macOS - Switching Between Applications

When you have multiple applications open at once there are several ways you can switch between these applications efficiently.

SOUNDBYTE #3 macOS Switching Between Applications artwork. Icon by Ben Davis @ The Noun Project.
SOUNDBYTE #3 macOS Switching Between Applications artwork. Icon by Ben Davis @ The Noun Project.

Using the Dock

The Dock is a convenient way to jump between active applications on your Mac.

Active applications will be highlighted in the dock by a black dot (or a white dot on older versions of Mac OS X).

  • Click on the application in the Dock and it will be displayed to the front.
The Dock and active applications shown with a black dot.
The Dock and active applications shown with a black dot.

Using the Application Switcher

You can use the application switcher to move between your active applications.

  • Hold down the command key and press the tab key to reveal the application switcher.
  • Keep the command key pressed down and then press the tab key again to cycle through the active applications. Release the keys once the application you wish to open is highlighted.
The application switcher menu showing the Music application selected.
The application switcher menu showing the Music application selected.

Using Mission Control

Mission Control provides a good visual overview of all your active applications and windows.

To open Mission Control you can...

  • Click on the Applications folder and click on the Mission Control application. Alternatively you could use the Launchpad app to locate Mission Control.

..or..

  • Swipe up with three or four fingers on a MacBook trackpad or an external Apple Magic Trackpad.

..or..

  • Double-tap the surface of an Apple Magic Mouse with two fingers.

To select your application...

  • Move the mouse pointer over the different windows and a brief explanation of what the application is will appear over the window.
  • Click on the application window that you wish to open.
The Mission Control feature showing an overview of all active application windows.
The Mission Control feature showing an overview of all active application windows.
::TIP:: When using Mission Control any windows that are minimised in the Dock will not be displayed. Only windows open on the desktop will be shown in the overview.

These options work in all versions of macOS and in most versions of Mac OS X.

Originally posted 8 June, 2021.