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How to switch windows with your keyboard (Windows & Mac)

Switching is easier in Windows 11, at least at the moment.
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Published onJanuary 26, 2024

If you’re relatively new to Mac and Windows PCs, or just don’t use them that often, you’re probably interested in learning how to switch windows faster — it might mean the difference between a task taking a minute or 30 seconds, and that adds up in the long run. With that in mind, here’s how to switch windows with your keyboard in both Windows 11 and macOS. If you use these shortcuts often enough, they should eventually become as automatic as breathing.

QUICK ANSWER

  • In Windows, hold down the Alt key, then tap Tab to cycle through open apps. Let go of Alt to select an app or group.
  • In macOS, hold down Command, then hit Tab. While still holding Command, use the left and right arrow keys to select an app. Let go of Command to launch something.

JUMP TO KEY SECTIONS

How to switch between open windows on your Windows PC

Windows 11 Logo

In Windows 11 (and Windows 10, for that matter), the command you’ll be using most of the time is Alt + Tab. What’s important to know here however is that instead of pressing both keys at the same time, you should hold down Alt first and only then hit Tab. You’ll see the Windows app switcher appear, and as long as Alt is still being held down, you can keep tapping Tab to reach the specific app (or app group) you want. When the thing you want to launch is highlighted, release Alt.

A second option is Alt + Esc, which cycles through windows in the order they were opened. We don’t really like this one however, because you probably can’t remember that order, and Windows doesn’t always make it obvious when a window is selected this way. That’s especially true if you have multiple instances of the same web browser open side-by-side.

How to switch between open windows on a Mac

Apple macOS Ventura Stage Manager external display

The Mac’s keyboard shortcuts are superficially similar to Windows, but have some twists. To cycle backwards through apps one at a time, simply hit Command + Tab.

If you want to jump to a specific app:

  • Hold down the Command key, then hit Tab.
  • While still holding Command, use the left and right arrow keys to select an app.
  • Let go of Command to launch that app. To cancel app switching, press Esc, then release Command.