I currently use this AppleScript to try to set focus to the most recent window of a PID, in example here my pid is 450.

tell application "System Events"
  set frontmost of the first process whose unix id is 450 to true
end tell

This works wonderfully in that it doesn't ask for accessibility approval. The quirks though are:

  • It ignores minimized windows, thus if all windows are minimized, nothing is focused
  • If you have windows across multiple spaces, and last accessed window was in space X. If you are in space Y and have windows of that app in space Y, it will focus the most recently used in space Y.
  • I haven't encountered it yet, but apparently people say if a window of other applications are on top of the window, it won't come to top.

I know of perform action AXRaise however this needs accessibility api approval. My users of my addon are asking to remove this as many of them struggle with allowing the single app access, especially if the miss granting it on the first popup.

So this was done in applescript, if you know how to do it in carbon (core-foundation, core-graphics) or cocoa I can use that to.

In osx 10.9 the AXMakeProcessTrusted was deprecated otherwise I could have used that to grant my app access without bothering users and then use AXUIElementSetAttributeValue to bring a window to the front.

Please help Thanks

1 Answer 1


This fixes the first quirk but not the second one:

tell application "System Events"
    bundle identifier of process 1 whose id is 1234
end tell
tell application id result
end tell

The same applies to open:

open -a "$(ps -p 1234 -o comm=)"

If there are no open windows, reopen opens a new default window, and if all windows are minimized, reopen unminimizes one window. activate makes the application frontmost.

activate and setting frontmost to true raise all windows but open -a only raises one window.

I thought

lsappinfo launch ASN="$(lsappinfo find pid=1234)"

might also work, but I'm getting a segfault when trying to launch an already running application.

  • Thank you so so much!! I was struggling with this! I will test this out tomorrow and report back. :) So the third issue (third bullet) i mentioend isn't an issue huh?
    – Noitidart
    Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 6:49
  • Someone told me to try this to get most recent window but I think it uses accessibility huh? tell (1st window whose value of attribute "AXMain" is true) *(linebreak)* set theWindow to value of attribute "AXTitle" *(linebreak)* end tell
    – Noitidart
    Commented Oct 19, 2014 at 6:50
  • Hi there friend, i think there is a mis type in the first script. I think it should be 1 whose unix id is 1234 note the unix. above it is just 1 whose id is 1234 (wihtout the unix) can you please verify
    – Noitidart
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 10:18
  • Can you please share some light on the open -a "$(ps -p 1234 -o comm=)" method please. I ran that from terminal, I have to firefox's running. One pid is 303 and the other is 475. Both PIDs with this method are focusing the PID of 303. Do you think it's because I opened the second firefox, from a command from the first firefox? Here is my ps dump: gist.githubusercontent.com/Noitidart/ef5d2fa9e526ec93d761/raw/… thank you sir!
    – Noitidart
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 10:29
  • Hi there sir again, after further testing, both methods shared in this solution, open -a and the applescript both seem to target a single process of firefox. So interesting. My script at top doesn't have this. I strongly believe its because i am opening the second instance of firefox from the first instance, do you think this is true? Any ideas on how to fix?
    – Noitidart
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 10:46

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