How to Keep Your Application Window “Always on Top” in Mac

mte-keep-afloat-featured

This post was first published in July 2008 and was updated in January 2017.

Most, if not all, Linux distro come with the “Always on top” feature that allows you to pin an application window on top of others. For macOS, this insanely useful feature was not available by default but can be added with the help of the Afloat application.

Afloat is a simple application that adds the “Always on top” solution to macOS. It makes use of SIMBL (short for SIMple Bundle Loader) which is an application enhancement loader for Mac OS X that allows third-party developers to modify and add functionality to applications developed with the Cocoa environment without access to the source code.

In this article we will show you how to install and use Afloat in macOS Sierra.

Installing SIMBL

Afloat requires SIMBL to work. There are various sources for SIMBL out there, and the one that I found to work in macOS Sierra is mySIMBL.

1. Go to mySIMBL’s Github page and download the latest version of mySIMBL.

2. Extract the “mySIMBL_master.zip” file. You should now see a mySIMBL app.

afloat-extracted-mysimbl-app

3. Double-click on it to run it. A window will pop up to ask if you want to move it to Applications. Click “Move to Applications folder.”

afloat-install-mysimbl-move-to-applications-folder

4. Next, it might show another popup prompting you to update/install SIMBL. Click “Install.”

afloat-install-mysimbl

In some instances the installation might not be able to be carried out due to Mac’s System Integrity Protection. You will have to disable System Integrity Protection before you can run the installation.

To disable System Integrity Protection:

  • Reboot your Mac. When the startup screen shows up, press and hold the “Command + R” keys until the Apple logo appears on your screen.
  • Once it finishes loading and brings you to Recovery Mode, click “Utilities -> Terminal.”
  • In the Terminal window type in csrutil disable and press Enter.
  • Restart your Mac.

Note: to re-enable System Integrity Protection, repeat the above steps but change the command to csrutil enable. It is recommended to re-enable System Integrity Protection after installing mySIMBL.

Installing Afloat

1. Now that you have installed mySIMBL, go to this Github page and download the whole Afloat repository.

afloat-download-afloat-repo

2. Extract the zip file and open the folder in Finder. Navigate to the “bundle” folder. You should see two files: “Afloat.bundle” and “SIMBL-0.9.9.pkg.”

afloat-bundle-folder

3. With the mySIMBL application still running, drag and drop the “Afloat.bundle” file to the mySIMBL app window. Ensure that Afloat appears in the mySIMBL Plugins window and that there is a green dot next to it.

afloat-installed-successfully

4. Restart your Mac. Afloat should be working now.

To make your app window “Always on Top,” click on the “Window” option in the menu and select “Keep Afloat.”

afloat-activation

Do note that Afloat doesn’t work on all applications (for example, Firefox). It only works for applications with support for SIMBL, so don’t be surprised when you don’t see the “Keep Afloat” function.

Other than keeping afloat, you can also set the transparency of your application window. Set it via the “Window -> Transparency -> Translucent” menu.

afloat-transparency

The “Always on Top” feature has helped me to improve my productivity by keeping the necessary information always available so that I don’t have to switch the application window every time. Thanks to Afloat, you can now add the “Always on Top” feature to Mac and have better productivity.

8 comments

  1. Thanks for the detailed information! Keeping a window always afloat is an absolutely necessary element for notetaking while researching multiple sources simultaneously. Surprising that it is not a part of the standard OS.

  2. The directions were very accurate and I had Afloat up and running in no time––thanks for the great information. I did want to install Afloat for an application (Excel) which doesn’t support it, though, so I wish the warning that it wouldn’t work for all applications were stated before I went through the hassle of installing (I remember using Afloat years ago and it seemed to work on all applications then?)

  3. so i follow through all these steps and it worked fine last night, but after i re-enable SIP, this morning i woke up my mac and couldn’t find Afloat in Windows(even though in mySIMBL Afloat is in green light). Does this mean mySIMBL/Afloat will only work when i disable SIP? but idk is it safe to disable SIP from now on just because i want to use Afloat?

  4. Thanks for your download instructions and really useful app. This lets me place a guitar tuner app over a score on the screen while practising music. If I want to change the score, the tuner stays on top. Really useful when you have a musical instrument on your lap. Another useful feature is to be able to leave the tuner slightly translucent, but to go opaque (fully on top) if I click on it. To do this, go to Window.. Adjust Effects.. Adjust Translucency on the slider, and tick the ‘Make it opaque while I’m working on it’ box

  5. Thank you so much for this super easy to follow tutorial. I used to use Afloat all the time, but it disappeared with some system update or another. Welcome back old friend!

    I still don’t understand why Apple has not implemented their own version of this into their OS. It’s such an essential feature. But I guess, as always, the answer to that question is because… Apple.

  6. This is really great! I have been looking for such an app for quite some time. Simble does not want to install though. I suppose the fact that I have got filevault active might have something to do with it? In that case do you think it would work if I disable filevault, disable System Integrity Protection, try installing simble and afloat and then enable System Integrity Protection and Filevault again?

    Cheers and thanks for your thoughts on this.

Comments are closed.

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