OS X: Switching Quickly Between Open Windows

| TMO Quick Tip

Here’s a keyboard shortcut that I use all day, every day (really), and if you aren’t aware of it, it could speed up your workflow considerably. You know how you can click on the Window menu in most applications to see what you have open and switch to a different window if you need to? Here’s what that looks like in Safari…

…and here’s Mail:

So if I'm working on "test message" there, and I want to go back to my Inbox, I use the Window menu, right? Or Exposé? Well, the shortcut Command-Tilde (~) switches between any windows you’ve got open in your current application, and I think it's much faster than either of those methods. You can use it to pop back and forth between messages you’re composing, different Pages documents you're working on, Finder windows, Safari windows, and so on. If you don't see what you're looking for, just continue holding down the Command key and tapping Tilde until you get to the window you want.

Not sure where the Tilde key is? In most cases, it’ll be on the left side of your keyboard just above Tab.

And for what it’s worth, Apple calls this the Command-Accent keyboard shortcut. I admit that I bear a little anger toward them for the fact that this shortcut won't work in full-screen mode, so I reserve the right to call it what I like. Nyah nyah.

Popular TMO Stories


Lee Dronick

Apple calls it an accent character and not tilde? This a ` situation!


Very nice tip, Melissa.

You remind me that I seldom use keyboard shortcuts, primarily because I can never remember them and find swiping or reaching into the dock just about as quick. Perhaps this will inspire me to engage the board.

Ken Trajanowski

Calling it a “Command-~(tilde)” insinuates that the shift key is needed.  Better stick with Apple’s description and not think you’re smarter than them.

Melissa Holt

Lee, you’re hilarious, as always. grin

Thanks, wab95! I use keyboard shortcuts all the time—it’s just so much faster to do so rather than moving my hands to the mouse or trackpad. If you’re curious, Apple maintains a list of the available shortcuts at this link: http://support.apple.com/kb/ht1343


Melissa Holt

Hey Ken,

Oh, I certainly don’t think I’m smarter than any of the fine folks at Apple! I mostly intended it as an easier way for folks to remember what the shortcut is. After all, I think far fewer people know what the Accent key is than the Tilde key. But you’re completely correct in noting that “Command-Tilde” implies the Shift key is needed.



I’ve tried this shortcut on two different systems and neither of them respond to it running Mavericks. With or without the shift key.  Is this done in Mountain Lion or older operating system? The only way I know to switch between apps and using the keyboard is the command tab way.
Anyone else with Mavericks tried this shortcut and does it work?

Melissa Holt

Hey there jhorvatic,

I’m running Mavericks, and it’s working fine for me. Keep in mind that this isn’t for switching between apps; it’s for switching between *windows* in the same app. So if you only have one window open in whatever you’re using, the shortcut won’t do anything at all.

Hope that helps!



It works for me using Mavericks on a MBP (mid-2012) core i7. As Melissa said, it switches windows in the same app.


Many thanks for the shortcut reference. You might make a keyboard shortcut power user out of me, yet.

Paul Goodwin

Great tip. Years ago I copied Apple’s keyboard shortcut document and put it on my desktop. I had forgotten about this one. I’ll have to go look at that file again. I think I put it on my desktop way back in the OS 10.1 days. I wonder how many are still valid. Thanks for the URL to their file.

And what does it say about a person who finds and saves a great helper file like Apple’s shortcuts, then only looks at it once every three years or so?

“The mind is a terrible thing.”.... Dan Quayle.


And, FWIW the Keyboard Preferences will show you the list of all shortcuts and allows you to customize them.

Log in to comment (TMO, Twitter or Facebook) or Register for a TMO account