Previous questions have asked "how can I efficiently switch between windows, not applications, in OS X"? (Switching windows on OS X, Switch between windows on Mac OS X? and others). The most recommended suggestions seem to be:

  • Use some combo of cmd-tab and cmd-~.
  • Use Expose, and possibly Spaces
  • Use Witch

I spent the money on Witch, and have been using it for a few weeks; it's ok, but it is sometimes slow to respond, sometimes buggy on window order, crashes my system if I disable and re-enable it too many times, and doesn't work properly with X11 apps.

The built-in cmd-tab and cmd-~ are ok, but still bring an entire application to the forefront. I find a very common workflow I use is to bounce back and forth between two windows (for example, a browser window and a Thunderbird email in progress), when both apps (the browser and email software) have multiple windows open. I can use Cmd-Tab to get back and forth between apps, but whenever I switch to an app, ALL windows from that app pop up. That suddenly fills my screen with irrelevant data and windows, and often drops those other windows in front of the single window from the other app that I was using and would conveniently like to keep viewing even though it isn't in focus.

Expose seems to be the preferred "OS X natural way," but I can't seem to get myself to use it efficiently. I hit F9, and see 10 windows; I then need to squint, try to find the window I want, then use the mouse or the cursor keys to navigate to the one I want. Given the number of power users who say they use Expose, I must be missing the boat here.

My goal is not to make this a repeat of previous questions. I'm not asking "what are my alternatives?" (unless I've missed one above!) Rather, I'm asking: what are you, OS X power users, actually doing to handle the use case I described above? Another common use case for me is having multiple Excel spreadsheets open and multiple browser windows open, and I'm rapidly switching back and forth between one spreadsheet in particular and one browser window. Every time I Cmd-Tab, all spreadsheets or all browser windows appear: I don't want to see the ones I'm not working with, and they tend to hide the windows from the alternative app that I don't have in focus but I'd like to at least eyeball. Can you describe what your workflow is like, and how you rapidly and thoughtlessly switch between windows from apps that have multiple windows open?

  • It is not clear what you're asking, because Cmd-Tab switches between applications and always brings the most recently used window of the application you switch to to the front. I.e. if you switch repeatedly between one browser window and one Excel sheet, just press Cmd-Tab once to go from the front browser window to the front Excel sheet, and press Cmd-Tab again to go back to the same browser window!
    – Daniel Beck
    Dec 3, 2011 at 20:24
  • You're right, I wasn't clear. The issue is that Cmd-Tab brings up all windows from a given app, wherever they may be on the screen. All those other windows, which are completely irrelevant to my current task, hide the single window from the other app that I was interested in. I'll update the question above accordingly.
    – Vultan
    Dec 4, 2011 at 2:28
  • Cmd-H hides applications, Cmd-M minimizes windows. I always gt rid of things I don't need right now out of habit, then the behaviour of cmd-tab to bring all an application's visible windows to front is not an issue.
    – Daniel Beck
    Dec 4, 2011 at 8:32
  • Just tried minimizing a window. That works, but you can't get the minimized window back again easily (Cmd-Tab won't get it), and you still need to do some acrobatics with Cmd-~ to get to all the windows you want to minimize. It works, but it's effort.
    – Vultan
    Dec 4, 2011 at 12:30

2 Answers 2


Since the question asks "what are you actually doing", I'm answering this with my less than satisfactory current workflow:

To this day I arrange the desired target windows such, that they are peeking out from below everything else - typically towards the left / right / top / bottom edges of my screen, and then mouse click on the desired window.


I've been using WindowFlow for several months. It allows you to set a key combination to switch between windows as you've described. I have not used Witch to compare, but I have been extremely happy with WindowFlow.

  • 1
    Thanks -- I've tried WindowFlow, but I find it to be clunkier and less stable than Witch.
    – Vultan
    Jul 2, 2012 at 21:24

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