Front and Center restores classic window layering on your Mac

Front and Center window layering tool

Technological advancements notwithstanding, I’ve always felt that modern macOS software should take cues from classic window layering policy in Mac OS and Mac OS X.

Front and Center is an indispensable new Mac app by John Siracusa and Lee Fyock that you’ll wonder how you could have lived without all these years.

John Siracusa, writing on his blog:

In classic Mac OS, 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.

I’ve gotten so used to macOS’s window layering policy that I haven’t given the previous behavior much thought. But now when I think of it, I would definitely prefer bringing all of the app’s windows to the foreground when clicking a single window.

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.

Enter Front and Center:

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.

The app works exactly as advertised and can be customized to your liking.

front and center preferences

For instance, you can temporarily override classic window layering behavior by putting the app in Modern mode, in which only the clicked window comes to the front. In either mode, Shift-click on a window to get the opposite of the chosen behavior.

Siracusa explains:

My particular style of window management leans heavily on the classic behavior. I also appreciate the Mac OS X behavior in certain circumstances, so I was delighted to find apps that enable both behaviors, using shift-click to override the default.

If you’re someone who loves interleaved windows in macOS, this app may not be for you. But if you really want all the windows of a single app to come to the front, you’re wholeheartedly recommended to give Front and Center a try.

Front and Center is $3 in Mac App Store.