Get More from Windows 7 ALT+TAB App Switching: Tricks You Didn’t Know About

windows 7 graphic 300x300   Get More from Windows 7 ALT+TAB App Switching: Tricks You Didnt Know AboutThere’s more to Alt+Tab than just pressing Alt+Tab to switch between windows. There are a variety of hidden keyboard shortcuts that make the Alt+Tab switcher quicker and easier to use. There are also ways to customize the Alt+Tab switcher, reverting to the old-style, classic Alt+Tab switcher or disabling the window previews that appear while Alt+Tabbing.

You can even go beyond the Alt+Tab switcher that comes with Windows and install a third-party Alt+Tab switcher with a different design, more configurability, and additional features.

Keyboard Shortcuts

If you’re like most people, you probably just press Alt+Tab and continue pressing the Tab key until you reach the window you want. If you’re using Alt+Tab in this way, you’re missing out on a lot of useful keyboard shortcuts and other tricks that can save you time.

  • Use The Arrow Keys: Press the arrow keys while the Alt+Tab switcher is available to easily select the window you want. Selecting a window will make it visible, so you can easily find the window you want. Release the Alt key or press Enter to switch to the selected window.
  • Alt+Tab in Reverse: If you’re pressing Alt+Tab and accidentally go past the window you want to select, you don’t have to press the Tab key repeatedly to cycle through all open windows. Use the Alt+Shift+Tab keyboard shortcut to select windows in reverse order.
  • Use The Mouse: The Alt+Tab switcher can also be used with a mouse. Just click one of the thumbnails with your mouse to activate the window. Hovering over a thumbnail will make the window visible.
  • Use Alt+Tab Without Holding The Alt Key Down: To use Alt+Tab without holding the Alt key down the entire time, press the Alt+Ctrl+Tab keys at the same time. You can then release all the keys and the Alt+Tab switcher will remain visible. Use the arrow keys and Enter key or the mouse to select your desired window.
  • Close the Alt+Tab Switcher: You can press the Escape key to close the Alt+Tab switcher without switching to another window. This can be more convenient than hunting down the window you started with if you decide you don’t want to switch windows.

windows 7 alt tab switcher   Get More from Windows 7 ALT+TAB App Switching: Tricks You Didnt Know About

Disable Window Previews

If you don’t like how Alt+Tabbing through windows constantly switches focus between windows in the background, highlighting the selected application window and hiding all other windows, you can disable “Aero Peek.”

To do so, click the Start button, right-click Computer at the right side of the Start menu and select Properties. Click the Advanced system settings link at the left side of the window.

windows 7 open advanced system settings   Get More from Windows 7 ALT+TAB App Switching: Tricks You Didnt Know About

Click the Settings button under performance and uncheck the Enable Aero Peek checkbox. Click OK and you can Alt+Tab through your open windows without Windows switching focus in the background.

disable aero peek in windows 7   Get More from Windows 7 ALT+TAB App Switching: Tricks You Didnt Know About

Classic Alt+Tab Switcher

If you don’t like Windows 7’s new Alt+Tab switcher and prefer the classic-style Alt+Tab switcher without any transparency or thumbnails, you can still use it on Windows 7.

To activate the old-style Alt+Tab switcher, hold down the left Alt key, press and release the right Alt key while holding the left Alt key down, and then press Tab. The classic Alt+Tab switcher will appear; you can now Alt+Tab like you would on older versions of Windows.

classic alt tab switcher on windows 7   Get More from Windows 7 ALT+TAB App Switching: Tricks You Didnt Know About

If you prefer this Alt+Tab switcher to the newer one, you can disable the new Windows 7 task switcher and use the classic one instead. To do so, open the registry editor – click Start, type regedit, and press Enter to open it.

Navigate to the following registry key in the registry editor:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\

Right-click in the right pane, point to New, and select DWORD Value.

explorer registry key new dword   Get More from Windows 7 ALT+TAB App Switching: Tricks You Didnt Know About

Name the value AltTabSettings  then double-click it and enter a value of 1.

alttabsettings registry value   Get More from Windows 7 ALT+TAB App Switching: Tricks You Didnt Know About

You’ll now see the classic Alt+Tab switcher whenever you Alt+Tab. To use the new Alt+Tab switcher again, right-click the AltTabSettings value in your registry and delete it.

Use a Third-Party Alt+Tab Switcher

You don’t have to use the Alt+Tab switcher Microsoft includes with Windows. You can use a third-party replacement like VistaSwitcher, which we’ve covered in the past. Don’t let the name fool you – while VistaSwitcher was originally designed for Windows Vista, it also works on Windows 7 and offers a different interface with more configurability than the default Alt+Tab switcher.

vistaswitcher on windows 7   Get More from Windows 7 ALT+TAB App Switching: Tricks You Didnt Know About

You can also use Windows Key+Tab shortcut to activate “Flip 3D”, a 3D window switcher, but Flip3D is more of a shiny tech demo than a useful feature. In fact, it’s used by so few users that Microsoft is removing it in Windows 8.

For more information about mastering Windows 7, download our free Ultimate Guide to Windows 7.

Do you use any other third-party Alt+Tab replacements or tweaks? Leave a comment and share them!

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

60 Comments -

0 votes

Bradley Steynbergh

awesome!

