Switché: Application Switching on Steroids

With any computer, there are often some personal preferences in the way you work that make you think, “Wouldn’t it be great if only I could work differently in this one area.”

That, presumably, is what the developer of Switché thought about switching between applications. This inspired him to build a piece of software focused on enhancing and adding greater flexibility to the Command–Tab application switching method built into Mac OS X.

Switché introduces greater control to application switching and also presents a stylish Cover Flow view of the applications your computer is running. This review will show the immediate visual impact of using Switché, and also introduce the range of preferences that let you customize it to meet your particular needs.

Getting Started

To install Switché you must be running Snow Leopard (Mac OS version 10.6). Installation involves downloading the DMG file, opening it and dragging the icon to your Applications folder.

In order to work, Switché requires you to have support for assistive devices enabled in Mac OS. You can set this yourself from System Preferences or Switché will do it for you. Once you’ve done that, Switché gives you an opportunity to set your preferences but we’ll take a look at what Switché does before discussing them.

Design

The most immediately obvious effect of using Switché is that when you use Command–Tab, it replaces the normal view with a Cover Flow view:

Command Tab on Steroids!

Command Tab on Steroids!

Looking more closely, you can see the Cover Flow view is not only made up of the application icons like the default view but also shows a thumbnail view of the application window making it easy to switch directly to a particular window in an application when you have more than one open.

Cover Flow Close-Up

Cover Flow Close-Up

Despite the change in visual appearance, Switché follows the same key strokes as the normal application switcher so you can cycle forwards and backwards with Command -Tab and Shift-Command –Tab and still use H and Q to hide or Quit an application respectively

Functionality

Although, as you have just seen, Switché makes an immediate viusal impact on your Mac, the real power of the application becomes apparent when you look at the range of options you can configure in Preferences. We’ll step through the most important and suggest how you might use them.

Firstly, the General Preferences let you choose which keyboard shortcuts you want to use to control Switché’s behaviour – both at the level of applications, and for windows within an application.

General Preferences

General Preferences

Secondly, you can control Switché’s appearance. As well as adjusting the size of the Cover Flow view, you can choose to have it appear full screen. This makes it very easy to view the thumbnails of application windows and thus switch to the right one.

You also have the option to turn on or off window titles, and application names and icons according to individual preference.

Appearance Preferences

Appearance Preferences

Moving on to the Advanced preferences, this is where you can begin to specify behaviour to suit your needs. In particular, you can choose to ignore applications and windows in a particular state – hidden/minimized or without open windows – so you reduce the number of things you cycle between.

Advanced Preferences

Advanced Preferences

Finally, you can set filters. Using this screen, you can choose individual applications from a drop down list of all the applications installed on your Mac and specify how you want them to be handled.

Filters

Filters

Switché also supports keyboard shortcuts for quitting, hiding, closing, revealing and minimizing application windows as you cycle between them. Additionally, it works with Spaces and can (optionally) display the number of the Space in which an application is running.

Rival Application Switchers

The fact that Switché does a very specific job means there isn’t a huge number of competing products. One such, though, is Witch an application that offers a similar feature set and degree of customizability but without Switché’s Cover Flow view and that is priced at $19.

Conclusion

Switché focuses on only a small area of your computer, namely enhancing the application switching experience. However, it achieves this very well both in terms of aesthetics (Cover Flow view is very attractive), and in function.

You are given increased functionality and control compared with the native Mac OS X Command-Tab approach without the need to learn a new set of keystrokes. The only minor drawback is the time it takes to render a Cover Flow view so that there can be a brief but perceptible delay before thumbnail views come into full focus.

Using Alt-Tab in lieu of Command-Tab shows the application icons without thumbnails but doing so negates one of the principal benefits of Switché.

If you run Snow Leopard and you have a serious multi tasking habit, then Switche could be a worthwhile addition to your Mac for simple keyboard based navigation between multiple applications.

