I love pretty much everything about how Gnome Shell handles app-switching through Alt+Tab. My one gripe with it, though, is how it forces the user to use Alt+` (or Alt+ whatever key above the Tab key for non-US keyboard layouts) to switch between windows of the same app. This is very annoying for me, because now I have to keep in mind if the last window I was using belonged to the same app as the current window or not. Definitely a nuisance for power users who thinks in terms of "windows I'm working with" instead of "applications I'm working on".

I've tried the AlternateTab extension, but it's looks way too ugly for me. Not to mention that in the end all I want is to remap Alt+(key above tab) to Alt+Tab on this application. I guess one option would be to just tweak Gnome-shell. My guess is that I should tinker with the altTab.js file at /usr/share/gnome-shell/js/ui/, but the file is too long and overwhelming for someone like me, who doesn't know JavaScript.

Does anyone know how I can make Gnome Shell stop grouping windows by applications?

  • 2023 TLDR: Configure your shortcuts under (Settings App) > Keyboard > View and customize Shortcuts > Navigation, and here Switch windows or Switch windows directly. Commented Apr 2, 2023 at 13:34

19 Answers 19


For anyone who is using Ubuntu 18 (to give you the same behavior as e.g. on Windows10):

  • go to settings > devices > keyboard
  • look for the keyboard shortcut for "Switch windows"
  • set this to the shortcut Alt+Tab (this will overwrite the old shortcut)

If you now press Alt+Tab you will be able to directly select all open windows without grouping into the different apps.

Update: In Ubuntu 22.04.02 LTS, this is already the default behaviour.

  • 1
    Right, since 2018, this is the way recommended by the AlternateTab extension author. Discussion on reddit Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 2:45
  • 3
    Switch windows only works on the current workspace. I still wonder why you cannot just switch windows across workspaces.. this is driving me nuts.
    – Damocles
    Commented Mar 30, 2021 at 12:44
  • @Damocles I think that is intended behaviour though. At least for me it makes sense that different workspaces are not just "different screens", but somehow "different computers", i.e. different workspaces. I almost never use workspaces, and you may use them differently, but when I do use them I have one for work and one for personal things. I therefore actually prefer having them separated and have Alt+Tab not show windows from both. Commented Apr 1, 2021 at 10:42
  • 2
    @Damocles Check the most upvoted answer below for a way to achieve that. You need to uncheck the /org/gnome/shell/window-switcher/current-workspace-only setting. This is one way: gsettings set org.gnome.shell.window-switcher current-workspace-only false
    – oligofren
    Commented Feb 23, 2022 at 12:34
  • Needed to re-enable switch applications (for a less crowded experience), and this still helped. Commented Apr 27, 2023 at 21:16
  • Open dconf-editor
  • Go to org/gnome/desktop/wm/keybindings
  • Move the value '<Alt>Tab' from switch-applications to switch-windows
  • Optionally move '<Shift><Alt>Tab' from switch-applications-backward to switch-windows-backward
  • If you want switch-windows to work across desktops, not just in the current desktop, you can also uncheck org/gnome/shell/window-switcher/current-workspace-only (Courtesy of @CharlBotha)
  • Close dconf-editor
  • If using X11, press <Alt>F2, then type r to restart Gnome.

The last step does not always appear to be necessary, but it should not hurt (especially since it does not close any of your running applications). It will not work, and is not necessary for Wayland.

  • 1
    Had a special case where pestophagous' answer didn't help, but yours did. In my case, switch-applications had both '<Alt>Tab' and '<Super>Tab' assigned to it, while switch-windows had just assigned '<Alt>Tab' to it. Obviously the setting for switch-applications "won" and thus I couldn't switch windows anymore. The Gnome control center dialog did not display the mapping correctly but dconf-editor did. I migrated from Ubuntu's gnome-flashback to Gnome 3. Maybe that caused the artifact.
    – dasup
    Commented Feb 28, 2017 at 21:16
  • 13
    To have the switch-windows work across workspaces, uncheck org.gnome.shell.window-switcher.current-workspace-only using dconf-editor. Commented Apr 18, 2017 at 7:02
  • 2
    On Ubuntu 17.10 I had to apt install dconf-editor first, not sure if it's included in other distros. Commented Oct 26, 2017 at 20:01
  • 1
    Just an addendum, Alt+F2 -> r doesn't work in Wayland.
    – ptkato
    Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 17:28
  • 3
    For extra laziness superuser.com/a/1517491/384307
    – Hendry
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 10:31

