I'm running El Capitan 10.11.4 on a 2014 Mac Mini.

I'm often running 10-14 apps at one time as I work writing reports, word/excel/Adobe/Safari/iTunes/calendar/etc...

Frequently I want to open another app, I want it to open in the background and go back to word/excel and keep working, but the launching app takes away my focus, sometimes 2 or 3 times. once for the splash screen, once for the open dialogue window, and again after I click 'new document'.

Another situation, I update an app in the background, like 1Password (beta) and every step it takes my focus back to the app being updated.

Is there anything I can do with Unix/Terminal, etc. to force all app activity to be done in the background, or to keep OS to respect my focus?

  • God I wish this could be resolved. I launch apps from spotlight and it always kills my work flow to have the app steal back my attention after 2-10 seconds of loading.
    – Herbert
    Commented Feb 18, 2017 at 4:18
  • On Monterey (but I think it started before) I've suddenly had the exact opposite behavior (ie. exactly what the OP requests) but I have no idea which setting (or hidden preference) I used.
    – brandelune
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 1:36

2 Answers 2


To launch an app in Finder in the background (hidden) you can use a simple Automator service. Open Automator app, select a service that accepts files or folders in Finder and add a Run Shell Script action with following contents:

Automator service

for f in "$@"
    open "$f" --hide

Save the service as Open in background. Open System Preferences./ Keyboard / Shortcuts / Services, find your new service and assign a keyboard shortcut you desire. I chose a handy ShiftCmdB. Close System Preferences and test the service and the shortcut.

open in background

Nice thing about this is that it works with apps as well as documents.


Working on macOS 12.1 (Monterey) with another flag option:

for f in "$@"
    open "$f" -gj

see this post for more information: Open app in background from Terminal

  • couldn't comment because no reputation...
    – shoj
    Commented Jan 15, 2022 at 14:53
  • It would be helpful to future users that come across this answer if you could edit in a summary of the information in case the link becomes broken.
    – agarza
    Commented Jan 15, 2022 at 15:21

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