Contexts MacOS window manager
I've recently come across Contexts window manager and thought it would be interesting sharing why I found it to work
particularly well in the context of my productivity.
Contexts come with a trial period, upon which I decided to purchase a license. Why would one even care to switch to some alternate window manager? Let's dive deep into it!
First of all - there's nothing wrong with MacOS built-in window switcher. It does what people expect it to, the way window switching works pretty much on other platforms as well.
In my daily work, I've got around 5 - 10 apps running in parallel. I frequently switch between them. Since I do care about my productivity, I searched for the tool that would give me a chance to rapidly fast switch between running apps.
Each time I need to switch between running applications, my focus gets affected. I do not have an estimate of how often I switch between the running apps daily, but I'm pretty sure it's a massive number. A simple reduction of the duration of a context switch between the apps helps me minimize time wasted throughout the day.
The other benefit I noticed is that instead of
⌘ + ⇥ being pressed even if I maybe do not have a compelling reason to do it, using
Contexts helps me focus on what I want to do upfront. This especially applies when using Search using a function key in which case you precisely
need to know where you want to jump to.
The installation process is fairly straightforward, it consists of downloading a macOS package installer from their website and executing a standard installation process upon downloading the package.
There are a couple of window switching modes, which I’ll shortly walk you through
This is a sample showing how alternative window switching looks like in action. By invoking standard
⌘ + ⇥ shortcut, I get something like:
Now, while holding
⌘ pressed, I can just cycle through existing apps, by pressing
⇥ which is the same as in standard MacOS switcher.
What differs now is that you can additionally press
n to go down, or
p to go up. This is especially handy if you already have
these keys and their actions in your fingers (vim users). While holding the
SHIFT (⇧) button we can reverse the cycling direction.
An alternative way to switch between the apps is to use two fingers and slide them down from either the left top or right top side of the trackpad. Now you can entirely avoid any typing, you can navigate through the apps by just moving your fingers up / down until you find the app you need! Handy for those who are more gesture oriented!
Contexts offer a couple of alternatives for how you can search through running apps. I prefer using it, so let’s cover those as well!
I configured my Contexts to use
⎇ + ⇥ shortcut to enter search mode. By pressing this combination you can start typing to narrow down
between running apps. This is quite handy if you don't have an idea which apps are currently running and you want to be
able to immediately search through them.
With Contexts, you can even do a fuzzy search, so you can type for
chm (instead of expected
chr) and Chrome would be fuzzy matched. Search is
case insensitive, so typing either
Chr would work.
This is my preferred mode to rapidly search for an application. This is how it works:
- Let’s assume one of currently running applications is Google Chrome
- Press and hold function key (
- Start typing letters of the application you're searching, let's say goo if you want to switch to Google Chrome
My experience is that this mode can push productivity to the extreme, once it becomes part of your muscle memory!
I’ve personally had cases that standard MacOS switcher didn’t show all the individual windows of the same application. In my case, we’re talking about Intellij IDEA IDE. Having multiple windows of IntelliJ is my standard setup and I was annoyed with that behavior. Furthermore - I wasn’t able to find any workaround.
This is where Contexts came to the rescue. By pressing
⌘ + ` while an application with multiple windows is active, a small popup window
will appear showing all the windows of a given app. If we continue holding the
⌘ key and keep pressing backtick it will keep cycling through
available application windows.
On top of already mentioned, Contexts supports a couple of additional features. You can:
- Theme your window list (Dark mode supported 🙂)
- Define dimensions of the window list, with configurable font size as well
- You can have a sidebar with applications, that you can activate by moving the trackpad pointe to one of the corners of your screen (depends on how you configure it)
Hope this post makes Contexts something you would like to try on your own.
That was all for today! Hope you liked it!