Minimize Human-Computer Friction: How to start boosting your Productivity

19 Jun, 2024
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Have you ever noticed friction when interacting with your computer? Your thoughts move fast. But you just can’t seem to get your thoughts into the computer as fast as you like. You feel like you’re wasting time and energy. This can be very frustrating. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

In this blogpost, we’ll share how you can minimize this friction and boost your productivity.

If you already know all these tips, then this blogpost might be a useful reference to share with people who could benefit from these tips!

Moving Around

When multitasking, you are often switching between different application windows. When using your mouse (or even your touchpad) to switch, you’ll have to:

  1. Move your hand to the mouse or trackpad
  2. Move the cursor to the right spot
  3. Click the application
  4. Move your hand back to the keyboard

This doesn’t seem like a big deal at first. But ask yourself, how often do you switch applications in a day? In an hour? In a minute? It adds up!

Switch application windows

To switch between application windows, you can use a keyboard shortcut:

While holding this keyboard shortcut, you will see your open applications. Keep holding the CMD/ALT key and press TAB to cycle through the applications. Release the keys to switch to the selected application. If you want to move back, keep holding the CMD/ALT key and press SHIFT+TAB. You can also use your arrow keys, but that requires two hands!

Mac Task Switcher
The task switcher for Mac. Source

If you have many applications open, it may be faster to use your mouse to click on the application you want to switch to.

Switch between windows of the same application

On Mac, CMD+TAB only switches between different applications. To switch between windows of the same application, use CMD+`. The backtick (`) is the key above the TAB key on a US-style keyboard. Note that this will immediately switch windows and it will not show you a list of them.

View all your open applications

Sometimes you just want to see what application windows you have open. Luckily, most operating systems have a feature for this:

  • Mac: Mission Control (F3 or swipe up with three fingers on your trackpad)
  • Windows: Task View (Windows key + TAB)
  • Linux (Gnome): Activities (Super key)
Mac Mission Control
Mission Control for Mac. Source

Use global search

Open applications quickly

To open applications, you can click on the icon. But this can be slow! It’s a lot faster to use the global search function and your keyboard. Open the global search using the following keyboard shortcuts:

  • Mac (Spotlight): CMD+SPACE
  • Windows (Start menu): Windows key
  • Linux (Gnome): Super key

Then, start typing the name of the application. The search will autocomplete, so often only a few characters are needed. Press ENTER to open the application. Much faster than using your mouse!

Gnome Search
Gnome search. Source

Open files quickly

You can do the same thing when you want to open a file. So no need to open the file explorer and find the file manually. Or opening the application, then using File > Open Recent. Open the global search again, type (part of) the file name and press ENTER to open it. That’s quick!

Switch browser tabs

When you are using your webbrowser, it’s common to have many tabs open. Often you want to look at one tab, then switch back again. You can move forward with CTRL+TAB and move back with CTRL+SHIFT+TAB. This works in most browsers on all operating systems. Very useful!

If you want to switch to specific tabs, you can use the following keyboard shortcuts:

  • Mac: CMD+1, CMD+2, CMD+3, etc.
  • Windows/Linux: CTRL+1, CTRL+2, CTRL+3, etc.

Resize or hide your Dock / Taskbar

The Windows Taskbar and Mac Dock great to quickly launch applications. However, they can take up a lot of space, especially the Dock on Mac. You can resize or hide them automatically, so they only appear when you hover your mouse at the bottom of your screen.

Mac Dock
Mac Dock. Source


  1. Open System Settings
  2. Click on Desktop & Dock
  3. Change the size of the Dock using the slider
  4. Select “Automatically hide and show the Dock”


  1. Right-click on the Taskbar
  2. Click on Taskbar settings
  3. Select “Automatically hide the Taskbar in desktop mode”

Nice, you’ve saved some space and removed a distraction!


In this blogpost, we’ve shared some tips to minimize the friction when interacting with your computer. We’ve used keyboard shortcuts and made a few adjustments. With these tips, you can switch between applications faster, open applications and files quickly, and save some space on your screen. We hope this will help you to boost your productivity!

Photo by Girl with red hat on Unsplash

Timo Uelen
Timo Uelen is a Machine Learning Engineer at Xebia.

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