On my Mac, Using Command+Tab to switch windows seems to work only sometime.

Other posts suggest pressing OPTION key and it works.

Though it is not clear to me why Command + TAB works only sometimes to switch the windows and is there a way to fix this? Am I missing something?

I am on MacOS High-Siera 10.13.3

  • 4
    I have same issue. When you command+tab to say chrome, intellij or skype, it sometimes jumps to that running app, sometimes does nothing. Its fairly random. There are some apps, such as slack, that it never switches to, you always have to click on its icon in the bottom to switch to its open window (or close the windows above it). Its frustrating as a developer that there is no reliable way to switch running apps. Feb 8, 2019 at 8:09
  • 2
    This also drives me crazy. What I notice is that if the window occupies all the screen (not maximised, just as big as possible), then cmd-tab doesn't work, which is a major bug. This is not a feature. So I have to make sure all my windows are slightly smaller than full screen. In this regard, windows is king. Mar 8, 2021 at 10:18
  • I have Mac OS version 12.4, and I dislike the fact that I'm still experiencing a bug first documented over 4 years ago...
    – aviator
    Jun 14, 2022 at 15:01
  • You need to relaunch Finder. Command + Option + Escape to open the "Force Quit Applications" menu. Scroll down and select "Finder" and click the "Relaunch" button (it should change from "Force Quit" to "Relaunch" when selecting Finder). After that, Command + Tab should work. If this is happening regularly and you aren't leaving your computer on without a restart for months at a time, you may have an issue with your Mac OS install, try doing something like a disk utility repair (I think it's called First Aid now) or a repair install of the OS.
    – Allison
    Mar 14 at 19:41

12 Answers 12


Open Terminal and type

killall Dock

Hit return.

Your Dock will disappear for a second and then reappear but open apps will not be affected.

Try Cmd+Tab now.

  • 2
    Wow, it actually worked! Thx, it saved my day. May 5, 2020 at 19:27
  • 2
    Not working for me in Catalina OS Jul 22, 2020 at 14:12
  • 2
    It's working, thanks, but do I've to do that every time it's not working! isn't there a permanent solution?.
    – Yehia
    Aug 14, 2020 at 13:48
  • 1
    Yes as @Yehia says... is there any permanent solution?
    – Dr Potato
    May 1, 2021 at 0:50
  • Anyway, it not always works.... I just noticed if some window is stocked and u open terminal with command+space, execute the killall Dock, and close it with command+Q, it keeps stocked.
    – Dr Potato
    May 1, 2021 at 1:17

On MacOS you would get best switching experience if you DO NOT MINIMIZE your windows.

Command + Tab : to switch to windows that are not minimized

Command + Tab followed by Option : to switch to a minimized window

When I asked this question, I was a newbie MacOS user with years of Windows experience.

Now, it feels like MacOS design is optimized towards leaving your windows open (irony)

  • By "Alt" do you mean "Command"? "Alt" and "Option" are the same key on a mac (although not all keyboards show this).
    – CupawnTae
    Jul 20, 2019 at 9:40
  • 12
    Recently moved to MacOS from Windows. Can't believe how unintuitive the window mechanism is in MacOS.
    – Pirate X
    Jul 15, 2020 at 6:26
  • This is so useful :)) Dec 3, 2020 at 18:42
  • 1
    Simplest and best way. May 4, 2021 at 15:03
  • 2
    Answered here in 2013 apple.stackexchange.com/questions/112350/… and still holds true.
    – Raj006
    May 5, 2021 at 20:41

If you're running a Virtual Machine manager like VirtualBox sometimes it seems that an open Virtual Machine window grabs the key (which is often used switch from VM keyboard capture mode).

In this case you'll need to bring the VirtualBox Console window up (e.g. using the Dock bar) and tap the key again and it should release it properly.

