Improving Mac App Switching With LiteSwitch X

Mac OS X provides many ways of switching apps; Exposé, Spaces, the Dock, customizable “Hot Corners”, and the old school Windows-like app switcher that opens up with Cmd+Tab. The app that we are reviewing today aims at improving this built-in app switcher, and make it more functional, especially for users that are used to Windows’ classic app switcher.

Keep reading to find out why this app has the potential to improve the way you switch between apps, and how it can help to simplify your computer workflow by helping you focus on one application at a time.

Getting Started

LiteSwitch X installs directly into System Preferences, and everything you need to change about it will be there. The first thing you’ll want to do will be enabling the app, and to do so the app will need to restart your dock.

Once you have enabled it, you should choose which combination of keys you want to use to open LiteSwitch X. The default one is Cmd+Tab, since that is also the one used in the built in app switcher. Right below the keys option you’ll see an option that allows you to choose how LiteSwitch handles windows, which we’ll get to next.

Getting Started

Getting Started

Handling Windows

This is a setting that allows you to choose how you want LiteSwitch to manage windows. It’s broken down into two parts, the first one lets you choose how windows behave when you open them from LiteSwitch. It has two options, “One window forward” and “All forward”.

It took me a while to fully understand this, but it means that if you have two windows open of the same app, in the “one forward” mode LiteSwitch will only bring up the top, or most important window of the app, while on the “all forward” mode, it will bring up all the open windows of the app. I’m not sure how LiteSwitch chooses which window is more important, but it works.

The second part of this setting manages how windows behave every time you open them, whether it’s from LiteSwitch X or not. There are four options here, the first one is the Classic choice, which does nothing special. The second one is called the “Classic Finder”, and if active, once you select the Finder app, all of the open Finder windows will come up to the front.

The third option is called “Classic Window” and if active, any app you bring to the front will be brought up with all of its open windows. The fourth and last option is probably the coolest and the most useful. It’s called the “Single App Mode”, and we’ll talk about it next.

The Infamous Single App Mode

This little feature brings this app to a whole other level. What it does is simple, yet very useful. If active, this option hides every app that you are not working on directly. So, if you are working on Safari and you bring up iTunes, Safari (and every other app that isn’t iTunes) will be automatically hidden and iTunes will be brought up to the front. Switch to Safari again, and now iTunes will be hidden.

This feature makes sure you only have one window (or one app) on your desk at all times, to avoid clutter and confusion. It’s pretty great. And not only does it work with the LiteSwitch app, it also works if you open apps just from the Dock.

Single app mode

Single app mode

Other Useful Features

Interface

Interface

LiteSwitch’s advantages over the classic Mac app switcher don’t stop there. There are also a lot of details that make it much more useful. For example, you can modify the size and location of the app switcher overlay. There is a small bar on the bottom of the app switcher that lets you change its size, much like the left-bottom corner of any window on your Mac.

Also, if you grab the app switcher, you can move it wherever you want it to be on your screen and it’ll stay there.

There’s also the keyboard shortcuts. Every time you open LiteSwitch’s app switcher, you have the option to use any of these shortcuts to save time. Some of them include force quitting apps, show/hide an app, showing only a selected app, quitting apps, and many more shortcuts.

If you don’t like memorizing shortcuts (like me), perhaps you’d prefer using your pointer. Good thing you can also use it to double click apps in the app switcher and bring up a bunch of options. Another cool feature is drag and drop directly in the app switcher. Just drag a file, bring up the app switcher, drop the file on another app and you’re done.

Other features

Other features

Exclude List and Advanced Settings

You can also choose apps that you don’t want displayed in LiteSwitch, in a feature that is called “Exclude List”. This is very useful for apps that are always running in the background but that you don’t use often.

For example, I always have Last.fm running in the background, but I never actually open it, so I chose to hide it from LiteSwitch. These apps can be easily changed from the settings if you ever decide to start showing them on LiteSwitch.

There are also a handful of advanced settings that can change the behavior of the app. Under these settings there are some that include a color chooser for the app switcher, showing background apps (cool, but I don’t recommend it), hiding app names, disabling mouse selection and a lot more.

Exclude List

Exclude List

Conclusion

I’ve never been a fan of the app switcher, I have always used Exposé and the dock to switch apps. Even on Windows I could never get myself to use the Alt+Tab thing. If I could get used to it, however, I would totally switch to this app. I might try it just for the Single App mode, and I’ll see if I can get used to using the app switcher at the same time…

What do you use for switching apps? Do you know any apps like this one? Let us know in the comments below!


Summary

LiteSwitch does much more than just improve the built-in app switcher. It also brings more functionality to the behavior of apps.

8
  • http://damojag.posterous.com Damien Gallagher

    Been using Witch – Option + Tab to navigate individual windows

  • Ryan

    This is perfect, just what I’ve been after for a while! Thanks :)

  • Joe

    Ditto to the Witch comment. I wouldn’t be able to work w/o it.

  • http://adrusi.com/ Adrian

    I just discovered a built in shortcut while trying to use cmd-tab to loop between windows of an app. if you press cmd-` (backtick) it will go to the last used window. and press it again to go back another. Unlike cmd-tab if you press it twice it won’t go back to the same one unless you have only one or 2 windows open

  • http://adrusi.com/ Adrian

    I just discovered a built in shortcut while trying to use cmd-tab to loop between windows of an app. if you press cmd-` (backtick) it will go to the last used window. and press it again to go back another. Unlike cmd-tab if you press it twice it won’t go back to the same one unless you have only one or 2 windows open.

    • //adrusi.com/ Adrian

      sorry, didn’t realize I had already posted…

  • EnKayTee

    Suggest you check some of the comments on MacUpdate – seems that the status of this app is a little suspect – looks like the option to purchase no longer works and the general concensus is that this is abandonware…

  • macRocks

    This is truly amazing.

    If you are used to windows style alt-tab switching of windows then go to advanced tab of this app and tick of the option- switching sends reopen command..

  • http://www.twitter.com/danielpholt Daniel

    Been a fan of this app for a while now, and after installing Lion i made sure i downloaded this. However it appears to crash my system upon restart/wake-up.

  • http://beperceived.com Chris Schmitz

    Anyone know if this app is still being developed? I went to buy a license but can’t find an active page on the site to do it. It’s exactly what I was looking for, but the popup to register every half hour or so is getting a bit annoying :)

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    Hello there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this website before but after checking through some of the post I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely delighted I found it and I’ll be bookmarking and checking back frequently!

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