Mac OS X Tip: Use command-Tab while dragging an object

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
July 14th, 2009 • 9:29 am

This is a tip that, in spite of my long experience with Mac OS X (or maybe because of it), I only became aware of recently, so I am thinking there might be other experienced users out there who might not be aware of it.

It is particularly useful when you have lots of windows open and switching between applications causes a background window to become hidden even though you want to use it as a target for a drag-and-drop operation.

Let’s say you are in the Finder and you have a music file that you want to drag and drop onto a specific iTunes window containing a playlist, but that particular iTunes window is hidden by other background Finder windows.

You do not actually have to move your background Finder windows in order to make the background iTunes window visible in the background, so that you can use it as a target for your drag-and-drop action.

Instead, you can do the following:

  1. In the Finder, click on the music file you want to drag and start dragging it, even though your intended target is not visible at this point.
  2. While still holding the mouse button down, use command-Tab to switch to iTunes.

This will bring all iTunes windows to the foreground, and now you can continue your drag-and-drop action to drop the file onto the specific iTunes window that you were aiming for.

This operation is probably something that would never have been possible in the classic Mac OS, where clicking on something with the mouse button and holding the button down had the effect of blocking all other interactions with the machine until you released the mouse button.

But Mac OS X is more “threaded” and flexible, which makes it possible to do something like using command-Tab while dragging an item with the mouse.

This tip will be quite convenient if you are like me and you tend to have lots of windows open at any given time, many of which get unavoidable hidden behind other windows. (I don’t use Mac OS X’s Spaces feature because it doesn’t work right for me, but I suspect you can also switch spaces with the appropriate keyboard shortcut while dragging an item.) I find myself using it several times a day now, instead of constantly shuffling windows around.

One Response to “Mac OS X Tip: Use command-Tab while dragging an object”

  1. Mac OS X Tip: Use command-Tab while dragging an object says:

    […] Mac OS X Tip: Use command-Tab while dragging an object · I’ve been doing this for ages, and it still makes people go ‘wu-huh?’. And yes, it works with Spaces and Exposé too. […]