Is Command-Tab supposed to be slow?

Hi everyone. First time post here.

After 18 months on the Mac, with an early 2020 (Intel) MacBook Air, I guess I’m not “new to the Mac” anymore, but I’m still really confused about how to achieve basic “power user” productivity things with macOS.

Command-Tab takes over 200 ms to display. That’s enough time to press Tab twice before I see it. So I use it blind, which frequently results in going to the wrong app when I misremember which apps I’ve used last.

So I’ve taken to swiping the trackpad with four fingers to trigger Mission Control, which is smoother and feels faster, but is much slower than just being able to rely on an instantaneous Alt-Tab on Windows (even with an 8 year old low-end processor).

I’m just wondering, being 18 months in with a computer that is by a factor of two the priciest I ever bought yet cannot accomplish basic things how I assumed they would, what the hell is up with this?

Do Mac power users never use non-Pro Intel machines and thus don’t have that problem? Is it a known thing that macOS was unbearably slow for a power user on their most popular Mac model before the M1 chip?
Is this a regression with Catalina/Big Sur?
Do you use something like Command-Tab Plus to be able to Command-Tab smoothly?
Do you have another workflow for switching open apps?

Explanations on this basic concept would be appreciated. I feel limited in a fundamental way when working (as a web developer) on the Mac.

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Personally, I only use cmd-tab when I want to switch to an app I just used a couple seconds ago, so in that sense, I always use it “blind”. For app switching I use a combo of ctrl-N where N is the virtual desktop my target window is, or I use Raycast.

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I can commiserate. I’m not a fan of command-tab. I am a fast typer and a rapid hitting of command-tab usually fails to bring up the display – I have to slow down and methodically hit the two keys. The alternative to use the mouse and click an app icon in the Dock is even slower.

I’ve used Contexts to replace the command-tab bar – it’s OK. Not wonderful though.

Another option is to use System Preferences > Mission Control > Hot Corners… to configure Mission Control as one of the hot corners. I use the upper left-hand corner of the display. When you slide the mouse up there, Mission Control will display all open apps and their windows. Again, OK, but not wonderful.

I’ve also tried using Siri to open apps, which is not fun – Siri often starts a game of 20 questions when it cannot figure out which app I want opened.

I usually just have so many apps open at once that I was starting to feel it in my hands from using Cmd-Tab a lot (as well as modifier keys for other things).

That’s one reason I set up a hyperkey, and why I use a Keyboard Maestro conflict palette to get to my (two or three dozen) most used apps.

Now I hit hyper-b and then the first letter or two of the app name (fi for Finder, dr for Drafts, ff for Firefox) and get there much faster than Cmd-Tab-ing through a long list of apps that keeps changing order. Muscle memory is gradually taking over.


Thanks for the answers, though none of them didn’t bring other annoyances.

I just found out that I could create shortcuts via the Shortcuts app to open my most used apps by pressing Shift + Fn + [a letter close to those keys]. It’s slow (~100ms eyeing it, and it makes the fans spin if I do it repeatedly :roll_eyes::man_facepalming:t2:) but it’s the most seamless app switching experience I’ve ever had on macOS. Exciting and appalling.

To answer the question in the thread heading, no, no it is not. On my 2018 Mac mini (I7, 32 GB ram), it is pretty instantaneous. But I never use it.

My setup is four monitors and ten spaces. I use a variety of the tools mentioned throughout this thread and elsewhere in these forums to to move about (If you want to know the details I’d be happy to bore you with them).

But 200ms seems way too long. What are the specs of your system? What else do you have running?

I can’t remember how fast the native Command + Tab was. I use and have for years the Keyboard Maestro ‘app switcher’ built in to that app. I have it on that keyboard shortcut and think it comes set that way by default.
I am going to say, if you want to Power Use, I would invest in Keyboard Maestro. From my point of view the Keyboard Maestro switcher is instantaneous. Launch bar and Alfred can be very quick to use to open and switch too but Keyboard Maestro will more or less do most of what one needs on its own.

I recommended Keyboard Maestro for this on another post: but I agree with you. I thought the native switcher was pretty much instantaneous. I would suspect a problem with the machine being used too on thinking about it.

Cmd-Tab was lagging about 0,5 secs, every time. And the comp was generally laggy. Deactivated File Vault Encryption and reactivated. Problems solved. Cmd-Tab is now instantaneous, and the general lagginess is also gone. Monterey v 12.6. 16 inch MacBook Pro…

I wonder what made you suspect the file encryption which generally is very good?

Yes I would like to know that too.

That’s really weird because FileVault doesn’t actually encrypt the drive on newer Macs, including (I think) all models of the 16" MBP. The drive is always encrypted on them. I don’t doubt your story, but it’s a very strange one.

Also, welcome to the forum :slight_smile:

There were 16-inch MBPs (what OP has) that were Intel and that would not have been encrypted right out of the box.

EDIT FOR CORRECTION: No, I’m sorry @ACautionaryTale. You are right. Any Mac with a T2 chip, not just the M1 and M2 are encrypted.

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I almost made the same mistake :slight_smile:

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