Editor’s note: The following review is part of Macworld’s GemFest 2011 series. Every day from mid June through July, the Macworld staff will use the Mac Gems blog to briefly cover a favorite free or low-cost program. Visit the Mac Gems homepage for a list of past Mac Gems.
Quick—count how many open windows you have on your Mac right now. If you’re like me, you have four or five programs and windows open at the same time. It can be tough to keep track of everything with so many programs open at once.
In July, Apple will introduce a new feature called Mission Control as part of its forthcoming Lion operating system. Mission Control will make switching between programs easier and incorporate elements of Exposé, the longstanding switcher in OS X. But if you don’t want to wait for Lion and you want a more immediate solution, you might want to look at Window Commander, a slick and fast visual application switcher available in the Mac App Store.
While Window Commander replicates much of the functionality of OS X’s command-tab keyboard combination, it does so with a distinct visual style which enhances its usefulness. Window Commander displays images of each open window rather than only showing a list of icons for open programs, as OS X’s command-tab does.
After testing Window Commander, I realized that I’d stopped looking at the icons and names of the open programs and instead switched between them based on the preview images entirely. I found that doing so cut down on the amount of time it took me to switch between programs. I did find a minor glitch in the app switcher pane, though: Pressing shift-tab caused Window Commander to flash between all open programs far too quickly to choose the correct program.
Many users will be introduced to visual application switching through Lion’s Mission Control feature. But if you don’t plan on upgrading to Lion right away, Window Commander offers a visual guide to app switching in Leopard and Snow Leopard.
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