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App Switcher for MacOS X

by Michael Ash
This page last updated January 24, 2003

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A note on Tiger compatibility
Even though App Switcher is completely unsupported at this point, I have been convinced to fix it to work on Tiger. Tiger removes the unsupported hacks that App Switcher uses to detect when the front application changes, meaning it can no longer keep track of the application ordering. However, sometime in the intervening period, Apple added an official way to get these notifications, so it was fairly easy to switch over. You can download the fixed application here. Simply replace the App Switcher.app from your package with this one, and it should work on Tiger. It hasn't been extensively tested, but it ought to work.

A note on Panther compatibility
Panther is almost out, and I thought I'd let anyone who's interested know what's going on with App Switcher.

Apple has seen the light and decided to ship a decent task switcher with the OS, removing the primary motivation for App Switcher. This really is a good thing, it means that we finally have what we want in the OS, instead of needing third-party apps.

That said, App Switcher apparently does still work, so if you're hopelessly attached to it, you should be able to continue using it. But there will probably not be any official Panther version, and most likely 0.9.8 will be the final version of App Switcher.

To anyone who's upgrading, thanks for using App Switcher. To those of you who are not, App Switcher will remain available for you.

App Switcher and PullTab
As of App Switcher 0.9.8, Command-Tab is no longer an option for the hot key because Jaguar does not easily allow programs to steal that combination from the Dock. I've had a few requests to bring back this combination so that App Switcher can be made to work with PullTab, an APE which prevents the Dock from monopolizing Command-Tab.

I'm not planning on a new release, as there are always other things to do, but the good news is that re-enabling Command-Tab in App Switcher 0.9.8 is easy:

  1. Quit App Switcher.
  2. Open the file ~/Library/Preferences/com.mikeash.appswitcher.plist . (This is the file com.mikeash.appswitcher.plist inside the Preferences folder of the Library folder in your home directory.)
  3. Find HotKeyName. Change the value from 'control' or 'option' to 'command'.
  4. Save your changes and restart App Switcher.

That's it! It should work, assuming you've installed PullTab. If you have problems, feel free to contact me.

App Switcher 0.9.8 is out: Jaguar compatibility
App Switcher 0.9.8 adds Jaguar compatibility and Chinese and French localizations. It removes the choice of command-tab for the hot key (I have not been able to make command-tab work in Jaguar). Download now.
Change log.

App Switcher now requires Jaguar. It will probably work under 10.1, but I haven't tested it and don't intend to. Stick with 0.9.6 if you have 10.1. 0.9.8 doesn't add much beyond Jaguar compatibility anyway.

App Switcher is an application switcher for MacOS X similar to Windows' task switcher, or Proteron's LiteSwitch for MacOS 9. If you're not familiar with how it works, you press a key combination (defaults to option-tab) which brings up a window with all of your open programs in it. It stays up while you hold down option, and each press of tab advances to the next program. When you release option, the program you selected comes forward.

This is a lot like the Dock's command-tab feature. The key difference is that App Switcher orders your programs front-to-back, so that a single press of option-tab always gets you to the program you were in before the current one. Two presses gets you to the one you were using before that, etc. (Jaguar's Dock does a similar thing with your first press of command-tab, but afterwards it goes in the order of your icons in the Dock, which is usually not very useful.) It makes switching quickly between a few programs very easy.

App Switcher also allows you to quit, hide, and show running programs from the task window without even bringing them to the foreground. This could be useful for, say, quietly getting rid of that window with the Anarchist's Cookbook while your boss is looking over your shoulder, without letting him know what's going on. There are other uses for this too, of course.

Disclaimers etc.
Just a couple more things, and then we'll get to the download link.

First, this is beta software. My brave users have shown that it doesn't generally do anything evil, but I'm not always the confident type with this kind of thing. In other words, I think it should work fine, but there's no guarantee it won't wipe your hard drive, kill your hamster, write threatening letters to the local Garden Club president, or other things of that nature. It's strictly use at your own risk, although in much the same way that bottled water is use at your own risk.

Second, App Switcher is totally free. Use it as you see fit.

Lastly, App Switcher requires MacOS X 10.2. It'll probably work on 10.1, and maybe even on 10.0.x, but I've never tested it and don't plan to. Also, I've never tested it beyond my PowerBook, so if you have problems, please let me know when, where, and how.

App Switcher is localized for Chinese, English, French, Japanese, although the documentation is only available in English. All languages come in the download.
Download App Switcher 0.9.8 (144K .dmg).
Download App Switcher 0.9.8 (132K gzipped .dmg).

App Switcher 0.9.6 is recommended if you're using 10.1. It supports command-tab, and has been tested under 10.1, so download this if you're still with 10.1. App Switcher 0.9.6 is localized for English and Japanese.
Download App Switcher 0.9.6 (364K .dmg).
Download App Switcher 0.9.6 (296K gzipped .dmg).

As stated at the top of the page, my name is Michael Ash, and my e-mail address is mail@mikeash.com. If you want to see the rest of my web site (which honestly is not so great, and has nothing to do with Macs anyway), click here.

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