While Mac OS X Jaguar markedly improved Alt-Tab Alt-Ternatives-Tabbing your way between applications, there’s still plenty of room for enhancement.
It’s such an innocent key combination:
Tab. Easy to say, easy to do, easy to type. Innocent it may be, but embroiled with controversy is this little key command; sure, it switches you to the next open application (and
Shift-Tab sends you to the previous one), but still people clamor for more. They want a smart switcher — one that goes in order of application usage, not Dock order, or even one that understands individual windows within a single application.
In previous versions of OS X, it was easy for software to override the Alt-Tab Alt-Ternatives
Tab behavior, allowing previous usage order to be mimicked with third-party software. To add more fat to the fire comes this warning from Keyboard Maestro’s latest release: Apple has disabled Keyboard Maestro’s (and any other third-party application’s) ability to override the
Tab keystroke from the Dock and replace it with other functionality.
In fact, it’s not the Alt-Tab, per se, that’s at issue. It’s the Mac concept of windows belonging to applications rather than existing semiautonomously that causes unrest. While hopping from Mail to Internet Explorer (IE) to BBEdit is a snap, it’s simply impossible to alternate between, say, Google residing in its own IE windows and Document1 in Word. Some applications do provide their own local keyboard shortcut
~ in both IE and Mail — but this is a rarity and varies from application to application. Other applications assign windows to
keys, but who the heck can bear all that in mind while actually trying to get some work done.
At heart, there are two issues: Jaguar (but not previous releases of OS X) allows you to
Tab to go to your previously used application, and applications, not the windows within them, are
Tab destinations. Some attempts have been made to alter