You can try Switché free. There is no time limitation, but an occasional pop up window reminds you to upgrade to the full product which is reasonably priced – balancing the quality of the program against the narrow area it addresses.


Summary

Switché is a Snow Leopard-only application that can be used to switch between applications or individual windows, ordered by last use. Switché uses CoverFlow to display previews in a visually appealing way. It helps you easily find the window or application you are looking for.

7
  • Simon

    Just tried the demo. It’s a good idea but just not quite responsive enough compared to the native application switcher.

    One good thing is the ability to ignore hidden apps (which is great for MAMP users) but that’s about it.

    • Rizky Syazuli

      i have to agree.. the cover flow images also looks very blurry at start (but so does Finder’s cover flow anyway :P). hopefully the developer could improve the speed of generating the previews.

      but in general i love this app.. a great eye candy and i could use this to impress my windows friends :P

  • Scott

    Over the years I have tried various “system enhancements” like this at various times and even bought a couple only to abandon them after the novelty wore off. It is my belief that most of these desktop utilities exist because they can, not because they actually bring any great lasting benefits.

    I work with Mac users day-in and day-out providing Mac support for fifteen years. The vast majority of Mac users, even business/professional users and seasoned users, have little need or interest in filling their computers with “gems” and software dood-dads like this typically duplicating features Apple already has provided. There are many useful indie software titles out there and I use more than a few of them, but most users don’t give a rats tail about downloading software to save them two clicks a day, etc. such as this Switché thing. So much of this is for so small a part of the market, I think App Storm would be better off featuring software that actually does more than merely reinventing the wheel.

    These days I make every attempt to use the most default, stock installation possible. This makes it easier to use different machines when necessary, and eliminates much of the configuration time when changing systems. Add-ons such as Switché really gets in a way in that case. As a result, I’ve installed very little additional software and made very few customizations in the past few years. When I use my Mac, I want to get to work on it immediately; the simpler and more standard the installation, the better; the less I need to customize and fuss with it, the sooner I can get down to the good stuff.

    Furthermore…. Sorry, but I have to say that this type of “system enhancement” utility is going to be a thing of the past in the next couple of years as the recent App Store trend continues to change the Mac market place. I bet the vast majority of system add-ons and “enhancements” sold today won’t make it to Mac App Store for violating at least one of the following Mac App Store guidelines:

    2.5
    Apps that use non-public APIs will be rejected

    2.18
    Apps that install kexts will be rejected

    2.26
    Apps that are set to auto-launch or to have other code automatically run at startup or login without user consent will be rejected

    2.27
    Apps that request escalation to root privileges or use setuid attributes will be rejected

    6.2
    Apps that look similar to Apple Products or apps bundled on the Mac, including the Finder, iChat, iTunes, and Dashboard, will be rejected

    6.5
    Apps that change the native user interface elements or behaviors of Mac OS X will be rejected

    I don’t think these guidelines are bad at all if not perfect. It will help stabilize the system, there will be a lot less frustrated users dealing with add-ons causing conflicts and unnecessarily using up CPU resources, stupid stuff like that.

    • Mike P.

      Scott:

      First off, let’s remember two things:

      1) The guideline itself states that it’s a live document and it is going to change as Apple work with developers in various cases.

      2) Steve Jobs himself has clearly said it wouldn’t be the only place to buy Mac apps.

      I’m sure it will be a primary market place for average Mac users, but the Mac market is very different from the iOS market at so many levels. There are just so many factors that make your kind of speculation silly.

      Second, the vast majority of Mac gems are NOT just mere duplication of existing features. Most of them rather complement/add extra functionality for those who need them and help them become more productive and efficient. Seriously, why are you even here if all you ever want to do is to browse web sites and check email and you don’t care about being more productive and efficient? Do you criticize people because they buy a truck and you don’t believe they should need one? Something for you to think about….

  • Joe Cotton

    Witch.

    Nuff said.

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