there a taskbar solution on a Mac?

share|improve this question
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Using Finder:

Finder's built-in keyboard shortcut is Command-` (backtick). This will cycle through your open windows. Alternatively there is the Window menu (Thanks @David Rouse)

Using Exposé:

Depending on the keyboard you have you have a couple options. These are also modified in the Exposé preference pane in System Preferences. You can see a picture of the newer style keyboard layout at Gizmodo.

  • "Normal"/Older style Apple keyboards without the Exposé and Dashboard symbols on F3 and F4:
    • F9 will show all windows available from any application.
    • F10 will show all the windows available from the frontmost application only.
    • F11 will show your Desktop.
  • Newer style Apple keyboards with the Exposé and Dashboard symbols on F3 and F4
    • F3 will show all windows available from any application
    • Control-F3 will show all windows available from the frontmost application only.
    • Command-F3 will show your Desktop
    • Option-F3 will bring up the Exposé preference pane.
  • Or just set your hot corner action to "Application Windows" instead of "All Windows" if you prefer to mouse.

Using Witch:

If you're looking for something like the Command-Tab switcher but for windows instead of applications check out Witch. Version 3.0 was just released.

share|improve this answer
Just a note, cmd-` works for every Mac application to cycle through windows, not just the Finder. – khedron Apr 13 '10 at 22:42

If you're running Snow Leopard, click-and-hold on the finder icon in the taskbar. It will Expose all of, and only, your finder windows. This works for any task, BTW.

share|improve this answer
Great tip, is there any way to get the expose to happen faster? – Charles Apr 11 '10 at 15:15
ALso is there any way to get expose to behave like a list, rather than a preview, so I don't have to drag my eyes across the full screen to see the items. – Charles Apr 11 '10 at 15:37
I'm not aware of a way to do either. – JRobert Apr 11 '10 at 20:53
Actually, right click works well. Thanks. – Charles Apr 13 '10 at 5:30
@charles if Finder is focused, you can Ctrl+F3 to Expose only the Finder. It works with whatever app is focused. – Loïc Wolff Apr 13 '10 at 20:13

Not exactly what you are asking for, but:

1) The Finder has a "Window" menu and a list by name of all of your open Finder windows will appear at the bottom of the menu. Unfortunately, two clicks instead of one -- but the names of the folders are less likely to be truncated.

2) If you have several folders that you normally switch between -- drag the folders to the Finder's sidebar under "Places." Then you can click to switch between folders (while only keeping one window open), drag items between folders, etc. A nice side benefit is that these folders will also appear in open and save dialog boxes.

share|improve this answer

You can hit Apple+` (backtick/accent and tilde key) to switch between that applications windows.

To switch between applications you can hit Apple+Tab which will cycle through applications.

In response to your edit, there isn't a reason I can think of to ever want a task bar like Windows. Learn to use your keyboard and you'll never even need to click on applications in the dock.

share|improve this answer
Thanks, great tip, still, what if you're not on a folder. Also toggling through folders is still not quite ideal, or very speedy at all. – Charles Apr 11 '10 at 2:44
What do you mean, not on a folder? You mean on Finder? Updated answer. – Josh K Apr 11 '10 at 3:23
@josh: i think you mean "backtick"; "accent" might be a proper term too so i left both in. the kbd tags make it a little easier to see. – quack quixote Apr 11 '10 at 4:07
I use apple tab and alt tab all the time. But seriously you're not suggesting to go from chrome to a specific finder window I need to first apple tab to it and then apple tilde to the folder whereas I could just click on one item on a taskbar? – Charles Apr 11 '10 at 4:12
If you have so many Finder folders open you can't just Apple+Tab to it then the task bar isn't going to help anyways. I'm 100% faster then any other mouse tied Windows user. Not to sound condescending, but the keyboard is the way to go on this. – Josh K Apr 11 '10 at 5:27

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.