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What method of application switching do you use most often?

1/1: What method of application switching do you use most often?

Clicking on an open window 259 (5.93%)
Clicking on an icon in the Dock 639 (14.63%)
Command-Tab 2,028 (46.42%)
Exposé 733 (16.78%)
ASM (3rd party app) 15 (0.34%)
Keyboard Maestro (3rd party app) 15 (0.34%)
LiteSwitch X (3rd party app) 68 (1.56%)
Witch (3rd party app) 69 (1.58%)
Other 3rd party app 92 (2.11%)
A mix of many methods 451 (10.32%)
Other polls | 4,369 votes | 46 comments

What method of application switching do you use most often? | 46 comments | Create New Account
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Thanks to...
Authored by: robg on Jul 13, '06 05:14:33AM
... wordsofwisedumb for this poll idea!


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Authored by: Gleddit on Jul 13, '06 05:34:29AM

I use Witch the most, followed by LaunchBar, then Command Tab - hardly ever use Exposť... I like minimising open windows & now using Witch to find the window I want :)


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Authored by: wolfy on Jul 13, '06 01:12:39PM

I use mostly keyboard shortcuts defined in DragThing, with a few other keyboard shortcuts defined in QuicKeys. I also use Witch, but not very often. Sometimes I click, but keyboard shortcuts dominate.


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Many methods
Authored by: galendw on Jul 13, '06 07:50:36AM

I use command-tab about half the time, but I use other methods a lot too, so I answered "many methods".

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Command Tab
Authored by: fresler on Jul 13, '06 08:06:27AM

I use CMD-Tab all the time.

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App vs window switching
Authored by: SuperCrisp on Jul 13, '06 08:09:36AM

Hmm, can't figure out how to put my vote in the poll....

I use command-tab to switch apps, but I use Witch to switch windows. Say I want to look at Ch2a.doc in Word and I'm moving from OmniOutliner. If Word has one doc open, I command tab. But mostly I have several docs open in each of my writing apps, so I use Witch to take me right to what I want to see. And when I'm highly stressed, I just command-H & command-M until I'm only looking at what I'm working on.

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How to vote...
Authored by: earthsaver on Jul 13, '06 08:21:12AM

I struggled with voting, too. The voting system is not very intuitive, as one can click on a poll only to see the results. Scroll down, people, and you'll see the votable poll on the right sidebar.

- Ben Rosenthal
Q16 1.25 - Tiger

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How to vote...
Authored by: paperwings on Jul 14, '06 07:03:40AM

I demand a recount, because I got a hanging chad.

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I'd like to vote, but
Authored by: Jailer Joe on Jul 13, '06 08:17:43AM

I can't vote either. What's the deal?

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Command+Tab isn't specific enough
Authored by: earthsaver on Jul 13, '06 08:18:59AM

I use LiteSwitch X to switch most of the time. Technically, I press Command+Tab, but don't activate the built-in switcher due to LSX. So, perhaps I could have selected "third-party app" and therefore instead "multiple methods." But in truth, Command+Tab is most accurate. For me, it's a semantic issue.

- Ben Rosenthal
Q16 1.25 - Tiger

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poll measure type of work
Authored by: asher on Jul 13, '06 08:24:14AM

Have the idea that this poll tells more about the kind of work done than being a measure of 'better' app switcher. While I have maybe 15 apps open, i only keep windows open for maybe three or four involved in a current job. I have enough area among screens to keep current job windows open. Sometimes one app may have multiple windows, but that's another problem. However someone else who does different work would use a different approach, and different app switching.

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poll measure type of work
Authored by: hamarkus on Jul 13, '06 11:41:22AM

Exactly, sometimes when I have switch between various apps constantly, I click in open windows. Otherwise, I usually hide 80% of my running apps with open windows and then use the Dock to switch. For a couple of apps I use keyboard shortcuts, mainly for stuff I switch in and out quickly.

Using open windows and the Dock allows me to use my spacial memory, which does not work with Cmd-Tab, where the order changes constantly.

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Very personal workflow
Authored by: Shawn Parr on Jul 13, '06 08:24:41AM
I have developed a very complicated but personal workflow that makes me very efficient, but I would imagine would not work for most.

I use Virtue desktops, and keep my web browsers on one desktop (usually just Safari, but occasionally Firefox), mail apps on another (Usually just Mail, but also Entourage if I am on campus), and have 2 general purpose desktops for my other apps. I also have 2 desktops dedicated for Parallels virtual machines to run full screen.

