OS X has a feature where you can create a keyboard shortcut for switching to a particular desktop / space. However, there isn't an obvious way to use a keyboard shortcut switch to directly a full screen application. Is there a way to do this?

A few other people have asked this, and there have been some suggestions, but I haven't found one that accomplishes what I'm asking:

  • One suggestion is to turn on "When switching to an application, switch to a Space with open windows for the application", and then switch to the application. I do not want to turn this feature on, as I frequently switch to applications without wanting to change spaces.

  • Another suggestion is to use Ctrl + arrow keys, which can be used to switch to a full screen application, but not directly to one. You have to be on an adjacently space. I want a keystroke that switches directly to the application.

I'm willing to use third party applications like BetterTouchTool to bind a script or application to a keyboard shortcut if it will allow me to do this.


If the goal is to switch directly to a specific full screen app quickly, and NOT specifically to do so without taking your hands off the keyboard, you could use hotcorners or the three-finger swipe (if on a laptop/Magic Trackpad). I set lower right corner of my screen to trigger Mission Control; when I need to switch, I hit that corner, then select the space or fullscreen app. It's a little cumbersome but faster than control-arrow repeatedly.

  • The goal here is to be able to switch to a specific full screen application with a single keystroke, so unfortunately your method does not work for me. But thanks for the suggestion. – GuyGizmo Jun 10 '16 at 22:44

Partial answer, as I'm on my phone this week.

If you use apps maximised rather than full screen, with both the menu bar & dock set to auto-hide, then you can simply assign each app to its own Space & use Ctrl/number to switch directly.

The downside is you still have the window surround, the upside is you remain in complete control.

  • That's an interesting idea, although not workable for me as I need to keep my menu bar visible. I suppose it's possible to individually make an app hide the menu bar by modifying its Info.plist file and set LSUIPresentationMode=4, but it's a bit sketchy and may have unintended side effects. – GuyGizmo Jun 11 '16 at 22:11
  • Tbh, as I have a pair of 27" screens, I don't bother hiding the menu bar, just the dock. I like the control of having one app or 'family' to each Space, though. – Tetsujin Jun 11 '16 at 22:18

Try pressing Cmd-Ctrl-F at the same time while you're in an application


To do this: push control and < or control and .

You can slightly change the functionality if you have "Automatically rearrange Spaces based on most recent use" checked or unchecked. (System Preferences > Mission Control)

There is no other way to do this that I know of. I have used a few third party apps. I am sure there exists some third party app somewhere that does it. I've heard that Witch makes the window switcher similar to Windows style, which might achieve the exact results you are looking for, but might not. It costs $15 as of today. It just doesn't mention fullscreen in its advertising, though it has a ton of options so it's possible it covers this.

Honestly, you can't expect much better from OS X. Look at what you're stuck with:

Switching between applications in OS X is command + tab and arranges apps by most recent. Switching between windows within an app is command + ` and arranges windows sequentially. With control + / and the "Auto rearrange Spaces..." unchecked, you can get the sequential switching similar to the way OS X handles window switching within an app, which is a poor way to do it, but at least there is some kind of precedent.

I have a lot of gripes about switching between applications in OS X. I don't like that there is one keyboard shortcut to switch between apps, one to switch between windows within an app, and one to switch between spaces, and they have different orderings. I want one to switch between everything. I also hate keyboard shortcuts that include an arrow key, like this one. That defeats the purpose of having a fast keyboard shortcut: I still have to move my hand, might as well use the mouse. I am strongly considering switching to Windows 10 this year now that it will include bash. I use keyboard shortcuts for almost everything and Windows does it better, not to mention that I honestly think Windows software looks better.

  • 1
    Did you mean to use "left arrow key" instead of "<", and "right arrow key" instead of ">"? – perhapsmaybeharry Jun 11 '16 at 3:30
  • Yes, let me change that. – Joseph Hansen Jun 13 '16 at 0:52

Another answer:

If you have your System Preferences set to switch to a Space with an active window when switching to an app, you can use Alfred (and probably the built-in Spotlight program). If you can push the keyboard shortcut for Spotlight and enter the first few letters of the app, you could probably get very fast at switching.


I've found a method that works. I noticed that double-clicking on a dock icon will switch to a full screen application's space, even if "When switching to an application, switch to a Space with open windows for the application" is turned off in Mission Control's system preferences. It's possible to make an AppleScript that utilizes this, even if the dock is hidden:

tell application "System Events"
    tell process "Dock"
        tell list 1
            tell UI element "insert application name here"
            end tell
        end tell
    end tell
end tell

Save this to an scpt file, and then bind it to a keystroke using an application like BetterTouchTool. Since it uses OS X's accessibility API it will require whichever application is invoking it to have permission to remote control the computer (in System Preferences > Security & Privacy > "Privacy" tab > Accessibility).

This does have one limitation that I'm aware of, which is that it only consistently works if the application has no other open windows on other spaces. Otherwise this will toggle between the various spaces that the application's windows are occupying. Fortunately my use case involves an application that doesn't have any other open windows so it satisfies my requirements.

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