  • Gah, this was it! Thank you for saving me from the ol' reboot! :)
    – rinogo
    Oct 6, 2020 at 21:32
  • Yes that was it for me. Killing Dock didn't help. I moved my VirtualBox to a different dedicated desktop and... voila!
    – tom
    Jan 6, 2022 at 1:58
  • To my recollection, VirtualBox and Fusion should have config settings that allow you to disable the need to use an override with ⌘ keybindings
    – Allison
    Mar 14 at 19:51

Command+Tab allows you to switch between open applications (whereas Command+` allows to switch between open windows within an application).

If these options are not working properly, the Modifier Keys options may have been remapped.

These options are found in System Preferences - Keyboard - Modifier Keys. enter image description here


Do you use any remote controlling software such as Anydesk or TeamViewer?

In my case, they were grabbing certain keyboard inputs.

Close them all if any other answers don't work.


Use AltTab, it is the exact replica of windows functionality of Alt+ Tab. Takes care of both minimised/maximised window


I recently bought a 104 key external keyboard for a work macbook. I had this issue and started trying different key combinations hoping one would work to bring it back. What did it for me was the Function key (the one labeled Fn) and Opt. Press and hold Fn, press and release Opt, then release Fn. Then try Command + Tab again and it should work.

Interestingly I couldn't find anything about this key combo on google, but it consistently disables and re-enables the shortcut for me on this keyboard. I haven't tried on my macbook's built in keyboard yet but I'd bet the same happens there.

  • Related in Monterey, I was able to re-enable Option-Tab switching by hitting Fn+Opt. But I wasn't able to re-disable it that way. But I did notice that Fn+Opt+Tab is a dead chord. Maybe there's a software issue where Fn is stuck "down"?
    – mendota
    Oct 6, 2022 at 22:36

As @Custom Soundtrack mentioned, killall Dock should bring those seldom used app back to picture.

As @Amol suggested, avoid to minimize the window to get to more consistent switching experience. One alternative is hiding your window using Command+H. However, unlike minimize, this applies to all the windows of the front app.

If you do minimize you window and still want to keep your hands on keyboard, Command + window number should bring back the main window. Currently Slack is 1, iMessage is 0.

But lots of app don't have a corresponding window number. In this case, there's a trick mentioned in this post. Basically after you Command+tab. Release only tab button. Keep pressing Command and press Option. Now pressing Option release Command button, the windows will be maximized


It just happened to me on my MacBook Pro.

Turns out, I've been using HyperSwitch to manage app-switching and windows-switching, and HyperSwitch recently expired (not sure why). After installing new version of it, cmd-tab is back to working order.

  • What version specifically did you install? Edit your answer with this information
    – Ramhound
    Jul 18, 2019 at 19:28
  • @Rambound - I think the specific version is immaterial. The key is, when HyperSwitch detects there is a newer version, and possibly after some days of using older version (or other factors), the current/old version gets blocked, causing Cmd-Tab to not work at all.
    – Wayne
    Jul 19, 2019 at 20:18

Use 3 fingers with an up-swipe to see how many desktops you have open and where your applications are. Consider this. When switch from desktop 1, app 1 to desktop 2, app 2 where app 2 is maximized command+tab works as expected. However, switching to desktop 2, app 3 where app 3 is not maximized just brings up app 2. Probably because it is the maximized app in the same desktop as app 3. However, switching from app 2 (in desktop 2) to app 3 (in desktop 2) works as expected. So I think this has to do with which apps are maximized and whether you are switching desktops.


My experience is that command + tab works if the current window isn't maximized. If it is (i.e., fit to the screen), command + tab switching doesn't work.

  • @Amol one of the situations where command + tab doesn't work is when the current window is maximized; so it's related to command - tab issue and a specific case under that...
    – Krishna
    Oct 11, 2019 at 16:21
  • I am aware of alt tab not working when windows is maximized. My original question was not about maximized window.
    – Amol
    Apr 23, 2021 at 23:06

It's possible that the user needs to select: System Preferences -> Mission Control -> When switching to an application, switch to a Space with open windows for the application.

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