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.
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.
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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