The future of AlternateTab, and why you need not worry

Any time someone publishes a “The top n GNOME Shell extensions” article, there’s a fair chance that it will include the AlternateTab extension.

That is a bit sad to be honest. Not because it would be wrong for users to prefer a more traditional switcher, mind you, but because the actual functionality has been built-in for years — all the extension does is intercept one keyboard shortcut and pretend that it was a different keyboard shortcut.

So without further ado, this is how to set up the window switcher without using the extension:

But wait, if the extension doesn’t do anything really, why does it even exist?

Well, until very recently, the extension was still used in GNOME Classic, so that the same <Super>Tab> shortcut would bring up the default application switcher in the regular GNOME session and the window switcher in the Classic session.

In GNOME 3.30 this now works without the extension, which brings us to the extension’s future mentioned in the title. After the above explanation it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there is none — the extension will be retired for GNOME 3.32. If you are currently using it, please set up the built-in Switch Windows” shortcut as outlined above, and enjoy having one less extension to worry about on updates…

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8 Responses to The future of AlternateTab, and why you need not worry

  1. Alfredo Hernández says:

    I realised that even with Alternate Tab disabled, its settings still apply to the Switch Windows shortcut. Looking into dconf Editor I see there are no schemas for Alternate Tab’s settings and they are actually associated to GNOME Shell itself, so that’s great :D

  2. Ade Malsasa Akbar says:

    Hi Florian, thanks for sharing this with us. I already use 3.30 but this feature is new to me. Big thanks!

  3. James says:

    The reason we like the extension is because we hate GNOME grouping multiple application windows! If I have three terminals, and two firefox windows open, I want to cycle through them all with alt-tab.

    • fmuellner says:

      Did you actually read the post? AlternateTab does not provide any UI on its own, it only leverages a gnome-shell feature that doesn’t have an assigned shortcut by default.

  4. Felix Schwarz says:

    AlternateTab also provides the option to show only windows from the current workspace. Is that also possible with stock gnome?

    Besides I have to say that I’d prefer to keep AlternateTab as-is because to me it is easier, just to add the extension and have a very simple settings menu instead of finding the right setting in a long list of keyboard shortcuts.

    • fmuellner says:

      Yes, the option is also not provided by the extension but by gnome-shell itself. In fact, there are two separate settings, one for the default application switcher (which defaults to showing apps from all workspaces) and one for the window switcher (which defaults to only show windows from the current workspace).

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