New 'Front and Center' app makes Mac app windows behave how they should

Front and Center app
Front and Center app (Image credit: John Siracusa)

What you need to know

  • Front and Center is now available in the App Store.
  • The app makes macOS Catalina behave like "classic" Mac OS.
  • A single click brings all of an app's windows to the foreground.

If you've been around long enough to remember "classic" Mac OS you probably already guessed what this app does. For everyone else, it's all pretty simple – Front and Center alters macOS Catalina's window behavior and brings all of an app's windows to the foreground with a single click.

That might not sound all that big of a deal on the surface, but if you really think about it, it's a game-changer. In its default state, macOS only brings a window to the foreground when you click it. All other windows belonging to that app remain in the background. And that can be infuriating if you're someone who lives with tons of windows open daily. Like John Siracusa does.

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.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.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.I tried to get used to it, but I could not. Next, I tried to persuade a few of my developer friends to create a tiny Mac app that implements just this one feature. My friend Lee, a longtime Mac developer and user, eventually took up the challenge and created a simple app to do it.

And there we have it. Front and Center (opens in new tab) is now available in the Mac App Store for $2.99. It isn't a huge app, nor is it complicated. But it does exactly what it says it will do and if you need it to bring back "classic" window management, you're in for a treat.

Oliver Haslam

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.

  • Darn*, I was hoping this would fix the terrible trash nonsense garbage that is Apple's breaking the green circle at the top left thing. All the old people I help with their Macs can't figure out how to get out of fullscreen mode, and when they're in it on Safari/Chrome, and see an "OMG YOU HAVE A VIRUS!!!" alert that returns after they reboot because of Apple's terrible "can't turn it off without chmod-ing the ~/Saved States/ folder" resume nonsense, they fall for it. Apple needs to get over it's fear of switches. *Originally said "Da" followed by "ng" but is that a curse word? A bot partially censored my comment? What's wrong with you guys? Who hurt you?
  • Isn't the saved state problem fixed by the Safari setting: "Safari opens with…" then don't set it to be the last tabs? I've never had this issue after changing that setting, Safari will always open with whatever homepage I set after that. I wasn't around in the Classic Mac OS days, although I was around before they changed the maximize to a fullscreen button (I preferred the UI with the fullscreen icon at the top right). This Front and Center app is an app I didn't realize I needed, I've always just gotten used to switching between the windows with the keyboard shortcut, but this app will make things so much simpler. Worth the 3 bucks to support the developer