I don't like the behaviour of the Alt + Tab shortcut, when changing between windows, how can I change to something like OS X where you see a line of icons rather than changing windows?

Alt + Tab on OSX

  • 1
    You can't simply change it, I guess you'd need to install some app to take care of the switching between open windows.
    – Gabriel
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 2:29
  • What don't you like about it? Specifically, what should the alternative add or subtract from the experience?
    – Lewis Goddard
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 8:36
  • 2
    @LewisGoddard I don't like the fact that I have to look at the bottom of the screen to see a list of the available windows. Also, I am much more effective in selecting a new window when I see its icon with a short text rather than the window itself. Commented Aug 9, 2015 at 14:32
  • 1
    Is there any update on this? Also would much prefer a OSX behaviour (or even default Ubuntu behaviour) to how eos behaves.
    – Markus
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 17:16
  • 1
    This is a terrible feature. We need a way to revert to OSX/Ubuntu style alt-tab. It's driving everybody I know running eOS crazy.
    – peterjaap
    Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 14:11

3 Answers 3


It's theoretically possible to change this; Gala (the elementary OS window manager) can be extended by plugins. There even is a plugin changing the Alt+Tab behaviour called gala-alternative-alt-tab.

You can take a look at Tom's (the developer) document, which describes the plugins future features and functionality.

However, as the GitHub page points out, this is alpha software, so there is no package available via repositories and as the last commit was in April, it may not even work at all. Tom has been very busy the past months and this plugin isn't his top priority. So take this information with a grain of salt - It is not recommended to install it on your system.

  • Damn... 1 min too late :), I've deleted my answer and added some additional information to yours.
    – Rafael
    Commented Jul 9, 2015 at 9:41
  • 1
    Much ado about nothing: Plank shows precisely that when you cycle windows with Alt-Tab.
    – user170
    Commented Feb 16, 2017 at 11:45

Detailed step by step guide of how I accomplished the desired behavior:

Download/clone the fork:

git clone https://github.com/jibbo/gala-elementary-alt-tab-switcher

Install dependencies:

sudo apt install cmake build-essential valac libgala-dev libwnck-3-dev libgranite-dev

Execute the commands:

cd gala-elementary-alt-tab-switcher
mkdir build
cd build
sudo make install

Reboot because just executing gala --restart most likely will not suffice

Optional but strongly suggested customization: sudo apt install dconf-editor. Open the dconf-editor and search for elementary-alt-tab. Setup the config as following (if you like my settings):

active-element-scale 1
all-workspaces off
always-on-primary-monitor off
animate off
caption-visible off (the text is looking rather ugly)
dektop-icon-in-switcher off
desktop-in-switcher off
icon-opacity 255
icon-size 48 (64 is pretty good too)
inactive-element-scale 1
indicator-background-color '#ECEFF4'
indicator-border 4
indicator-round-radius 4
indicator-stroke-width 0
preview-in-switcher off
wrapper-background-color rgba(46, 52, 64, 1)
wrapper-padding 16
wrapper-round-radius 8
wrapper-spacing 8
wrapper-stroke-width 0

Tested on elementary os 5.1.3 Hera - pleasant performance and no crashes: switcher.png

UPDATE: Since elementary 6.1 a similar alt-tab switcher is provided by default. Note: in some cases it can cause lagging upon pressing Alt + Shift + Tab, personally I've solved the issue via setting Keyboard -> Switch Layout -> Both Shift keys together option.

  • Frequently freeze desktop, OS 5.1.7. I tried with default settings, no luck.
    – shantanu
    Commented Mar 4, 2021 at 7:01

In addition to @daGO's answer , at elementary hera i had to tinker with these settings via dconf-editor built-in search functionality to avoid getting the switcher and the whole DE in a freeze

  • desktop-icon-in-switcher off
  • desktop-in-switcher off
  • Can you edit your answer to expand on this? Where do you make these changes? I've done some digging online to find this information, but there's nothing from the last 10 years to suggest how one might switch these off ...
    – matigo
    Commented Dec 1, 2021 at 1:00
  • @matigo i suggested using searching rather than an absolute path within dcnof-editor to avoid the inconsistencies between different distributions that maybe be using pantheon DE .
    – xquilt
    Commented Dec 1, 2021 at 10:09

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