Is there a faster way to switch between currently-open applications on the Mac than using cmd+Tab/cmd+Shift+Tab?

I tend to have a lot of different apps open at a time and I have to keep switching between three-to-four of these apps all the time. And having to repeatedly hit cmd+tab,tab,tab seems like a waste of keystrokes. It would be nice if there was a faster way to achieve this application-switching.

This does not have to be built-in Mac functionality. I'd like to know about any app that does this job better.

PS: I'm running Mavericks
PPS: I'm looking for a keyboard shortcut and not a mouse-related solution.

Thanks! :)

4 Answers 4


You can use KeyRemap4MacBook to for example turn the right option into an extra modifier key for opening applications:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::OPTION_R, KeyCode::VK_MODIFIER_EXTRA1</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::F, ModifierFlag::EXTRA1, KeyCode::VK_OPEN_URL_FINDER</autogen>
    <autogen>__KeyToKey__ KeyCode::S, ModifierFlag::EXTRA1, KeyCode::VK_OPEN_URL_SAFARI</autogen>

See http://osxnotes.net/keyremap4macbook.html for more examples.

If you have bought the Powerpack for Alfred 2, you can use workflows like this:

Hotkeys have a short delay by default, but you can reduce it by changing the trigger behavior:

  • I love this idea and I think this is the fastest for me given that I know I have just 4-5 applications that I regularly switch between. Thank you!
    – keithxm23
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 12:57

This is a really old question but just thought I would add to it anyway!

I use apptivate.

Really simple toolbar app that can open/switch to almost anything with custom keyboard shortcuts.

  • and it is free!
    – dwightk
    Commented Sep 25, 2015 at 15:07

Here is a personnal suggestion : Use the power of Mission control.

I link to a mouse button (lateral wheel click) show All Windows / show application windows . With that shortcut it's realy fast to just from one Window/App to another.

Edit: Didn't saw your PPS. But Mission control is still a nice way to handle multiple apps/windows !

Other possibility, you could link a keyboard shortcut to an automator service which would switch to a particular app.

  • Thanks for the suggestion Matthieu. Do you have any examples for the automator-service you suggest?
    – keithxm23
    Commented Mar 6, 2014 at 14:25
  • I switch using command-1, command-2, etc; and have particular apps on particular desktops (and told Mavericks not to rearrange the desktops).
    – GEdgar
    Commented Mar 7, 2014 at 14:44

Give a try to QuickSilver, which lets you switch to or open apps and various other things through keyboard only.

  • Ah yes. I use Alfred but hadn't thought about using the launcher to instead switch to an already launched application. (Silly me!). On an average it's actually more key-strokes than cmd+tabbing but at least do not have to look at the screen to check if I've to tab left and right or count the number of tabs I've to make. I guess this is the quickest way yet. Thanks Edouard! :)
    – keithxm23
    Commented Mar 6, 2014 at 15:28

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