On Windows when I do alt+tab I can switch between windows. If I have 5 firefox windows open then using alt+tab will switch between them.

On my MacBook, cmd+tab switches between applications, not windows, so it will switch between firefox and xcode, but not between two different firefox windows.

I am sure there is SOME way to use keyboard shortcuts to switch between active windows. What am I missing?

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    Just in case you never saw it: see also support.apple.com/kb/HT1343 and apple.com/support/switch101 – Arjan Sep 22 '09 at 22:07
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    thank you all. I've eventually decided to change the keybinding for this in the system settings and now i am using <kbd>Cmd</kbd>-<kbd>§</kbd>. Hope i didn't break anything else. – Nir Levy Sep 24 '09 at 11:28
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    @Arjan this mostly doesn't work on international keyboards, where often ` on same key as ´ and is obtained by pressing Shift+´ :-( – t0r0X May 19 '13 at 11:46
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    @Nir Levy THANKS! On my german keyboard (OS X 10.8) the mappings were "Focus to next window" => Cmd+`, and "Focus to ?toolbar?(Seitenleiste des Fensters)" => Cmd+Shift+`. Since both ´ and ` are on same key (see my previous comment), rotating between application windows went only in one direction. All I had to to was change the 1st mapping to Cmd+´ and 2nd mapping to something else, e.g. Cmd+ß, and suddenly window switching works in both directions: Cmd+´ and Cmd+Shift+ ´. That simple... BTW, the default suggested by OSX is Cmd+< for Window switching. – t0r0X May 19 '13 at 12:11
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    One of most annoying thing on MAC for programmers. Why are the making us use 2 shortcuts to switch between windows, so inefficient :/ Is there app which would let me group up my windows as I like? – Srneczek Apr 21 '16 at 21:38

16 Answers 16


Cmd-` toggles through the windows forward.

Cmd-Shift-` toggles through the windows in reverse.

Cmd - alt - arrowkey switches between tabs

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    What's that angle bracket shortcut again? It does not work on my mac. And why is it the only one using '+' instead of '-' between keys? – cregox Apr 13 '10 at 19:50
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    cmd-shift is nice, didn't know that before. – Tomas Andrle Aug 23 '10 at 15:01
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    When did Cmd+> Cmd+< happen? I don't have them on 10.5. – taw Oct 7 '10 at 12:18
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    On my Macbook Air with Mountain Lion, Cmd+> just beeps like an invalid key combination. It does not switch windows. – Howiecamp Aug 10 '12 at 21:28
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    On my new MacBook Pro with Mavericks this just cycles within windows of the current application. It doesn't cycle all open windows of all open applications which is what alt-tab on Windows does. – opticyclic Aug 9 '14 at 19:15

There's a 3rd party app called Witch which will let you cycle through all windows of all apps.


Along with the other suggested shortcuts, you could always use Exposé.

On a recent MacBook, or aluminium keyboard, the 'F3' key is dedicated to Exposé. If you don't have a keyboard with an Exposé key on it, you can use 'F9' and 'F10':

  • F3 or F9 to show all windows on the current space.

  • Ctrl-F3 or F10 to show all windows belonging to the current application on the current space.

For even easier access, I use the four-finger upward swipe to activate Exposé.

  • It's actually not F3 key, it's a fn key located on top of the F3. – cregox Apr 13 '10 at 19:50
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    The issue with Exposé is that the order of the windows tiles/miniatures shown by Exposé changes. E.g. I have FireFox with six open windows. As soon as I switch from one of those windows to another, Exposé shows them next time in another unpredictable order and I loose the overview. – t0r0X May 19 '13 at 11:36
  • @t0r0X, Expose = Mission Control? – Pacerier Dec 9 '17 at 14:51

On my Swedish Mac keyboard the ´ and ` are on the same key. For the back-tick is a shifted forward-tick.

So, I can only use cmd-shift-` to cycle the windows in one direction, and it doesn't work in all apps, like the terminal. Very annoying.

As Doug Harris pointed out Witch is a really nice way of "solving" this problem for Windows to Mac switchers that have alt-tab the muscle memory.

