⌘N (Command-N) opens new tab instead new window. Only option-⌘N creates a new window.

I want to get back to the traditional behavior. Most apps use ⌘N to create a new window, so I keep forgetting to add the option key just for the Terminal app.

What's the easiest way to make ⌘N open up a new Window by default in Big Sur 11.6? Note: Terminal.app already has ⌘T to open a new tab so having two shortcuts to do that makes no sense.

  • I am up-to-date, macOS 11.6 Terminal.app 2.11, and ⌘N creates a new window
    – minseong
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 16:55
  • How do the other apps such as Finder behave when you press ⌘+N? Does a new window open up or a new tab?
    – Alper
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 17:07
  • Finder opens new tabs, but I couldn't find a preference that controls that. I will check again.
    – clearlight
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 17:15
  • @Alper, I just changed the Finder preference to open a new Finer window instead of tab but that doesn't change the Terminal.app behavior I'm seeing.
    – clearlight
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 17:17

2 Answers 2


I expect your problem might be resolved if you go to System Preferences -> General and change the “Prefer Tabs” menu option to “in full screen” or “never”, whichever you might prefer, from “always”.


For those interested, this setting was under System Preferences -> Dock for Catalina (10.15), Mojave (10.14), High Sierra (10.13), and Sierra (10.12).

  • That was it. I found various preference but forgot about that one. The weird thing though is how draconian it is. With that set, even if I select the new Window menu entry with the trackpad, in Terminal.app, I get a new tab! AND without adding a Keyboard preference shortcut for Command-N, I just get a 'beep' and no response. However they implemented it seems to be non-optimal at best, broken at worst.
    – clearlight
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 17:34
  • Happy to hear you were able to fix it. Not sure exactly how this setting changed in your case first but I think "Prefer Tabs" menu option has existed in macOS for quite a while. Apple just changed its exact place when Big Sur first came out.
    – Alper
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 17:43
  • It breaks Terminal.app and I'm trying to find the right way to explain it, and filing feedback. I'll update the main answer again when I get it explained properly and tag you so you'll see it.
    – clearlight
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 17:51
  • ok, I documented the problem as it exists, even though I can now get the behavior I need for Terminal.app with your suggestion.
    – clearlight
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 17:57
  • Btw, if you want to get an idea about the rate of Feedback to Apple... I filed one Feedback today and then another within the hour, and the sequence number jumped by 87. So I guess there were 86 intervening Feedback reports in that timespan.
    – clearlight
    Commented Oct 12, 2021 at 18:00

The answer I accepted by @Alper,is the best workaround so far. I call it a workaround, because there is buggy behavior bug as of Big Sur 11.6. By changing prefer tabs to never, it breaks the configuration I liked for Safari where I do prefer new tabs.

These are the problem areas:

  • General System Preferences → Prefer Tabs, "always"
  • Keyboard System Preferences → Shortcuts
  • Terminal.app menus

"Prefer Tabs always" has the following associated misbehaviors, and I've filed feedback with Apple about it:

  1. Terminal.app : Shell → New Window → New Window with Profile no longer works. It opens a new tab instead of window, even if that menu item is explicitly selected with mouse or trackpad. Assigning a shortcut to it doesn't fix that (i.e. Keyboard System Preferences → Shortcuts). That's a bug.

  2. By accident I discovered Option-⌘N in Terminal.app does open a new window. However, defying precedent, there is no corresponding menu item with Option-⌘N assigned to it, whereas hotkeys generally correspond to menu items. The only menu option that says it can create a new window (per issue 1 above), does the wrong thing, and isn't even associated with Option-⌘N, which creates a new window.

  3. When ⌘N creates new tabs (in aforementioned scenario), the new tab created shrinks all the existing tabbed panes down to the default size of the new window! That really disrupts the workflow, since I don't want to resize the other tab, which may have corresponded to big windows. That weird tab-resizing behavior doesn't seem to occur with ⌘T which is the standard menu item to create a new tab.

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