Fast App/Window Control

June 27, 2016


  • command + tab: Rotate through open apps (+ shift to reverse the direction)
  • command + ~: Rotate between the current app's windows (+ shift to reverse the direction)
  • command + h: Hide the current application
  • command + w: Close the current window
  • command + q: Quit the current app.

If you're power hungry:

  • BetterSnapTool: Windows-7 style resizing contro
  • Slate or HammerSpoon: for scripting the commands of your dreams dream-come-true commands customizing to the nth degree via scripts

Multi-tasking? Single task, but still Multi-Apping.

Moving between apps is a huge pain point of a productive workflow. There's just not much real estate, and only one plane to show it on.

Key to the short-cuts listed here is understanding the current context, that is, what app are you currently 'in'. The current app is always the one listed by name in the upper left (next to the Apple logo).

This is true regardless of what window appears to be on top of the screen. Be wary of this! Sometimes you can unwittingly Quit the wrong app entirely!

Command + Tab = your new bfff.

Right now:

  1. Hold Command
  2. Press Tab
  3. Don't let go of Command

You'll see a happy little list of icons before you, and notably, the second icon is selected.

These are your open applications, in the order of your most recent use of them. Whichever of these is selected when you let go of command becomes the app currently in focus.

  • You can move between these by tapping Tab repeatedly.
  • You can reverse the direction by holding Shift while pressing Tab.
  • You can even just mouse over one and release command to move to that app.

If the app is another space, or full-screen mode, you'll move moved to that location (as long as the app has an open window).

Pro tips:

  • You don't have to wait for the icons to show up - a quick Command + Tab + release will toggle you quickly between the top two applications.
  • You can even use this while you're drag + dropping a file from/to your desktop, between Finder windows, or between supported applications.

Command + ~ (tilda)

If you have many windows open for the same application, command + ~ (reverse with shift) will rotate those windows to the top of the stack.

Quite useful if you want to break your chrome tabs out into different buckets.

Hide: Command + h

This hides the current application from view (including Mission Control!). Great for dropping Messages or Slack into the abyss when your boss is behind you.

Don't worry, you can easily restore it with Command + Tab and selecting it. Like it was never gone.

Quitting isn't for Closers

  • command + w: Close will close a window without closing the app. (Think w for "Window"
  • command + q: Quit will close all the windows and exit the app, hopefully with a warning, but usually not.


  • BetterSnapTool: I used this endlessly until I moved to HammerSpoon (see below). Drag to any side/corner to smart-resize, and configure however you'd like. Lately I've set control + shift + Arrow left (or right) to move the application to that half of the monitor.
  • Slate or HammerSpoon: These requires writing your own config file, definitely recommend if you're willing to get into the weeds - reach out and i'm write a guide for each! My HammerSpoon config can be found here.
Russell Matney

Russell Matney

Writing, Stories, Software, Indie Games