  • For future visitors: to remap the keys, see also Victor's comment on the question. (But I guess that for you, Jörgen, after more than 3 years you're used to it now.) – Arjan May 19 '13 at 12:44
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    Only $14 more to get your mac to be almost usable! (Witch currently costs $14) – Fixee Aug 25 '14 at 6:51
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    It's not just muscle memory, it often makes more sense to switch between individual windows and not applications: e.g. when you have multiple applications with multiple windows each, and want to keep one window of each on top and switch back and forth between the two. – Michael Aug 12 '15 at 21:29

You're looking for Cmd+`, or if you're not sure, the one with the ~.

This will cycle through all open windows for a single application.

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    Surround the text you want with <kbd> and </kbd>. – John Rudy Sep 22 '09 at 21:28
  • except in safari on a macbook plus with mountain lion... – drevicko Dec 19 '12 at 8:13
  • @drevicko It works for me on that setup – BinaryMisfit Dec 19 '12 at 8:20
  • @Diago interesting! Do you know if you did anything special to make it so? Mine is an out-of-the-box factory install just a few weeks old.. – drevicko Dec 20 '12 at 0:09
  • @drevicko Alt+` switches between windows. Ctrl+tab switches between tabs. Factory install on both my MacBook Pro and iMac. Just confirm which your trying to switch. I tend to ever only have one Safari window open but just tested again and it does work, actually it works in all application. – BinaryMisfit Dec 20 '12 at 7:08

Just a small clarification:


Switches between open windows for the same application, in OS "El Capitan" this works only when the windows are not in fullscreen mode. Maybe this is the reason because some guys reply saying that this shortcut doesn't work.

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    Thank you, I was having this issue until I took the window responsible out of fullscreen. – hcs Nov 22 '16 at 0:02

Optimal Layout is another commercial app that gives you a simple way to switch between application windows from the keyboard.

Disclaimer: I'm the developer of Optimal Layout.


CMD-` will cycle through open windows.

CMD-Shift-` will cycle through them in reverse.

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    This is incorrect. It cycles through open windows of a given application. – Howiecamp Aug 10 '12 at 22:20

For switching through tabs, I prefer these shortcuts:

Cmd-{ to move left.

Cmd-} to move right.

I find those keys more comfortable than the arrow keys.

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    there's also ctrl+tab and ctrl+shift+tab for even more uncomfortable ones. ;) – cregox Apr 13 '10 at 19:51

You can use Mission Control. CTRL + ARROW UP will activate Mission Control and it will show you all active windows separately. CTRL + ARROW DOWN will show you all active windows of the current applications. So if you just want to switch between Chrome windows, this might be your solution!


On Mountain Lion it became a (nicer IMO) opt+tab. On a US keyboard, that is.

  • uh... on my US keyboard with mountain lion in chrome that switches which page element has focus... – Michael Aug 12 '15 at 21:30

The best app for MS Windows like window switching is Contexts https://contexts.co/

Beautiful, perfect in every way and too cheap when considering how much everyday pain of OSX suboptimal window management it fixes.


I'm using HyperSwitch https://bahoom.com/hyperswitch/ these days as it not just supports window switching (as opposed to app switching) but also shows previews of windows in a way MS Windows started to do since Vista (or was it Windows 7?).


If you want command + tab to switch between all windows, you can try Contexts. I love it.


I'm the author of Command-Tab Plus application which allows you to quickly switch between applications, and additionally between windows (using the ability of Mac OS cmd+tilde https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aL8CgMVptug

  • The problem of switching between applications and Windows applications faced by every Mac OS user, as I do not like the built-in Mac OS application switcher, then I have developed my decision. I tried a few solutions for switching between Windows and realized that I prefer to switch between applications. Maybe because I'm used to the MacOs, Mac OS x is slightly different ideology and so many people already switch between applications and not between windows – Serge Gerasimenko Mar 12 '17 at 21:17
  • Although your answer is 100% correct, it might also become 100% useless if that link is moved, changed, merged into another one or the main site just disappears... :-( Therefore, please edit your answer, and copy the relevant steps from the link into your answer, thereby guaranteeing your answer for 100% of the lifetime of this site! ;-) You can always leave the link in at the bottom of your answer as a source for your material... – Donald Duck Mar 12 '17 at 21:36
  • Sorry, I don't quite understand what link you mean? Link to my website/site ? main suite [command tab plus link] (commandtab.noteifyapp.com) – Serge Gerasimenko Mar 13 '17 at 16:10

CMD+` Switches between open windows in an application.

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