Hard to switch between windows of same application

Bug #1083359 reported by Damien on 2012-11-26
This bug affects 33 people
Affects Status Importance Assigned to Milestone
Daniel Fore

Bug Description

When several documents are opened (take pdf for example), there is no possibility to select one of them easily. When clicking on the icon all the instances are brought forward with the last one used in front. Clicking a second time minimise all of them.

One bug fix would be upon icon-clicking to open a view similar to windows overview (⌘+W) with only the application documents. This would be similar to what Unity does except it would be on the first click instead of Unity's second click.

Another way of fixing it would be to make Evince (and every other applications in the world) to use a tabbed single interface.

CruelAngel (hendricha) wrote :

Random fact that I've only noticed a few days ago: If you scroll on the applications icon it will cylce through it's opened windows.

Rico Tzschichholz (ricotz) wrote :

This is what the right-click menu is for. There you can select the specific window by its title.

Rico Tzschichholz (ricotz) wrote :

What I can think of here is to show a slimmer menu which only contains shortcuts for windows. It would be triggered by holding down the right mouse-button on an item for a short moment without moving it.

affects: pantheon-dock → plank
Changed in plank:
status: New → Incomplete
Ari (ari-lp) wrote :


That's a great idea.

Changed in plank:
importance: Undecided → Low

I agree that there's no discoverable way to switch between windows that belong to one app.

Technically there IS a way, but it's absolutely not discoverable. I've never seen scrolling with mousewheel over a static element do something, so I never tried that.
Turns out that's how you switch windows of the same app with Plank. And besides being undiscoverable it's also a nightmare to do on touchpads. I'm not against having it, but I'm sure we need a more discoverable way too.

My first impulse was to keep clicking on the app icon until I get the window I need. However, that only toggles between showing the same window and mimizing all windows of the app - definitely not what I expected to happen. I've seen other people try that first and the original reporter of this bug tried that too, so I assume this is the most discoverable design (at least in the short term).

So IMO the bug is valid and to fix it we should make Plank switch to the next window of the active app instead of mimizing all app windows on clicking the active launcher.

Regarding the linked branch, I can't see the point of this change because:

A) Isn't that what you already get in regular right-click menu, sans a few items fenced out by a separator in the regular menu?

B) I've never ever seen anything react to holding down right button meaningfully. That's absolutely the last thing I'd try. Considering (A), I'd expect the proposed feature to go undiscovered by the vast majority of users and considered a bug by most of those who discover it somehow.

Changed in plank:
status: Incomplete → Confirmed
Robert Dyer (psybers) wrote :

There is no point in showing 2 different menus, where 1 is just a subset of the other. This will not be merged.

Damien (youpla-b) wrote :

What do you think of my initial proposition?

Instead of focusing on the last used window, clicking on an application with more than one window would bring up the overview mode, restricted to the application. This is discoverable, In two clicks the user has access to their documents and has a good view of which documents are opened (instead of just listing the titles). The problem is one more click and the mouse has to travel a bit, and always shows even when the user actually wants the last focused window. But this would be most exceptional anyway as most applications use a single-window / tabbed interface, only a select few (evince, empathy, libreoffice) don't.

Robert Dyer (psybers) wrote :

First, not every window manager even has an 'overview mode'. Second, those that do have different ways to trigger that (and I'm not sure all of them allow external programs to trigger it).

So that isn't likely to happen.

Tigran Gabrielyan (tigrangab) wrote :

How about

When 1 instance is open (current behavior):
Window is unfocused -> Click -> Focus
Window is focused -> Click -> Minimize

When 2 or more are open (new behavior):
Window is unfocused -> Click -> Focus last active window
Window is focused -> Click -> Cycle through other open windows, when all have been cycled, minimize all, click again starts over

Robert Dyer (psybers) wrote :

Assigning bug to Dan for comment.

Changed in plank:
importance: Low → Wishlist
assignee: nobody → Daniel Fore (danrabbit)
JaSauders (jasauders) wrote :

Personally (blunt opinion abounds) the only logical way for a dock to handle multiple instances of the same window is to handle it Unity style. If I have two instances of Firefox open, clicking the icon should make the last used of the two Firefox windows come up. Clicking it a second time should scale the two Firefox windows accordingly, allowing me to click the window I want. A right click menu just isn't as neat and clean. Offering a scale mode offers a far more intuitive and efficient way to switch to another window under the same application icon.

Just my very firm 2c on the matter. Thanks for you time!

Gabriel_P (gabp) wrote :

Agree with JaSauders 1000%, the Unity way is the way to go.

Timo Reimerdes (timorei) wrote :

Yes - that sounds right:

clicking an icon that does not have the focus: the last instance that had the focus gets it.
clicking the icon of a window that already has focus: If there are other instances of that window: initiate window-overview with these instances scaled. Else do-nothing OR minimize window. Really a choice to be made, I'd vote for minimize.

Ramiro Algozino (algozino) wrote :

What about keeping the current behavior and adding that holding primary (generally left) click on the icon should open -like a folder- showing all the instances?

Lasne Olivier (lasneolivier) wrote :

How about double clic on the icon open an overview with the windows of the application ?
The double clic has currently no use (it's gonna minimise and bring back the windows).

Damien (youpla-b) wrote :

Double clicking isn't part of Elementary OS.

I've had to use Microsoft Windows 8.1 recently and I think their way of doing it is interesting:
- an opened application has its taskbar icon framed
- when an application has multiple instances opened, the frames are doubled as if they were piled up
- hovering the icon after a certain time shows a clickable miniature of the instances
- hovering the miniature brings the window temporarily in front while dimming all the other opened windows, showing it in more details
- each miniature has a "close" button for quick management.

This is in my opinion a very good way to keep icons only while still having a direct access to all the opened applications, and to find the correct document in a mess of opened windows.

Elementary already has the first two point implemented, in the form of a marker to show how many instances of a software are opened (the blue dot under the icon). I think the hovering miniatures would really help for windows management in crowded desktop spaces.

If stack grid is created, this option its not necessary,because when you hover over the icon containing the two options must come out the grid with the two windows

summary: - There is no quick way to see or select a specific instance of an
- application
+ Hard to switch between windows of same application

There are other bug reports very similar to this one. Those other reports include: #1549412; #264670; #268062. Perhaps these reports - about what I regard as a major lack in the otherwise excellent Plank - be merged?

Francis Lavoie (lavofr) wrote :

My preferred behaviour would be to cycle through the windows, in order of last focused time. The order would be kept per application. When you're focusing this application, you focus the first window in the queue. If you click again on the same application, it pops the top window from the queue and pushes it to the end. That way it cycles through all the windows. If you click a different application, it does not modify the queue at all.

I think having this as an option in the Behaviour menu would be great. Windows has similar behaviour with a registry edit, I always make this change on my Windows machines. See here: https://www.howtogeek.com/howto/16334/make-the-taskbar-buttons-switch-to-the-last-active-window-in-windows-7/ or if you don't want to make the registry change, holding CTRL while clicking the app cycles through the windows.


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