HyperSwitch: The New HyperDock For Your Keyboard

HyperDock is a fantastic app that brings some great features from Windows to the Mac. HyperDock’s developer hasn’t been lazing around, though. Next down the pipeline is HyperSwitch, a sister app to HyperDock that relies entirely on your keyboard.

HyperSwitch puts a lot of the great features of HyperDock at your fingertips, quite literally. Though still in beta, this promises to be a great app if its predecessor is anything to go by. Will HyperSwitch manage to dethrone HyperDock? Let’s try it out!

Flip the Switch

All you really need to get HyperSwitch working is to open up the app. If you’ve ever used Command+Tab to switch between apps, you’re already on firm footing, and let’s face it, you’re trying out an app so you can use your mouse less, so you and Command+Tab are probably old chums. Normally, Command+Tab just lets you move among your open applications.

Your app's open windows appear in a tray below the application icon.

Your app’s open windows appear in a tray below the application icon.

With HyperSwitch running, though, tabbing over to an app with open windows will preview them below the application icon, similar to how HyperDock lets you take a peek at your open windows right in the Dock. Use your arrow keys to move around in the previews and select any of those windows, never once having to reach for your mouse. There’s more you can do with HyperSwitch, but everything else will have to be toggled on in the application preferences.

Option+Tab will allow you to move amongst all active windows. This is great because you won’t also have to be sorting through the three or four (or more) apps you have minimized to the Dock and aren’t using right now; you just get what you’re working with at the moment. The windows won’t be separated out by application, either, so it makes it quicker to get to what you want.

HyperSwitch also let's you tab just amongst windows of the maximized applications.

HyperSwitch also let’s you tab just amongst windows of the maximized applications.

There’s also an option to tab amongst the windows for just the active application, but the default shortcut requires you to tap a key that doesn’t appear on any keyboard I’ve ever seen. The only workable option becomes Control+Tab, then, which works nicely. The rogue special character that can’t be typed, at least not easily, may be due in part to the fact HyperSwitch is in beta, so hopefully that will all get fixed eventually and we’ll get better options for creating shortcuts.

Bonus Features

In the App Switcher tab in HyperSwitch’s application preferences, you can decide whether you want window previews to be automatically displayed when you hit Command+Tab or not. If you choose to have the previews, they’ll display on their own when you tab to an application. With this option turned off, you’ll have to use the down arrow key to get to your window previews. Set a delay if you do turn on previews; the default is 300 ms.

Control iTunes from HyperSwitch, too.

Control iTunes from HyperSwitch, too.

A great bonus is the ability to open a new window with the up arrow key. With the HyperSwitch app switcher up, highlight the application you need and tap the up arrow. Depending on which application it is, you may be able to do different stuff here; for instance, creating a new window in Google Chrome doesn’t just pop open a new browser window but gives me the choice of also creating a new tab or loading anything from my bookmarks bar. If I’ve got iTunes selected, I can play or pause my music and move to the next or previous track.

Surprisingly Customizable

While it may seem fairly superficial compared to all of the cool stuff you can do with HyperSwitch, there’s a whole set of appearance preferences, too. Change the size of the window thumbnail; small is best if you’re expecting a bunch, but stick to bigger if you need to actually see what’s inside your windows. Lower quality window previews will load more quickly, but you won’t really be able to tell what’s going on; high quality takes longer but you can really see the contents of your app windows.

Set a background color for your window previews, if you’re so inclined. The default is a sort of translucent gray that will match the Command+Tab tray nicely. If you want your preview background to be pink, though, that’s doable. Tap the background color icon and select whatever you want to use. The default is 100% opacity, which may look a bit harsh, so use the opacity slider to make your background more transparent.

There are some pretty great preferences to get HyperSwitch to work just how you want.

There are some pretty great preferences to get HyperSwitch to work just how you want.

The final appearance preference is Dock and menu bar visibility. I’m not a fan of Dock icons, especially for apps I’m not going to be working in a lot or would prefer to have run in the background, so I shut the Dock icon off right way. It’s up to you whether you want the menu bar icon to stay up top or not. If you deselect both, HyperSwitch will restart with Run HyperSwitch in the Background selected. The app will stay out of your way entirely until you hit Command+Tab, but if you need to access the preferences again, you’ll have to launch it from Applications. Because it’s running in the background and you won’t ever see it, don’t forget to add HyperSwitch to your Login Items so it always opens when you log in to OS X.

Final Thoughts

HyperSwitch is just a fantastic little app. There are definitely some kinks to work out, but this is an app still very much in beta. It’s missing a few features of its paid sister app, HyperDock, most importantly window snapping, which automatically resizes windows dragged to the top of the display or either side. Without that, HyperSwitch can’t be a replacement, at least not for people like me who so depend on HyperDock.

Even so, HyperSwitch is still incredibly useful, and I can only imagine how much better it’s going to get. For now, it’s free, but no word on a price when it comes out of beta. We’ll just have to keep our eyes peeled and see what this great app has in store.


Summary

A great app to follow HyperDock. It's still missing a couple of key features but incredibly promising.

9
  • Peter

    A great feature of this app is the “When activating an app without windows, try to open the default window” This is great if you command+tab to an app that has no windows open, but it will also bring a window to the front if it’s minimized. This typically only works if you used the “Hide” command.

  • Chan

    For switching between windows, “CMD + `” or “CMD + ` + shift” works (` is the button above tab and below escape).

    • http://pauladupont.com Paula DuPont

      That’s a nifty shortcut! Thanks!

  • Philippe

    Thanks for pointing that app out. Very cool!

    The “rogue special character” is the @, which on azerty keyboards is right above the tab key (I believe it’s the § key on qwerty).

    • http://pauladupont.com Paula DuPont

      I don’t have that key! I think it may be the ` character above the Tab for me, but it’s next to impossible to get the § character on my US keyboard. (My @ is above my 2 key.)

      It’s fine if the developer wants to use the § character, especially if it’s readily accessible on non-US keyboards, but there should be more options for those of us who can’t get to it. :)

      • Philippe

        Try the key that’s right above the tab key and just ignore what it says. Apple’s keyboard viewer says it’s § when I switch my input from French to U.S. but I guess the author’s plan is to use that key whatever it’s called. That’s the most logical choice from the UI point of view.

        BTW, I found a nice trick that I haven’t seen documented: when you’re previewing a window from another space, pressing the space bar moves it to the current space. Very handy!

  • Greg

    Seems very similar to many tricks’ witch app.

    http://manytricks.com/witch/

    I have used witch in the past, but stopped when upgrading to Lion since the fullscreen apps support in witch is a little flaky.

    hyperswitch looks promising.

    Does the cmd+` switching work in MRU order?

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