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?

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    Thanks for the Alt + `. I've been google for this for a while now. – Kugel Oct 30 '12 at 22:48
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    @mimoralea, glad I could help. Too bad the shell is not intuitive enough. – Waldir Leoncio Apr 27 '15 at 17:56
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    See answer below from @dogmatic69 . Best answer to your question imho. – Louis Parkin Jun 19 '17 at 10:13
  • @Hitsugaya198, I agree that installing that Shell extension is currently the best path. – Waldir Leoncio Jun 19 '17 at 11:21
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    The correct answer changed in 2019 - today, the answer from @Obnebion is the correct one: Change your "switch applications" keyboard shortcut (Alt+Tab) to be the "switch windows" one. – Lorna Mitchell Mar 11 at 9:09

16 Answers 16


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.

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    This is the answer right now. It is buildin. – janw Mar 19 '19 at 9:24
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    Right, since 2018, this is the way recommended by the AlternateTab extension author. Discussion on reddit – Robin A. Meade Nov 24 '19 at 2:45
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    Why is this not the accepted answer and more upvoted than just 9 votes as of 18/08/2020? Super easy to do and not as intimidating as the accepted answer to this question. – Maritim Aug 18 '20 at 12:36
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    @Maritim, I've just switched it to the "accepted answer". It wasn't so until now because I asked the question almost a decade ago and got a satisfying answer years before this one was a possibility. I don't even use GNOME anymore, so I don't bother checking for new solutions, but thankfully another user managed to notify me to make the switch and keep this popular thread updated. – Waldir Leoncio Mar 12 at 6:43
  • 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 Mar 30 at 12:44
  • 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.

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    I'm surprised that people are so readily installing third-party application switchers in favour of reconfiguring Gnome in place. This to me is a much more desirable solution than most others presented. – mirichan Aug 11 '15 at 0:50
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    To have the switch-windows work across workspaces, uncheck org.gnome.shell.window-switcher.current-workspace-only using dconf-editor. – Charl Botha Apr 18 '17 at 7:02
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    It worked on Ubuntu 18.04! – qmn1711 Jun 14 '18 at 13:05
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    I just did that config change via the normal Gnome Settings App, under Keyboard. Find "Switch Windows", assign it "Alt+Tab" and then "Switch Apps" is automatically unassigned. No need to edit config files! – Robert Jack Will Nov 15 '18 at 11:37
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    For extra laziness superuser.com/a/1517491/384307 – Hendry Feb 6 '20 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'.

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    Thank you very much for your tip, it really works! Now if I could just figure out how to get rid of that thick black frame around the selected window and have it display that "selection box" Alt+Tab gives I'll be in heaven. :) – Waldir Leoncio Sep 30 '12 at 11:31
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    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. – AlikElzin-kilaka Nov 22 '14 at 4:53
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    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 Feb 16 '15 at 7:01
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    Doesn't work in Ubuntu 16 – Anand Rockzz Nov 6 '16 at 3:16
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    @Waldir Leoncio. Set Alt+Tab to "Switch windows" instead of "Switch windows directly" and the thick frame should disappear. Gnome 3.26 – bartolo-otrit Jan 25 '18 at 12:34

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.


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    +1 best answer here. Works flawlessly in Ubuntu 17.10. Thanks! Searcher for "AlternateTab" in "Acitivites" and it pops right up – birgersp Nov 6 '17 at 8:25
  • It seems to be supported already without the need to install the extension. See post from the developer: blogs.gnome.org/fmuellner/2018/10/11/… – AlikElzin-kilaka Jun 21 '19 at 14:57
  • This should be accepted answer. Totally hassle free. – Lokesh Feb 6 '20 at 7:26

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.

  • You rock dude! Great answer – peter Jan 3 '19 at 16:18
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    Also works for Fedora 30 – Jounathaen Jun 4 '19 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!!!)

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    In bionic, $ dconf write /org/gnome/desktop/wm/keybindings/switch-applications-backward "[]" says error: 0-2:unable to infer type – nealmcb May 3 '18 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 May 3 '18 at 19:23
  • @nealmcb I have changed by running dconf gui application and set to not use default but [] – rofrol Dec 19 '18 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

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    +1 and this should be the 'correct' answer, as it directly resolves the issue as was asked. I suspect your distro has less to do with it, and more the fact that you are using Gnome desktop, as I just utilised your solution successfully on Ubuntu 17.04 with Gnome 3 desktop. – Louis Parkin Jun 19 '17 at 10:11
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    This is the only solution that worked for me and its so simple. – Lokesh Jul 30 '18 at 9:41

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 – Hoàng Long May 30 '12 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. – Waldir Leoncio Mar 12 '19 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


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.


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. – Robin A. Meade Nov 24 '19 at 2:48

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.


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.

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