Using the OS X Dock as a Command+Tab Replacement

One of the options for switching programs in Mac is using the “Command + Tab.” Doing this brings up the icons of the apps currently running on your Mac, and you can select which one to switch to. It’s quite a handy feature that is often overlooked by many Mac users.

You can also do similar switching directly in the Dock. Although the Dock is primarily made to be accessed by a mouse, Apple also supports accessing it using your keyboard.

The default option to do this is by pressing “Control + F3” (Control + Fn + F3) on your keyboard, but you can also change this keyboard shortcut to your liking in OS X’s System Preferences. You can also add your most frequently accessed apps to your Dock and use this method to access them quickly, thus saving you a bit of time.

To set a different keyboard shortcut for switching apps using the OS X Dock, simply follow the steps below:

1. Open up “System Preferences” from the Apple Menu in the top left corner or by navigating to “Applications -> System Preferences.”

Open up System Preferences.

2. Click on “Keyboard” from the second row of settings.

 Click on 'Keyboard.'

3. In the Shortcuts tab, select “Keyboard” from the pane on the left.

In the Shortcuts tab, select 'Keyboard.'

4. Click on the default keyboard combination of “Move focus to the Dock,” and enter in your desired new key combination.

Click on the default keyboard combination.

Now, using the key combination you entered, you can easily bring the Dock in focus and switch to any program you’d like, provided that it’s included in OS X’s Dock, of course.

Once you enter the keyboard shortcut, you can navigate through all the apps present in the Dock using your keyboard’s arrow keys. To open an app, simply press Enter or the Space bar.

OS X Dock - System Preferences selected.

You can also choose to bring the newly opened app to the front, hence hiding your current app. This can be done by holding down the Option key while pressing the Space Bar to open up the new application.

If you want to open an application like Google Chrome and want to additionally access its contextual menu, you can do so by selecting the icon for the app and pressing the “Up” key on your keyboard. You can navigate through this menu using the arrow keys and by pressing Enter to open your desired selection.

Access an app's contextual menu.

Traditionally, if you want to rearrange the app icons present in the Dock, you’d drag an app icon to your desired position and leave it. However, you can also rearrange your application icons using the keyboard, which is a bit easier.

To do this, press your keyboard combination that you entered before. Use your keyboard’s arrow keys to select an item, then hold down the Option key on your keyboard. Now, if you press the right or left arrow keys on your keyboard, you’ll replace its position with the app on its right or left respectively.

Rearrange apps on the OS X dock.

Similarly, you can also quit applications using this method. To do this, simply select the app you want to quit from the Dock, and press “Command + Q” on your keyboard. This will quit the app, regardless of whether it’s in the front or in the background, without bringing it to the forefront.

You can also hide the Dock completely by using Apple’s default key combination “Command + Option + D.” You can also change this combination by accessing “System Preferences -> Keyboard -> Shortcuts” (Launchpad & Dock) and changing the combination for “Turn Dock Hiding On/Off.” (You can access the Dock to bring it in front using the shortcut we entered above at any time.)

You can also hide the Dock completely.

If you have any questions, tips or queries, be sure to let us know in the Comments below!