Currently if I hold ALT + TAB and then while still holding down ALT I press TAB I am able to go between applications in a little view and then when I release all the keys that application and all its windows come to the front.
And this is very useful, but I would like to know if there is a way of switching between individual windows with this keyboard shortcut in the same way rather than grouping windows with an application to switch to?

I am running Ubuntu GNOME 15.10 with GNOME 3.18.

  • 1
    Just a note: Unity desktop has this feature by default.
    – Takkat
    Mar 18, 2016 at 18:21
  • 4
    I still can't believe that Gnome broke AltTab.
    – Manu
    Aug 24, 2016 at 17:43
  • Define a custom keyboard shortcut: alt-tab -> switch-window. No extensions required. Sep 25, 2022 at 14:25

6 Answers 6


You can use Alt+` (the key above Tab) to cycle between windows of the same application.

You can even mix Alt+Tab to cycle between application and Alt+` to cycle between windows of the selected application.

There is an exposition of the rationale in this blog post from Canonical's Didier Roche. It's part of a series discussing the development of gnome integration in Ubuntu 17.10.

  • This works very nicely on MATE. Just mentioning, because it seems the behaviour on GNOME is not as clean. But I get an application-window-only switcher with this combination, exactly as I'd expect
    – Zanna
    Nov 5, 2017 at 19:25
  • You wrote "This works very nicely on MATE". What do you mean with "nice"? Do you mean Alt+TAB switches between windows? My usecase: I want to switch between two terminals with Alt+TAB. I don't want a work-around. I want Alt+TAB.
    – guettli
    Dec 19, 2018 at 8:33
  • This doesn't seem to work on non-Us keyboards... Jan 14, 2020 at 8:57
  • 1
    awfull design choice, quote is all over the place when it comes to international keyboard...
    – Kiwy
    Nov 30, 2020 at 10:43
  • Remember that you can define a custom keyboard shortcut to remap the switch-windows action from alt-` to alt-tab (as described in an answer further down this page) Sep 25, 2022 at 14:24

Alternatetab is just the Extension you were looking for!

Follow the Managing Extensions instructions here in order to activate it (you should read the text before that section too though). As it is a pre-installed Extensions you will only need to activate it (unless you have removed it, in which case you will need to follow the Installing a new Extension section).

So now upon pressing ALT + TAB and then pressing TAB without letting go of ALT (until you have selected the window you want to switch to - then simply release both keys and it will put that window on top) you should be able to switch between individual windows as opposed to applications!

Alternatetab in action

  • You might want to add that the direct web installer option only works from Firefox. Chrome/Chromium (at least for me) shows a message saying a running copy of GNOME cannot be found. Mar 18, 2016 at 16:52
  • @Zacharee1: Is the GNOME sort of integrations plugin not installed and activated in those browsers then?
    – user364819
    Mar 18, 2016 at 21:56
  • I'm not sure. I just know that on Chrome, the website can't detect if GNOME is running. I would guess it's because Firefox comes with a lot of Linux distros, and scripts that do that sort of detection tend to work differently in Firefox and Chrome Mar 19, 2016 at 1:06
  • @Zacharee1: The website itself does not do the detection, it is an plug-in installed by default called Gnome Shell Integration, so if that's not installed in Chrome it won't work.
    – user364819
    Mar 19, 2016 at 12:03
  • 2
    The extension is now deprecated. There is a video in the extension page and also this answer here describes a more easier way. askubuntu.com/a/1154780/970836 Jun 30, 2019 at 7:46

As someone still quite new to Ubuntu, I found the other answers confusing. After a bit of digging I found a simpler solution, as I also want Alt + Tab to toggle through all the open windows, not just through the open applications.

In Ubuntu 18.04, you just need to go the Keyboard settings as shown here Keyboard settings

Then set Switch windows to Alt + Tab. It will automatically disable Switch applications which is assigned that key combination by default.

No extra software required.

  • This is great. In my version of Gnome, I can only use this GUI to map "switch-windows", not "switch-windows-backwards", which is automatically assigned to shift-alt-tab when I do this. This triple-key combo is hard to press, so I like mapping shift-windows-backwards to alt-<key-above-tab>. One can do this using the gsettings commands mentioned @pomsky's answer. Sep 25, 2022 at 14:30

You may use alt+esc combination.

It's not as aesthetically pleasing as alt+tab, it doesn't show the overlay with application icons/windows. But it does the job, it just switches to the next window and so on.

  • 1
    not the thing I want but very nice to know alt esc, it's good!
    – Luke
    Mar 16, 2019 at 11:16
  • There is also no way to abort it (like you can<kbd>alt</kbd>+<kbd>tab</kbd> by pressing <kbd>esc</kbd>), which can get very annoying.
    – Tgr
    Dec 29, 2019 at 0:35
  • Yes, it seems there is no way to abort it, but you can also switch in the reverse direction by pressing <Alt><Shift><Esc>.
    – pomsky
    Dec 29, 2019 at 8:53

This behavior may also be achieved without a GNOME extension. I have found a similar question at Super User that points out how to set the proper GNOME key bindings.

To do it using gsettings:

$ gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.keybindings switch-windows "['<Alt>Tab']"
$ gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.keybindings switch-windows-backward "['<Shift><Alt>Tab']"
$ gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.keybindings switch-applications "['<Super>Tab']"
$ gsettings set org.gnome.desktop.wm.keybindings switch-applications-backward "['<Shift><Super>Tab']"

Using the code above when you press ALT+TAB you'll switch between windows, while pressing SUPER+TAB will get you to switch applications.

dconf-editor allows the same with a graphical interface.

  • I was using this solution and it was working great until today. It seems like a gnome update screw it. Now alt+tab only displays the windows from the latest application I used alt+`. It is quite strange because I even have alt+` disabled on gsettings. I was avoiding to move to Mint+Cinnamon, but this is the last piece of gnome annoyance I could tolerate. I enjoy gnome shell usability, but it is just too unstable for professional use. Mar 15, 2019 at 16:21

alt tab - down-arrow is the way for me.

For example, if I have multiple terminal windows, after pressing alttab if I then press arrow down I get the various windows to pick from with <- and -> arrow keys.

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