Bring any window to the front

A question was asked on the apple dev mailing list on how to bring a window with a certain name to the front.

Since I was already working on how to get the list of windows on the screen, I just added some AppleScript to bring the window to the front.

This snippet doesnt use any undocumented techniques, it uses the CGWindow API introduced in Leopard.

I dont consider this code to be production ready, but it works.

Of course, TIMTOWTDI 😉

See the code after the jump:

- (BOOL) bringWindowWithNameToFront:(NSString *) windowName
// Try to find a window named "windowName", and if found,
// bring it to the front
// Stephan Burlot 4/3/08

  CFArrayRef            windowList = CGWindowListCopyWindowInfo(kCGWindowListOptionOnScreenOnly, kCGNullWindowID);
  ProcessSerialNumber   myPSN = {kNoProcess, kNoProcess};
  BOOL                  returnValue = FALSE;

  for (NSMutableDictionary *entry in (NSArray *)windowList) {
    NSString *currentWindow = [entry objectForKey:(id)kCGWindowName];
    if ((currentWindow != NULL) && ([currentWindow isEqualToString:windowName]))
      NSString *applicationName = [entry objectForKey:(id)kCGWindowOwnerName];
      int pid = [[entry objectForKey:(id)kCGWindowOwnerPID] intValue];
      GetProcessForPID(pid, &myPSN);

      NSString *script= [NSString stringWithFormat:@"tell application \"System Events\" to tell process \"%@\" to perform action \"AXRaise\" of window \"%@\"\ntell application \"%@\" to activate\n", applicationName, windowName, applicationName];
      NSAppleScript *as = [[NSAppleScript alloc] initWithSource:script];
      [as compileAndReturnError:NULL];
      [as executeAndReturnError:NULL];  // Bring it on!
      [as release];
      returnValue = TRUE;

  return returnValue;

Inspiration camed from the following codes:

3 comments on “Bring any window to the front

  1. ryan

    Thanks for the example, this is almost exactly what I’m looking for.

    Do you know of a way to tell the application to bring *just* the specified window to the foreground when it activates?

    I have a whole bunch of iTerm windows, and I’d like to be able to tell a specific one to raise and focus, without bringing *all* of them to the front.

    The other dilemma that I have is that the window name for many of my iTerm sessions is “Default”. Is there any way to use a window number instead of the window name?

    The right solution is probably for me to change how I use iTerm. But old habits die hard.

  2. ryan

    Answered my own question. Get rid of the ‘tell application “foo” to raise” and instead do:

    SetFrontProcessWithOptions(&psn, kSetFrontProcessFrontWindowOnly);

    after the AXRaise AppleScript stuff.

  3. Pingback:Script to raise a single window to the front | Q&A System

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