You Got A Question? Ask    GNOME Community!

Seven Alt+Tabs for Gnome Shell 3.6 ..and Counting :)

This post was made with an older stylesheet

a quick tip!

You can fire an App in the next Workspace by Middle Click on the dash. You can fire a new instance of an app with Ctrl+Click on the dash.

switching between apps

There are two ways to switch apps, by picking apps in Overview or the traditional (and much quicker) way by using Alt+Tab. I want to spend some time to refer in the meaning of workspaces. A workspace isn’t just an empty place to throw some windows because the current (workspace) one is full. Workspace is here to help us to arrange our working (or pleasure) environments into virtual screens.

A typical example of me; I use the first workspace for running browsers (googling, tutorials, emails etc), second to run an IDE, third to run terminals and  fourth just for YouTube. I can easily switch between workspaces with Ctrl+Alt+Arrows and Desktop Scroller Extension. The point is that I *always* know what I have in each Workspace.

It makes perfect sense to me when I am using Alt+Tab to stay on the current workspace!

default Alt Tab

Could be the reason to drop Gnome3, I can’t used to it. When I Alt+Tab I just pray to pick the right App. Alt+”~” is even worse for me, you need to be fully aware what application you run, in what workspaces and how many instances from each App. Just sick..!!

Alt+Tab: Switches between applications but not windows within an application, and cycle in every workspace.

Alt+~:  Switches between windows within an application. It can be used in paraller with Alt+Tab.

Mouse Support: Yes

Options: None

LinuxLex Alt-Tab Switcher

This could be good, but it isn’t. It switches between windows in the current workspace and also shows the rest workspaces. However if you pick another workspace the Switcher is closing and you have to reopen it.

Alt+Tab && Alt+~: Same behavior

Mouse Support: Yes

Options: None


Coverflow Alt-Tab

The most impressive Alt-Tab; it switches between windows in all workspaces. If there was an option to set it only for the current workspace that it would be really cool! Also it misses mouse support.

Alt+Tab && Alt+~: Same behavior

Mouse Support: No

Options: None


Windows Alt Tab

Simple name, normal behavior. It switches between windows on the current workspace.

Alt+Tab: Switches between windows

Alt+~:  Preview the current App

Mouse Support: No


  • Select Window Display:  None /Bring window to frond
  • List Thumb:  Preview / Icon
  • Window Size: Set the preview size in Pixels


Altenate Tab

This is another good extension similar to Windows Alt-Tab. It switches between applications in all workspaces, but optionally it can switch only on the current workspace. This is what I use.

Alt+Tab && Alt+~: Same behavior

Mouse Support: Yes


  • Thumbnail Only: On/Off
  • Application Icon Only: On / Off
  • Thumbnail and Application Icon: On/Off
  • Show only Windows in the current workspace: On/Off


I couldn’t install these two, so I just refer them (Sorry devs!). By the way I am using Gnome 3.6.

Power alt tab

Replace alt tab behavior, iterate over available workspaces and windows


Alt Tab Workspace

A replacement for Alt-Tab, cycles through apps on current workspace only.



I hope to see better Alt+Tabs, specially an improved Coverflow with some options! It is a shame that Gnome doesn’t promote the extension page a bit more, there are so many great extensions there, and some people have completely leave Gnome because they don’t know about this page. What a pity..

This is how these extensions are today. Because authors regularly update them, things can be different in a few days!

where gnome shell extensions are stored?

If you installed them with a package manager you will find them at:


If you have installed them from the Gnome page you will find them at:


Under /usr/ are globally visible. You can safely remove them and install them under your home.

You might also find them under -if you have compiled them:


Havoc Pennington

Havoc is a Red Hat developer that also works in Gnome. He has printed an interesting article about Task Switching issues in Desktop and specifically in Gnome3. You can read this on his blog “Desktop Task Switching Could Be Improved“.

  We can't watch comments unless G+ provides an API or if you send a notification, e.g +World Of Gnome
     Sometimes is better to place your questions on GNOME Community
  • Denis

    You missed one, Alex. There is one which instead of drawing icons on top like any other ALT+TAB switcher, it changes to overview mode and uses actually the dash for the icons and switches from app to app in overview. Pretty cool and intuitive

    • alex285

      The link?