From the comment by 'xaeth' on this Ergo Project blog post, I have learned that Alt+Esc will cycle through all windows without grouping by application. This was the simplest solution for me, and I'm glad it saved me from having to install other programs.

If testing with Alt+Esc turns out favorably for you, then you can go to System Settings > Keyboard > Shortcuts > Navigation and reassign Alt+Tab to perform the navigation task that was previously assigned to Alt+Esc. In my settings this task is named 'Switch windows directly'.

  • 4
    It doesn't give the same behavior. The expected behavior is to quick jump to the needed window. This is kind of a scroll jump, meaning you scroll over each windows, need to visually process each view until you stop at the desired one. Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 4:53
  • 3
    Does not unstack the windows for me, nor allow me to cycle through windows. It still cycles through applications. Maybe I should login again? Weird.
    – Lodewijk
    Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 7:01
  • 7
    Doesn't work in Ubuntu 16 Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 3:16
  • 7
    @Waldir Leoncio. Set Alt+Tab to "Switch windows" instead of "Switch windows directly" and the thick frame should disappear. Gnome 3.26 Commented Jan 25, 2018 at 12:34
  • This solution doesn't show the panel displaying all open windows, most voted solution does.
    – Puck
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 6:28

Little help -

Alt+Tab and then when you have grouped windows Alt+` helps a bit.



Substitute Alt-Tab with a window based switcher that does not group by application. This extension is part of Classic Mode and is officially supported by GNOME. Please do not report bugs using the form below, use GNOME Bugzilla instead.



The Windows Alt Tab extension by tglman is very useful. You can also fork it on GitHub.


Don't know if it works like this for all OSes, but for Ubuntu 18.04 go to: Settings → Devices → Key

Then look for Switch windows which in my case is disabled and set it to Alt + Tab.

This switches between all windows and displays the horizontal selection box if we hold the Alt key down after tabbing.

There are other interesting entries there, namely Switch applications and Switch windows of an application which I have set for Super+Tab and Alt+Super+Tab respectively.

  • 1
    Also works for Fedora 30
    – Jounathaen
    Commented Jun 4, 2019 at 12:26

You can use the terminal to edit the preferences for the default switcher (This is a command-line equivalent of Mad Physicist's dconf-editor answer.)


dconf write /org/gnome/desktop/wm/keybindings/switch-windows "['<Alt>Tab']"
dconf write /org/gnome/desktop/wm/keybindings/switch-windows-backward "['<Shift><Alt>Tab', '<Alt>Above_Tab']"
dconf write /org/gnome/desktop/wm/keybindings/switch-applications "[]"
dconf write /org/gnome/desktop/wm/keybindings/switch-applications-backward "[]"


gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.keybindings switch-windows "['<alt>Tab']"

(As a regular user - not root!!!)

  • 3
    In bionic, $ dconf write /org/gnome/desktop/wm/keybindings/switch-applications-backward "[]" says error: 0-2:unable to infer type
    – nealmcb
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 19:08
  • Thanks! My alternative to the currently-accepted "cycling-in-place" answer by @pestophagous via the command line is gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.keybindings cycle-windows "['<Alt>Tab']" and gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.keybindings cycle-windows-backward "['<Shift><Alt>Tab']" That allows me to see the windows in context at full resolution, so I can see if e.g. a browser page has the tab I'm looking for.
    – nealmcb
    Commented May 3, 2018 at 19:23
  • @nealmcb I have changed by running dconf gui application and set to not use default but []
    – rofrol
    Commented Dec 19, 2018 at 12:22

Using fedora 23 you can do the following

Install alternate-tab (was already installed for me)

sudo dnf install gnome-shell-extension-alternate-tab

Run pref editor


Then enable it

enter image description here

DONE, alt tab is no longer lame. Also its not some hack like the above with changing the keyboard short cuts. Alt-tab will still show the popup with thumbnails etc, just not grouped.


