When I use ALT+TAB to cycle through my apps I would like to have icons for all my open browsers. I use the ` (Grave or the key above TAB) but I really find that hard to use.

Anyway I can just use ALT+TAB only?


8 Answers 8


Here is my solution:

  1. Install compizconfig-settings-manager and open it (type ccsm in terminal).

  2. Go to Desktop > Ubuntu Unity Plugin.

  3. Open Switcher tab and make key to start the switcher and key to start the switcher in reverse disabled.

  4. Go back to CompizConfig Settings Manager.

  5. Go to Window Management and enable Application Switcher.

  6. Open Application Switcher and change key bindings of "Next Window (All windows)" to Alt-Tab and "Prev window (All windows)" to Shift-Alt-Tab.

Then you will start to use a different switcher instead of Unity's switcher.

  • 2
    The application switcher seems gone in Ubuntu 12.10.
    – levesque
    Feb 13, 2013 at 17:07
  • 1
    You have to install compiz-plugins in Ubuntu 12.10 Mar 11, 2013 at 19:22
  • 4
    Window Management seems not present in 14.04 Jul 25, 2014 at 9:40
  • 4
    I am frustrated by this, especially for browser. I usually have 4-5 browser windows open which I switch between pretty frequently. Here each time I have to switch I have to wait half a second on browser icon in switcher which then shows all browser windows which I can then switch between. Windows does this straight. And I am surprised I have to follow so many steps and in fact install another software for a basic feature which should have been properly implemented in OS itself.
    – Mahesha999
    Apr 26, 2017 at 15:52
  • 2
    18.10, nothing like that. I wonder who thought this annoying, non standard behaviour would be a good idea... Oct 3, 2018 at 20:02

The other option -which I'm testing out this week- is to have the ALT+TAB switch between apps, and ALT+| switch between windows of the same app. It sounds complicated but it works surprisingly well.

Use case A: You're on Firefox and want to switch to Thunderbird: ALT+TAB.

Use case B: You're on a Calc window and want to switch to another Calc window: ALT+|.

In B, you could use the old way of ALT+TAB, where it cycles through all your windows, but it can take a while to do that if you have more than a few windows open. With this thing, you always know where you want to go, and choose the quicker way to get there.

I choose | because it's just above TAB, so my brain and my finger don't need to move very far.

To enable this: System Settings > Keyboard > Shortcuts > Navigation > Switch windows of an application (it's just underneath Switch applications, which is how I found it).

Easy to test, safe, easy to revert, no need to install anything.

  • 8
    The same behaviour seems enabled by default with ALT + the key between ESC and TAB (which is ² for AZERTY layout), at least in 14.04. Aug 30, 2015 at 10:40
  • On my system, the within-app switching key is Alt-`.
    – jdpipe
    Aug 9, 2018 at 2:27

Just thought I would share this since I tried to follow the accepted answer but couldn't find the Ubuntu Unity switcher. I'm running 18.04 and I was able to change the alt-tab behavior by:

  1. going to settings->devices->keyboard
  2. scroll down to the shortcut for "Switch Windows" (under the "Navigation" section)
  3. change the shortcut for Switch Windows to alt-tab

This will overwrite the shortcut for "Switch Applications" which is the default behavior for alt-tab

  • That's because Ubuntu 18.04 uses GNOME instead of Unity. You need to follow this Q&A instead: askubuntu.com/q/747541/480481
    – pomsky
    Feb 18, 2019 at 9:30
  • 1
    This is what i needed for 18.04, thanks a million
    – element11
    May 20, 2020 at 13:45
  • Gnome 3.38.2 here. I'm glad I found this answer; I think it's now the best answer to the question. When you change it to use Switch Windows, it even pops up a dialog box warning you that this will disable the Switch Applications functionality. Which is precisely what we want it to do
    – Kim
    Dec 14, 2020 at 3:05

Before installing anything, try these key combinations:

  • alt + | (the key above Tab, may be `, º, |...) to switch between instances of the current application
  • alt + ESC to direct switch to the next window
  • alt + Tab, of course, to switch between different applications

You can see the three keys are neighbors.

  • 1
    The idea of the original question is not to use the "new" way of alt tabbing. I get cramp in my fingers when i do these combos.
    – Jepzen
    Jul 10, 2018 at 12:54
  • 1
    non-standard, weird, not intuitive combos... Oct 3, 2018 at 20:04

Otuzbesli's answer works but for Ubunut 14.04 you need to install compiz-plugins in addition to compizconfig-settings-manager

sudo apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager compiz-plugins

I'm running Ubuntu 18.04 running the Gnome shell. I installed Gnome Tweaks via

sudo apt install gnome-tweak-tool

and went to

Extensions -> AlternateTab

and switched the toggle to "On".
This changed the window-switcher to not group by application.

  • The question is for Unity, your answer apply to GNOME Shell (Ubuntu 17.10+). The corresponding question is here. Apr 8, 2019 at 1:40
  • @PabloBianchi Oh, I didn't notice that. This post is the first google result if you search for "ubuntu alt+tab", so I assumed it was the right place. Apr 8, 2019 at 14:30

I tried this and as soon as I launched ccsm:

  • my desktop was gone. No start menu, taskbar, launcher.. Just the wallpaper.
  • Alt+Tab doesn't work at all.

I was able to launch a Terminal using right click on desktop. Many people faced this under different situations. Solution always said reset compiz config, delete x11 config, delete gnome config and launch unity with setsid unit && unit.

For me it said:

(0)kash@Laptop$ setsid unity
setsid: failed to execute unity: No such file or directory

They also said launch ccsm again and enable Unity plugin there. Well, it just wasn't there in the list of enabled or disabled plugins.

Many heart attacks later

sudo apt-get install unity

I hate the dev who made ccsm.

After you install Unity, when you launch ccsm, it has Unity plugin in it.

I had Ubuntu 16.04.3 LTS running inside a VirtualBox with Windows 10 Host.

  • 1
    @mmKALLL looks like a link to this question.
    – Kashyap
    May 16, 2018 at 18:39
  • I just hit this myself... For reference, here is an Ask Ubuntu answer documenting variations of the process required, along with more details; askubuntu.com/questions/17381/… (thanks @Kashyap)
    – mmKALLL
    May 17, 2018 at 4:59

In Ubuntu 19 just install

sudo apt install compizconfig-settings-manager compiz-plugins

and then open compizconfig settings manager


Go to windows management on left sidebar > then select Application Switcher then just enable Application Switcher from left sidebar.

And that it, when you use Alt+Tab now you will see application not grouped in Alt+Tab dialog.

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