      • Denis

        My brain is the link =) lol

    • Ian Brunelli

      I know what you mean! Something like they do here, right?

      • Denis

        Yes…exactly =) you read my mind

        • Ian Brunelli

          I think this would look great!

  • Oktoras

    I really LOVE the Gnome 3 default alt+tab behaviour. So no need for any extensions for me.

    • JJ

      I also completely love gnome ALT+TAB

      • alex285

        You (both) either don’t use many Apps/Windows/Workspaces or you are really smart guys! Default Alt+Tab requires an extra thinking, that I personally cannot make it :)

  • sllih

    Thank you Alex for this post. If I remember correctly, task switching, especially via overview, was the most significant problem pointed out by reviews of GNOME 3.0. I assume GNOME Desing Team is busy with many new challanges, but I think that incessant work on such fundamental aspects is very needed. Recently I read great post by Havoc Pennington: Highly recommended.

    • alex285

      Thanks for sharing this, I attached it in the end of the post!

  • Philip Witte

    The fact that default alt-tab doesn’t switch between windows of the same application is very annoying to me. For instance, often I’ll have two MonoDevelop windows open, but I can’t switch between them… or, another example, I’ll open the “user settings” window in Blender but can’t alt-tab between it.

    Now, admittedly, the first problem is easy to work around because GS has such great activity management and navigation, I just place the second MonoDevelop window on a separate activity and swith with those controls… however, this can be annoying because I can’t (yet) drag-arrange Workspaces themselves, so if I’ve already got windows open in the activity below, I have to go through the steps of moving them out of the way for the new mono-develop window individually.

    • Stiph

      Why do you not use the alt+”key above tab” shortcut to cycle between windows of the same application? I use it a lot and love it!
      You’ll quickly get addicted to it ;)

      To take your example, I develop with Eclipse and usually have two windows too (the IDE + the program I test), and when I use Alt+”key above tab”, I can not go to an other program by error, so I do not even look at the switcher: I think this is a killer feature and it’s really smart to have two shortcuts for distinct things.

      • Philip Witte

        The problem is usually I forget and just hit alt-tab (i use alt-tab a bit), so it’s annoying to have to remember to use the other one. My mind automatically just associates “last window” with alt-tab, but I guess if you get used to it I can see the benefit for sub-window switching.

        For now, I just use the Alternative Tab extension and everything works great.

      • Ian Brunelli

        So much thank’s for you!
        I was trying to press “Alt+~” to switch between windows of the same application, but it was not working.
        The problem is my keyboard is ABNT2, and the key above tab is ‘…

  • Ubuntu 12.10 user

    I have really gotten to like the Default behavior. I just have to think for a moment where I am going, to another application (alt-tab), or to another window of the same application (alt-key above tab). I wish I could make my office computer switch this way.

    The issue for me is that the instant I am switching across two or three workspaces the pattern breaks: Alt-Tab will not take me immediately back to the last Application but only to the last Application on this workspace. Does anyone know of an extension that will fix this?

    • alex285

      > The issue for me is that the instant I am switching across two or three workspaces the pattern breaks..
      Not as far as I know ..and I agree that is the worst part of the default Alt+Tab.

  • ScionicSpectre

    You know what I do? It’s kind of like cheating, but it’s great- middle clicking on the titlebar (when visible) sends the window to the back, so if you don’t know quite what layout you’ll be using for that workspace yet, or you just have an extra utility window open, you can use that to move things around quickly when using a mouse. I don’t really use Alt+Tab at all these days, honestly- the scale effect in the overview is less abstract to me. Of course, there have been discussions in the past about making the way of temporarily ‘throwing a window away’ easier or more integrated. We’ll see how things evolve, but as it stands GNOME’s Alt+Tab is still one of my favorites due to its simplicity.

  • Pingback: An Alternative Windows Switcher might come in Gnome 3.8 | woGue()

  • emerino

    Hello, I’m the author of the PowerAltTab extension, recently the extension has been updated to work with gs 3.6 and can be installed through the gnome shell extensions website, it’ll be nice to see a review about it in this article :)