The year is coming to a close and that brings holiday gatherings, and family and friends with old sayings from the past. For example, “How many ways can you skin a cat?.” Chances are good, too, that you’ve not given much thought to the answer, because, after all, how many of us have cat skinning experience? Amirite?
The best response to the question probably is to ask a few questions yourself. For example, “How big is the cat?” is high on my list. Another is, “Is the cat dead already?” If not, “What kind of cat is it? “And, “Do I get some help?” Or, “What tools can I use?” For Mac users who have plenty of apps open on the screen, let me ask a similar question. “How many ways can you switch app windows?”
It. Just. Depends.
The number of ways to switch from one app to another on a Mac are many and varied, but most of us use one of two ways. But I have another. The first way is to click on the app’s Dock icon. Whatever app is frontmost goes backwards, and the app whose icon you clicked on comes to the front. Presto! Voila! You’ve just switched from one app to another, though the time-honored click method means you need to move your hand off the keyboard.
The second way is the also time honored Command-Tab keystroke combo. That brings up a row of app icons in the center of the Mac’s screen, and keyboard arrow keys or additional tabbing gets you to the new app you want to view next. Click, done.
Or, add the cleverly designed Mac utility known as Contexts, which promises faster and simpler app window switching, but gives you four different ways to switch. Gesture. Command+Tab. Keystroke. Search.
The first is also the easiest. Contexts has an auto-hiding pop-out sidebar with a list of your Mac’s open apps. Move the Mac’s screen pointer to the edge of the screen, the sidebar pops out, and all you need to do is click on the app to switch to.
Second is Command-Tab. Wait. Isn’t that Apple’s default switching method? Yes, but Contexts version of Command-Tab displays app windows in the order they’re used, and works with apps that have more than one window open.
The next way is to use the keyboard. Press Command-plus-Window-Number. That’s it. Each open app is assigned a number. Command plus that number brings the app window to the front.
Finally, there’s the power user way to switch app windows. This one switches and searches. Press Option-Space and the app panel pops up in search mode. Like Spotlight, simply begin typing the app name and Contexts finds it and brings it forward. Obviously, this method is for Mac users with far too many open app windows, but it works.
I love Contexts because it looks and feels as if Apple integrated the whole thing into OS X. Simple, elegant, sweet, useful, and affordable. Negatives? You have a few new things to learn, but add up all the effort you use now to switch between apps and Context pays for itself.