Disabling Command-Tab on Mac OS X

I’m trying an experiment. I’ve disabled ⌘-Tab on my computer. I wanted to try using LaunchBar’s app switcher in place of it, but there’s no way that I can override nearly twenty-five years worth of muscle memory1 without a little brute force. Karabiner to the rescue. Here is my entry in custom.xml to make it happen:

<item>
  <name>Disable Command-Tab</name>
  <identifier>private.disable_command_tab</identifier>
  <autogen>
    --KeyToKey--
    KeyCode::TAB, VK_COMMAND | ModifierFlag::NONE,
    KeyCode::VK_NONE
  </autogen>
  <autogen>
    --KeyToKey--
    KeyCode::TAB, VK_COMMAND | VK_SHIFT | ModifierFlag::NONE,
    KeyCode::VK_NONE
  </autogen>
</item>

If you wanted to remap ⌘-Tab to actually do something, such as Escape, this would do the job:

<item>
  <name>Remap Command-Tab to Escape</name>
  <identifier>private.command_tab_to_escape</identifier>
  <autogen>
    --KeyToKey--
    KeyCode::TAB, VK_COMMAND | ModifierFlag::NONE,
    KeyCode::ESCAPE
  </autogen>
</item>

I’m not sure if this will stick. Giving up ⌘-Tab in favor of the LaunchBar way, I mean. ⌘-Tab and ⌘-Space are probably the two key-combos I hit more than any on my computer. Day in and day out I’m living in LaunchBar and switching between apps. I figure if I can just use ⌘-Space for both things, it will eventually be a net win. Also, in the few minutes I’ve had this set up, I can already feel things happening to my brain. ⌘-Tab is something I trigger without thinking. And I truly mean that it can be mindless in the worst way. Sometimes it makes me feel like a rat in a cage, hitting the lever to get a drug hit.2 The fact that my old ⌘-Tab habit no longer has any effect is making me act in a more mindful manner. Before I leave the current app to move to a new app, I have to think for a split second about where I want to go and what I want to do. It’s a subtle change that makes me feel more focused. The downside is that occasionally it adds friction that wasn’t there before.


  1. I started using Alt-Tab way back with Windows 3.1 in the early/mid 1990’s! 😱 
  2. But I don’t blame the poor rats for getting addicted to drugs while they were forced to live alone in miserable conditions.