How to Switch Between Windows on Mac

When most of us use our Mac for work, school, or other activities, we often need multiple windows open simultaneously. Multiple windows are not only helpful but also necessary and precisely what graphical user interfaces like macOS were designed for. 

Sometimes getting from one screen to another can be a pain and even more so with the small screens of most newer laptops. Instead of clicking around to find a particular window, you can use the keyboard, Mission Control, or the dock to switch between windows on your Mac.

My name is Eric, and I have been a software engineer for nearly 25 years and a computer enthusiast for even longer. Over that time, I have learned that there are always little tricks that can help you use your computer more efficiently, and I would like to show you a couple here.

If you want to see how to switch between windows on your Mac desktop, continue reading below, and I will show you what I know.

Method 1: Command + Tab

Using the keyboard is one of the easiest ways to switch between windows. By pressing the Command + Tab keys, you can see the active applications and use the tab or arrow keys to move to them. See the quick steps below.

Step1: Press the COMMAND and TAB keys at the same time.

This will bring up a pop-up window in the middle of your screen showing the active applications. 

Step 2: Continue holding down the COMMAND key.

Step 3: Use the tab or arrow keys to move through the application’s icons.

Step 4: When you have the application icon selected that you wish to switch to, release the COMMAND key, and you will be switched to that window.

Method 2: Mission Control

Using Mission Control, you can see an overall view of the active applications running on your desktop, and from that view, you select an application or window to switch to. There are a couple of different ways to get to Mission Control. Let’s take a look below.

Use the Keyboard

Press the FN key and then look for and press the key with the three rectangles in it. It is usually the same as the F3 key. See the image below.

Three Finger Swipe

If you are using a MacBook or Apple’s external trackpad, just swipe upward with three fingers on the trackpad, which will open up Mission Control.

Use Launchpad

You can use Launchpad to open most applications, including Mission Control. Just open LaunchPad using your preferred method. Type Mission Control in the search field to bring it up on the screen, and then click on it to start it up.

Once Mission Control has started up, you will see a bird’s eye view of your desktop and the active applications. Simply click on the one you want to switch to, and it will show up on your screen.

Method 3: Use the Dock

One of the more straightforward methods for switching between windows we often forget about is just using the dock at the bottom of your screen. Your applications are listed there, and the running ones have a small dot underneath them.

Just click on the icon of the running applications you want to switch to. If that app has multiple windows running, it will bring up the most recent one used. 

If multiple windows of the same app are running, you can right-click on it and see each instance running. You can then click on the instance you wish to switch to.

Switching Between Windows of the Same Application

We have seen a few different ways to switch between windows of applications on your desktop, but what if you just want to switch between different windows of the same application. This can often be handy if you work with multiple instances of a browser or word processor.

The first method you can use is the one listed above, using the dock. By right-clicking on the application on the doc, you can see each instance of the application running and switch to it by clicking on it.

There is also a keyboard shortcut you can use to do this. If you already have the application up on your screen but want to switch to another instance, just hold the COMMAND key down and then hit the ~ key in the upper left corner of your keyboard. 

Each time you hit the ~ key, it will switch to the next instance of the application. If you only have one window open for that app, it will remain on that window.

FAQ

Below are common questions often asked concerning switching between windows on your Mac.

Why aren’t all of my Windows Visible in Mission Control?

If you haven’t used a window in a while, it will become inactive to save processing power. When using Mission Control, it only shows the active windows or the ones you used recently. If a window is inactive, open it up to make it active, and it will then begin to show up.

Why aren’t all of my Windows Visible when using COMMAND+TAB?

This is similar to the question above. It only shows the active or recent windows.

Why isn’t it Switching Between Windows of the Same Application?

Most likely, only one instance of the application is open, or the other instances have gone inactive. If inactive, switch to them using the dock method, and they will become active. You will be able to switch to them.

Conclusion

We have seen multiple ways to switch between windows on your Mac. You can use the keyboard, Mission Control, or even the dock. You can also switch between windows of the same application.

I hope this information can help you more efficiently use your Mac. As usual, let me know if you have any questions or comments. I would love to hear from you!

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