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I work/live with Windows/Linux/Mac every day. While I'm pretty comfortable with Windows/Linux some Mac behaviors do throw me off.

One of these behaviors is the following: I have several open windows of an app (e.g. VS Code or iterm) and I'm using the browser in the foreground. Now imagine I want to type something into VS Code so I click on the icon in the dock OR maybe activate it through spotlight. What I expect/want to happen is that the top window of VS Code appears in the front like it does for example on Linux (Pop OS). What happens instead is that my Mac brings literally every instance of VS Code I've opened to the front of the window stack which is completely clouding my desktop. Is there any way I can turn this off / change the behavior to the Linux one? I could not find any solution yet.

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  • macOS used to always bring all windows of an app to the front on activating the app. To those of us used to that behaviour, it's rather irritating that since about Sierra, clicking on a window brings only that window to the front, but that's just how it behaves now. You'd probably need something 3rd party, as below, to alter that default.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 5 at 9:43
  • The problem is that it still brings all windows to the front when clicking on the app icon in the dock. In most cases I activate apps through spotlight but it is still annoying that this happens when I activate an app through the dock. Like I already commented below the app that this user recommends does precisely the opposite of what I want to achieve.
    – MajinBoo
    Jan 5 at 10:52
  • Yes, it resets the old behaviour. If you switch Spaces or use Spotlight the single window behaviour is preserved, but clicking the Dock icon brings the whole app to the front. Personally I use Spaces to prevent the entire 'one app on top of another' behaviour. You still get all windows of one app in one Space, of course, but your next app is a simple key command away. btw, if you right click the dock icon, you can bring forward a single window.
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 5 at 11:03
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    While using spaces does not really answer my initial question, I gave it a try and really like it. Thanks for the tip!
    – MajinBoo
    Jan 6 at 14:03
  • Welcome! - I did a couple of answers on using Spaces over the years, might be useful - superuser.com/a/1187552/347380 and apple.stackexchange.com/a/179403/85275
    – Tetsujin
    Jan 6 at 14:17

1 Answer 1

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It's not a "Linux behavior", it's the behavior of whatever DE you use on Linux. It is also the default behavior on MacOS 10 and later. Classic macOS has the opposite behavior.

There are several applications that will modify this behavior to bring all windows of an application to the foreground. One of these is Front and Center, by John Siracusa.

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I have just tested on macOS Big Sur 11.6.2. I opened three VS Code windows and stacked them on top of each other. I then opened another window (TextMate, not that it matters), and put it on top of them all. Then I clicked the various VS Code windows. The TextMate window was interleaved between them as you would normally expect it to be.

Sounds like you have such an application running.

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  • Thank you for your input. I have not seen any Linux DE that handles this differently yet but you're right I was referring to the standard DE that Pop OS uses. I'm certain that this is the standard behavior and not the result of an application running. Although I checked again and it does not happen when using Spotlight and won't happen when clicking a window like you did. It happens specifically when clicking on the app in the dock like I stated in the title.
    – MajinBoo
    Jan 5 at 9:30

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