As Ubuntu has now switched back to Gnome I found myself trying to fix this issue again. It's even simpler if you have the gnome web plugin, just visit the alternate-tab plugin and click enable and it will be instantly fixed.

alternate tab

alternate tab


Script for executing on the command line (based on Mad Physicist's awesome answer):

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.keybindings switch-applications "['<Super>Tab']"
gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.keybindings switch-windows "['<Alt>Tab']"
gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.keybindings switch-applications-backward "['<Shift><Super>Tab']"
gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.keybindings switch-windows-backward "['<Shift><Alt>Tab']"
gsettings set org.gnome.shell.window-switcher current-workspace-only "false"

This post has shed some light on the subject. By accessing apps -> metacity -> global_keybindings on gconf-editor there's a key called switch_group, which is mapped to <Alt>Above_Tab. Changing that to <Alt>Tab should solve the issue.

  • Hi wleoncio, the above post is telling about a different problem (compared with the question). I tried with your answer, but nothing happened Commented May 30, 2012 at 7:39
  • @HoàngLong, Metacity was a popular GTK2 window manager. Modern OSs have moved on to GTK3 several years ago, so my 6-year old solution is likely not working for up-to-date systems. Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 17:22

You can use the a different application switcher - can enabled using compizconfig-settings-manager.

See good info on CompizConfig in Ubuntu. It can also be installed on openSUSE and probably other distributions.

Result example: enter image description here


You don't need to download anything, nor even use a gui if you do:

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.keybindings switch-applications "['<Super>Tab']"
gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.keybindings switch-windows "['<Alt>Tab']"

Obviously, you can leave the keybinding for switch-applications blank ("[]") if you never want to use it.

This works on Ubuntu 18.04.

  • You need to handle the backward cases as well: switch-applications-backward and switch-windows-backward. Commented Nov 24, 2019 at 2:48

It's just a matter of readjusting the gnome default shortcuts.

# run as regular user
dconf load / <<EOF

This will use Alt-Tab to change to the next window while still keeping Super-Tab iterate through applications.


The following works on CentOS Linux release 7.9.2009

Settings --> Devices --> Keyboard --> Navigation --> Switch windows

Screenshot for clarity

gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.keybindings switch-windows "['<Alt>Tab']"
gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.keybindings switch-windows-backward "['<Shift><Alt>Tab']"
gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.keybindings switch-applications "[]"
gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.keybindings switch-applications-backward "[]"

The way I was able to do it was install the dconf editor from the Ubuntu Software Store. From there, you can follow the path -> /org.gnome/desktop/wm/keybindings. Path View

If you scroll down, you will see switch-applications which I change to ['Tab'] and right below it is switch-application-backwards which is now ['Tab'].

Switch Applications

Scrolling down, you will see switch-windows and switch-windows-backwards. You can set this to ['Tab'] and ['Tab'] respectively.

Switch Windows Settings

Just figured Id share. New to Ubuntu and this took me about an hour of googling to figure out. This definitely works.


In Gnome Shell on Gnome 3.34.3 in Ubuntu 19.10 x86_64, Settings, Devices, Keyboard Shortcuts, Navigation, Switch windows "Alt+Tab" doesn't group, but also doesn't include minimized windows like the Coverflow Alt-Tab extension does, which also overrides the normal grouped Switch applications "Super+Tab" for no reason.


The "Tile Groups" setting may also cause Alt+Tab to prefer grouped windows over recent ones

In Ubuntu 23 (and likely some older ones), there's a "Tile Groups" setting that may group windows based on their position when tiling. So, when one window in a group is switched to, other windows in the group will also be brought to the top of the recent windows list. And so, when trying to Alt+Tab, it will cycle through through other windows in the group before your actual previously recent windows.

Turn off the 'Tile Groups' to have Alt+Tab cycle through only actually-recently used windows.

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