When I am on a desktop with multiple apps running, I have used expose quite a lot to move between the windows. Virtual Desktops modifies the behavior of expose slightly so that if you hit F9 it will show all windows of all apps that are on that desktop only. Same with F10, if you have 3 mail windows open, but only 2 are on your current desktop F10 will only show those two. When you are used to it, that is very handy.

Since getting my Macbook I don't use my 5 button mouse as often, so expose is not always right under my fingers, so I tent to Cmd-Tab and Cmd-~ more often. Of course sometimes I will click on a dock icon if my mouse is near to it, which Virtue has the neat feature of automatically switching desktops when you select an app with no windows on your current desktop.

So I pretty much use every method the OS gives me, along with Virtue. When people watch me working they think I am crazy, but it makes me very efficient when I have to move from item to item.

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Very personal workflow
Authored by: Deut3221 on Jul 13, '06 10:04:08AM

what in the world are 'virtue desktops'?

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Cmd-tab and Butler
Authored by: MtnBiker on Jul 13, '06 08:25:29AM

Command-tab for back and forth most of the time, and Command-tab tab tab etc for other opened apps frequently.
Butler usually with shortcuts (F12 for Safari, ctrl-F12 for Firefox (every key has one to four apps assigned to it, based on QuicKeys I defined 10 or 15 years ago and evolved as Macs and me changed), and Butler with typing the name (cntl-space Fink for Fink, etc). I quit using QuicKeys when OS X came out, then tried iKeys, but problems with it a year or two ago got me to mostly migrate to Butler. I'll have to look at Witch since it's by the same developer.
Dock only for Trash
Click on open window occasionally for back and forth.
Exposť never. I already had put those keys to use and I have to many things open to make it useful for me, and I've used other methods for too long.

Hard to vote since I use Command-tab for back and forth (along with Cmd-`for window cycling) and Butler for getting other apps or launching.

Hermosa Beach, CA USA

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Authored by: billbarstad on Jul 13, '06 08:40:48AM

I use the command-tab-~ combo or simply clicking on a window, mostly. Very occasionally I'll use Path Finder. Whatever is easiest.

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Authored by: giulio on Jul 13, '06 09:19:59AM

The best I've used!

Headrest Embroidery:

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Authored by: jayhawksean on Jul 13, '06 09:55:26AM

i can't seem to vote either. when i got here for the first time, i could see the current results, but no way to vote. hmmm.

anyway, i use quicksilver for everything that i can use it for and that includes switching apps.

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CMD, S-Tab-R
Authored by: zeb on Jul 13, '06 09:56:02AM

I use many methods as well, but I voted for CMD-Tab. Since I spend most of my time in BBEdit and Safari, I will need to save a web page in BBEdit and then switch over to Safari and Refresh the page. I absolutely love the ease and speed of holding down CMD and pressing "S-Tab-R" (save, switch, refresh). I'll often add another Tab to the end of that string to switch back to BBEdit and continue working without needing to reach for the mouse.

When I'm not switching that way, I usually use the dock or Exposť.

..:: Zeb ::..

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App launching?
Authored by: cheesy9999 on Jul 13, '06 10:10:02AM

How about a poll for app launching (Dock, Spotlight, QuickSilver, Butler, LaunchBar, etc)

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Many methods...
Authored by: cougar718 on Jul 13, '06 10:57:11AM

I would say I click on opened applications in the Dock to switch between apps 90% of the time. But I also use whatever is convenient. If I have windows opened from other applications visible from another application, I'll click on a window to switch to that application. Command-Tab I'll use when my mouse is charging. Hehe.

Rick alias cougar

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witch method?
Authored by: ether on Jul 13, '06 11:27:38AM

I use:

* click if the window is showing and my hand is near the mouse
* cmd-tab if I want a different app's frontmost window
* witch if I want to get to a particular window and it's either not visible or my hand is not on the mouse.

I probably would just use witch all the time, but unfortunately, I also use TypeIt4Me, and the last few betas have included a bug that causes it to treat option-tab as tab, breaking witch until I disable expansion.

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Command-tab etc.
Authored by: RussellK on Jul 13, '06 11:33:09AM

Most often, when I REALLY need to boost my efficiency flying betweens apps, it's just between two apps at a a simple command-tab seems best (especially since just hitting command-tab once toggles between the two apps I want, rather than repeatedly hitting Tab to scroll along the command-tab switcher).

I also have the thumb button of my Mighty Mouse mapped to bring up the command-tab switcher, and use this when the app I want to switch to was NOT the most immediate previous app I had active.

Even with my Quad 2.5, I like to minimize what 3rd-party programs are running, so I never even considered using an outside utility to handle my app switching...

