Shortcuts Week Day 2: Switching Apps, Cycling Windows

I used to spend a lot of time looking over shoulders. Not for weird reasons, it was just part of my job to teach tech to college students. 

Something I observed, even with more seasoned colleagues was that they spent a lot of time moving windows around their screens.

A busy person’s computer gets cluttered fast with windows and most people had trouble dealing. If MS Word was behind their browser, they would drag their browser window off screen or minimize it. They’d move six or seven windows off screen just to get to their desktop or find text doc that was behind four others.

Today on Part Two of Keyboard Short Cuts Week, we’re going to learn three key combinations that will fundamentally change the way you use your computer.

It’s obscene how much time and energy is spent just putting your focus on the window or app you want. Today that ends as you level up.

+ Tab – Application Switcher

Mac Tab Bar Example

⌘Tab will bring up the application switcher

The Application Switcher allows you to…switch apps. Instead of sifting through 12 windows to find the one you want, you can switch directly to it.

Using the Application Switcher

Hold down (and keep holding) Command () and press Tab once. Note that the second app from the left will be focused and its name displayed beneath it.

Application Switcher Example

  • Press Tab to move focus to the right
  • Press grav (the “tick” next to the 1 key) to move focus to the left
  • Release the Command key to activate the app you had on focus, and bring all its windows to front

This is especially useful when you realize that since the focus always starts on the last app you were in, you can just tap +Tab to quickly switch back and forth between two apps.

+ ` – Cycle Windows in App

Wading through the sea of windows get’s difficult when you’ve got 12 emails open, 5 Word docs, and like 30 browser windows open. That’s why nearly every developer includes the “Cycle Through Windows” command in their apps. It’s not always documented, but it’s almost always there.

Within almost any app, tapping Command + ` (that’s a grav, it’s the key next to your 1) will move you to the next window in that app.

Hide Apps – + H and ⌘⌥ + H

Another observation I made over my students’ shoulders was that if they wanted to get rid of all an app’s windows but didn’t want to quit the app, they would minimize all its windows, which could be a lot of windows.

A faster solution would just be to hide the app all together. Any app can be hidden using Command + H.

If you want to focus on one single app but don’t like going full screen or just want to clear off some space, you can hide all apps except the one you’re on using Command + Option + H


Things are heating up a bit. By taking a bit of time to learn two or three things you can do without taking your left hand off the keyboard, you can drastically alter the way you use your computer, very much for the better.

Tomorrow you’re going to learn how to empower yourself to seek out and master shortcuts within your favorite apps.

<< Day One: Learn the Symbols | Day Three: Active Learning >>