Workflows for staying organised in app switching (sharing my OSX experience)

I have a Mac. These are some of the things I do to try to stay organised switching between apps. I aim to keep to a limit of FOUR THINGS MAXIMUM. 4 tabs open, 4 apps on each Desktop. I do this because of cognitive I read somewhere suggesting this as a guide. Any more and things slow down.

  1. When I have a lesson to teach, I (1a) close all apps and Windows that I can. Then I (1b) Open a NEW BROWSER WINDOW for each lesson. Each lesson has it’s own TABS and its own separate browser window.

  2. If I have to use multiple apps. I use the tab features again if they’re available. I put each set of apps in it’s own desktop/workspace

When switching apps, I don’t use MISSION CONTROL, because

  1. it’s slower to visually identify apps and 2) it require taking a hand off the keyboard.

Worse, I found that the built-in ALT+TAB SWITCHER for OSX is not great. I can’t stop myself from leaving the mouse pointer (cursor) in the centre of the screen, so that accidentally selects the wrong app, overriding my keyboard.
It also lists apps from all DESKTOPS

So I investigated 3rd party solutions. So far I’ve tried CONTEXTS, but this makes the icons very small on screen, which is too slow to identify again, slowing me down.

So, how do you do it on your O/S?

On Mac, I’ve had good success with a tool called BetterTouchTool. I like creating a “hyper” key and using that for switching apps: hyper+b for Brave, hyper+o for Obsidian, etc. BTT allows you to set it up so that you can either switch to a window on another workspace OR open a new one if you prefer. I find it to be a much quicker way of working that any of the alternatives, and with BTT it’s pretty easy to set up.

I wrote about the full workflow a few years ago, if you want more details: Killing Cmd-Tab. Your Path to Better Application Switching || Timothy Miller


Can you share your reasoning why you don’t use the dock to locate the app you want to use?

re: Dock: “it is not keyboard driven. It’s a good tool to have, but not fast or efficient when it comes to swapping back and forth between applications.”

(because you need to take your hand off the keyboard and back again to use it)

I’m using an app called RCMD now. But BTT looks better because it can launch the apps as well, so thanks for mentioning it. I will consider buying it instead


Having to take hands off the keyboard every time is not completely true because scrolling content using touch pad is very common action. Dock is efficient if you are not holding hands on keyboard.

Do you keep the dock open all the time? I hide mine for more screen space and use Mission Control if I’m on the mouse

Having more screen space is seldom useful in case of hided dock. That’s why I recommend keeping dock visible. Mission Control is useful for navigating between different windows but dock is usually suitable for this too. To navigate to different window of the same app, just long press the app icon in the dock. Dock allows you to drag/drop recent files quickly. You can use dock vertically or horizontally. This allows you to prioritize vertical or horizontal screen space. It is very unlikely that both vertical and horizontal screen space are vital simultaneously.

+1 for setting up a hyper key for switching directly to specific apps. I use Keyboard Maestro, but BTT works too.

You might also be interested in checking out the Bunch app if you want to switch between different app “workspaces”.

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I just want to recommend RCmd for anyone who stumbles across this thread. I find it super easy to use and very convenient and it basically sets itself up for you. It uses your right Cmd key as an app selector and will select apps you have open using the first letter in their name (in most cases). This is also customizable but I found it very convenient and was able to just have it working nicely out of the box.

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I like to use right-cmd + h to hide. Does it prevent using this action? Although it’s more useful to use right-cmd for app switcher. Very clever indeed.