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App Switching
Authored by: Blacktiger on Jul 13, '06 11:43:48AM

Well, I probably use command-tab the most when I am switching between applications, especially if there is only 1 window per app. I use èxposè a lot to switch between windows and when I have of multiple windows open in multiple apps.

Concentrate on the Solution, not the Problem

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Mouse or trackpad?
Authored by: hamarkus on Jul 13, '06 11:46:20AM

I guess there will be differences between people using a mouse or a trackpad. With the trackpad, I find myself switch between the keyboard and the trackpad quite often and rapidly. With a mouse, I try to stay longer in mouse-only or keyboard-only mode, simply because switching takes so much longer.

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Cmd-Tab or Cmd-`
Authored by: interlard on Jul 13, '06 12:11:14PM

I've tried other apps, but I keep coming back to Cmd-Tab (for apps) or Cmd-` (for document windows).

Sadly (as others have said), I didn't get to vote in the survey. It just showed me the results.

Either there's a cookie bug or it registered a vote for me. I'd be sad if all these poll results were skewed due to a bug.

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MacOSX fails here
Authored by: rocteur on Jul 13, '06 12:31:24PM

I use command tab but this is where MacOSX sucks bit time.. You command tab to iTues and you have to hit extra keys to get iTunes.. Mail is the same..

Really stupid.

P.S. So is the poll, sorry Rob ;-)

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Using lots of methods
Authored by: tjnugent on Jul 13, '06 01:21:46PM
Hmm, let's see which methods I use:
  • command-tab
  • clicking on a window
  • DragThing (clicking on Process Dock)
  • DragThing (hot key combination)
  • Quicksilver
  • Expose (rarely)
Wow, I'm not sure if the diversity of that list says more about me or about the options available... I've tried some of the other options (e.g., Witch), but wound up not keeping them.

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command-tab vs. Witch
Authored by: logo on Jul 13, '06 02:26:26PM

I voted for command-tab.

Just today i discovered Witch from your article over at

May become my favorite


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A different solution
Authored by: PopMcGee on Jul 13, '06 03:22:50PM

I've scripted my own solution: My 20 most often used programs are available with 1 keypress-combo, which works both for switching and starting them up (when they are not yet running). Once you get this setup up+running, it becomes second nature:
Ctrl-Shift-Space: Finder
Ctrl-Shift 1: Safari
Ctrl-Shift 2: Mail
Ctrl-Shift 3: BBEdit
(all numbers from the numberpad)

I'm using iKey (got it while it still was free) and was up and running after about 15 minutes. Really recommomended setup.

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In defense of Expose
Authored by: terceiro on Jul 13, '06 05:30:12PM

I used Exposť rarely but occasionally in the past. About two months ago, I set up Exposť to operate with the cursor. On a Powerbook, I just fling the cursor down to the lower-right corner and get everything minized and then click what I need. While I'm typically a keyboard-centric guy, this works for me. So that makes me cmd-tab about 40% of the time, Exposť 40% and 20% just clicking the edge of the window I see sticking out.

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Authored by: starwxrwx on Jul 13, '06 06:40:32PM

cmd-tab! unless my hand is on the mouse then its clickin' on the dock all the way

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Expose all the way
Authored by: doneitner on Jul 13, '06 07:43:10PM

The poll is not very intuitive -- I'm glad someone posted already to say that the votable poll is on the right-hand side near the bottom of the page, otherwise I would have left in disgust at being unable to vote for Expose.

Expose, by the way, is the Killer Feature(tm) that convinced me to buy a Mac. Nothing in history has been so incredibly useful for everyday work. I find myself trying to use it in Windows at work and staring at the screen wondering why nothing's happening.

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Exposť w/ Hot Corners mostly
Authored by: solipsism on Jul 14, '06 03:39:42AM

I love this feature. I often have 50 or more windows open. Mainly Safari windows after I open all new RSS Feeds from RSS Using Exposť w/ Hot Corners makes it easy to peruse the topics quickly and easily.

Lower-left corner: show all windows
Lower-right corner: show desktop
Upper-left corner: password protected screensaver for a quick lockdown
Upper-right corner: Dashboard (though I probably use a widget once a month at most)

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Expose for me
Authored by: juz10mac on Jul 14, '06 08:27:55AM

Expose, lower right-hand hot corner. In my opinion there is nothing easier than with the flick of a mouse seeing everything laid out in front of you, then a click and you are in any application you please!

