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

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.

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