After coming back to Windows after using a Mac for a while, I got used to using Spotlight to open running programs by hitting ⌘ Cmd+Space and typing the name of the program and then Enter to focus that program window. I find this is often easier than other focus methods.

For some things Windows Key+Q (Cortana) or just Windows Key (Search) will open an existing window, but for example, OneNote opens a new copy of the program.

Are there built in methods in Windows, or third-party programs to quickly search running programs with text?

  • Does the Applications tab in the Task Manager not give what you're looking for? Or are you looking for an exact replacement?
    – txtechhelp
    Oct 8, 2016 at 8:23
  • More of an exact replacement as it is direct and fast to switch programs without leaving the keyboard. It also uses the program name, which is often what I am thinking inside my head, instead of window order, location etc like "Windows + Tab" or "Alt + Tab". Oct 8, 2016 at 9:03
  • Did you find a solution to this? Mar 31, 2019 at 3:19
  • @mrdavenz not yet. Apr 7, 2019 at 16:19

3 Answers 3


Use the shortcut windows + S , that should do the trick.

  • Hi, this shortcut opens the general windows search function. The original question was how to quickly focus onto already running programs by typing their name.
    – Silbee
    Oct 11, 2021 at 10:00

What you are after is provided by PowerToys Run as it allows to do most of the same things you can with Spotlight (like opening apps, switching to their active windows, searching the web, performing calculations & more; also, it respects dark/light mode set in your system): screenshot of PowerToys Run search in dark mode

Neat thing is that it uses Alt + Space shortcut by default which happens to be the same in terms of muscle memory as with Spotlight.

It is part of PowerToys utilities for which installation guide is here.


What you're looking for is Wox. Built using python and uses Everything.exe to search the file system.

  • 2
    Please read How do I recommend software for some tips as to how you should go about recommending software. You should provide at least a link, some additional information about the software itself, and how it can be used to solve the problem in the question.
    – DavidPostill
    Feb 7, 2020 at 18:44

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