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What about Command-`
Authored by: modifiedbagelcar on Jul 14, '06 02:16:37PM

Witch sounds interesting, but I use Command-` for window switching and Command-Tab for app switching

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Authored by: hazkid on Jul 14, '06 08:40:39PM

I got fed up with expose keyboard shortcuts. i use hot corners so much i try to use them on PCs!


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LiteSwitch Universal Beta
Authored by: ubiquitin on Jul 16, '06 03:06:35PM

If you email mat at Proteron and he will email you a Universal Binary beta of LiteSwitch to try out.

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Method missing from poll: Butler and its Apps menu
Authored by: hibbelig on Jul 17, '06 12:25:50AM

I have configured Butler to show a menu of currently running applications when I hit Alt-Clover-/.

Then Alt-Clover-/ ema Return takes me to Emacs and Alt-Clover-/ thu Return takes me to Thunderbird and so on.

I have also configured Butler to show a menu of all available applications when I hit Alt-Clover-Return. So Alt-Clover-Return thu Return will also do well for Thunderbird whether it is already open or not.

I am not sure why I still keep both bindings around.

(Why does the preview get cut off at the first apostrophe or comma? I have rewritten my text to do without them.)

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Authored by: Peganthyrus on Jul 18, '06 08:24:19AM

It kinda depends, really. I'll apple-tab between apps when I have my hand off the stylus. I'll click on windows to switch between some things. Less so now that I have a 15" Powerbook instead of a G4 hooked to a 19" monitor - windows get lost under each other a lot. And I'll hit the dock to do things like read new mail. And when I want iTunes, I use a shortcut I made in Quicksilver that brings it up.

I don't have a sense that I really use one of these as my primary method; it depends a lot on the context.

Based on some of the comments here I decided to bind Expose/all windows to the lower right screen corner as an experiment. I like it but I never use it, since f9 = keyboard brightness down on the Powerbook! Screen corners don't really work very well when you use a tablet; they change from an infinitely large target to a somewhat finicky thing.

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Prefer LiteSwitch, but...
Authored by: jecwobble on Jul 19, '06 02:31:17PM

I have a new Intel iMac and LiteSwitch won't work. I'm living with Apple's built-in command-tab switching and the Dock until a uni-bin comes out. If Apple would just let me drop a doc on an app's icon when command-tabbing, I would be content.

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iKey Rocks
Authored by: peterrosen on Jul 22, '06 06:38:40AM

I can't believe iKey is not mentioned by anyone. That plus Applescript rules my Mac world! And, command tab is a close second. Try iKey!

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The ABSOLUTE best app switcher ever was...
Authored by: tmarkt on Jul 22, '06 01:29:54PM

TASKMENUBAR! This great classic app put an icon of an opened app into the menubar. So if you opened 5 apps, it put the 5 app icons in the menu bar where you could quickly glance at it to see what was opened. With ONE hand, all you had to do was click on an icon in the menubar to get to that app. If you double-clicked on an icon in the menubar, you got that app AND hide all other apps.

I've never used an easier app switcher since.

I've emailed the author of that shareware a couple of times asking if he'd make a version for OS X but he says he's happy with the dock.

On a final note, somebody in another post in this site I think said that you could configure Butler to load opened app icons into the menubar. If this is true, it may be a good substitute for taskmenubar.

- Mark

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Authored by: garbanzito on Aug 07, '06 03:55:59PM

surprised LiteSwitch polled so low -- it's a big improvement on the built-in cmd-tab; maybe the poll wording made it ambiguous; and of course LiteSwitch is now universal, but wasn't when the poll was launched

i use LiteSwitch for switching among running apps, including lots of drag & drop onto the app icons (which built-in can't do) and a fair amt of quitting of background apps

i use DragThing for most app launching, organized as a single multi-tab dock at bottom of screen; i use expose sometimes, but more often to see all the windows for a single app; i touch Dock only maybe once a week

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Authored by: styrafome on Aug 13, '06 01:36:49PM

LiteSwitch probably has a low user base because it isn't free. I have a lot more useful shareware that I paid for that cost less than fifteen bucks.

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My Ultimate Solution
Authored by: wordsofwisedumb on Aug 08, '06 10:00:10PM

I use command+tab for most of my application switching, but I am very fond of mouse gestures and use xGestures heavily. I have tried my hardest to configure a mouse gesture that would involve right clicking then scrolling the scroll wheel while still right clicking. I would like this gesture to bring up the command+tab bezel and scroll through the apps listed, but I cannot get it to work. Controller Mate has allowed me to get the closest, but it still does not behave as it should. If anyone has any suggestions as to how to do this I would love to hear them!

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