Restore classic Mac window behavior with ‘Front and Center’

Front and Center
Front and Center

The new Front and Center utility for macOS Catalina lets you control the window layering policy on your Mac. In “Classic” mode, clicking on a window brings all the windows in that app to the front, just like it did in classic Mac OS. In “Modern” mode, only the clicked window comes to the front. In either mode, Shift-click on a window to get the opposite of the chosen behavior.

John Siracusa for Hypercritical:

By the time Mac OS X was first released in 2001, I had been using what would eventually be known as “classic” Mac OS for seventeen years. These were seventeen formative years for me, from the ages of 9 to 26. The user interface of classic Mac OS was as ingrained in me as Star Wars or any other cultural institution…

To deal with some of the changes in Mac OS X, I ran apps and system extensions that restored some behaviors from classic Mac OS. Over the years, I weaned myself off most of these, but a few stuck. In particular, I found I did not want to live without the window layering policy from classic Mac OS…

In classic, when you click on a window that belongs to an application that’s not currently active, all the windows that belong to that application come to the front. In Mac OS X (and macOS), only the window that you clicked comes to the front.

Sadly, macOS Catalina’s lack of support for 32-bit apps finally killed the last of the apps that implemented this feature. I was alone in a cold, barren world where I had to click on a Dock icon to switch to an app and bring all its windows to the front.

Front and Center is a trivial app — so trivial that I was afraid it would be rejected for its limited functionality. But when running, it is used literally hundreds of times a day. And I obviously found it so essential that I was willing to help bring it into existence myself. I also wanted to get some experience with the financial side of the App Store.

All of this contributed to the decision to make Front and Center a (cheap) paid app. It’s $2.99 on the Mac App Store. I don’t expect to make any significant money from sales, but I’ve already gained a huge amount of experience just going through the process of development and distribution.

MacDailyNews Take: Now there’s an app we couldn’t download and install quickly enough! Hallelujah! More info and download link for Front and Center via Apple’s Mac App Store here.


  1. OSX/macOS has a nice hybrid of classic Mac and pretty much all other major GUI systems, where clicking an individual window brings only the one forward, but clicking the Dock icon brings them all.

    Far better than the Windows way of clicking the taskbar and having to select a windows. Just bring either all or the frontmost of those forward!

    The only thing I’d change is command-tab behaviour, which like clicking on Dock brings all of an app’s windows forward. I wish I could hold down Option key to switch to just the frontmost, for the rare times I actually need that.

  2. This App has 63 ratings at five stars and no ratings below that. Hmmm! For the record it’s compatible with macOS 10.12 and beyond. I might give it a go just for the hell of it.

  3. WHAT?

    You mean we don’t have to buy into the “Change For The Sake Of Change In Order To Look Hip, Sophisticated and Woke”?

    I am shocked, shocked I tell you! Maybe there is hope for simple elegance yet.

    Next project : iOS13

Reader Feedback

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.