0 votes

Lee

Cool. I knew about most of these, but I didn’t know about hitting the right alt key to get the old style switcher, and I didn’t know about the Ctrl+Alt+Tab one.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

I didn’t know the right Alt key trick either, before writing this — it’s a weird hidden easter egg.

0 votes

Boni Oloff

Wow cool, i already know most of it, but ctrl+alt+tab is new for me, and very fuctional to everyday windows use.
Thanks.

0 votes

Nikhil Chandak

seems to be amazing
gonna try it out
;)

0 votes

Achraf Almouloudi

I honestly didn’t like the fact that Microsoft is removing Flip 3D and Aero Peek from Windows 8 version .

0 votes

Boni Oloff

Are you serious?
I haven’t use Windows 8 yet, but i think flip 3D is a nice effect.

0 votes

Achraf Almouloudi

Hi, yes, if you aren’t following these things I’m sorry to say that Windows 8 does NOT have Aero Peek or Flip 3D features .

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

I don’t think they’re removing Aero Peek, just Aero.

Flip 3D they are removing — do you actually use it? I’ve never seen anyone that actually uses it!

0 votes

Achraf Almouloudi

Can you please explain me the difference between Aero Peek and Aero and which they’d remove. I feel I am confused .

Regarding Flip 3D yes I use to use it for switching between windows, but after I got an inside view on Windows 8 interface watching Youtube videos about it I think the new user interface just won’t really need it .

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Aero is the fancy 3D features in Windows – for example, the transparent, glass-like window borders. Those are gone, replaced by flat-color window borders.

Aero Peek is the effect that automatically hides all but one window when you hover over a window in the Alt-Tab switcher, or hover over the button on the bottom-right corner of your screen.

0 votes

Achraf Almouloudi

Thanks, but I believe Aero could be added back in the future in a third party application or by Microsoft itself, hope so .

0 votes

Nikhil Chandak

I can’t find Aero Peek in the visual effects in my laptop which is running on Windows 7
:(

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Perhaps your laptop is running Windows 7 Starter and not using Aero, but the basic windows UI.

0 votes

Michael Greene

Thanks for the tips, only knew one of them.

0 votes

Norbert Gruszfeld

don’t forget “win”+tab combination it has to have aeropeek eneblad it has the same funciotn as alt+tab but looks more cool if you are intrested.

Ctrl+Alt+Tab – I’ll probably wiell be using this a lot!

thanks for the article

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Looks cool, but more awkward to use, really!

0 votes

Norbert Gruszfeld

It takes time to get used to it, On slower computer it may freez for a sec.

0 votes

tom

While holding alt with left hand, tap on tab to flip through applications. But to get out of the switcher without having to circle all the way through the set back to the application you were in, just tap the key above tab (` or ~ on that key), and that will escape from the switcher. Practically speaking this is the single most useful thing to know.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Seems to work with any key, not just Escape! Thnks for that, very interesting.

0 votes

Vipul Jain

The ctrl+alt+tab is quite useful when i get buried under programs and then keep alt pressed and keep clicking tab tab tab :D

0 votes

Arron Walker

Best article ever. The escape one is seriously handy, I hate cycling all the way round, and keep forgetting I can just click, or let it switch and then quickly switch back. The escape will be easier to remember I think though, this will probably save 6 months of my life over the years xD

0 votes

Gabriel Barron

I always understood this but it doesn’t work well with my dual screen at work. Am I just inept? Any ideas on that?

0 votes
0 votes

Ritwick Saikia

So many ways to get back to the application I want!!! Thanks Chris. Real handy these are.

0 votes

Tan Nguyen Nhat

Very good post!

0 votes

Lisa Santika Onggrid

Cool. I learnt some new shortcuts today. Thanks!

0 votes

Yiz Borol

Wow, I actually didn’t know about the alt+ctrl+tab thing.
Also about aero-peek, I’ve often thought about disabling that, just never knew how…

0 votes

randy

cool !

0 votes

Concerned Citizen ?

Thanks for the help with Aero-Peek. It’s OFF! I didn’t know what it was called to investigate how to turn it off before!

Also want to mention the Windows Key & TAB combination. Is this what is being referred to as the “Flip 3D”? I find this still works fine even though I have turned off Aero-Peek !

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Yup, that’s Flip 3D. Aero Peek is just the effect that “peeks” at a single window, not the one that gives 3D effects everywhere.

0 votes

Alex Perkins

Awesome, didn’t know the Ctrl+Alt+Tab, it works for Windows Key+Tab too.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Ah, neat — I’ve never thought about it, that makes sense.

0 votes

Logan Badger

Will this work for Windows XP?

0 votes

Logan Badger

Just wanted to know if it will work with Windows XP.

0 votes

Logan Badger

This doesn’t work in Windows XP

0 votes

Aashish kumar

You can use third party software for windows XP . Go to cnet download.com for relevant software

0 votes
0 votes

Aashish kumar

most of the tricks are known to me . If you are using ultimate version of windows 7 you can try start button + tab
which is more similar with alt+tab but comes up with animated mode :)

0 votes

Logan Badger

Sorry, I didn’t know if it was taking my questions…I was trying to ask if I can apply these methods to my Windows XP as well? I do see the other reply about Cnet though, not sure if I want to change anything on my XP though,I kind of like it the way it is,I find it will do some of the things the new OS won’t.

Please enlighten me though about what I could do with it (OS) from the Cnet site.

Thanks

0 votes

Theresa Banks

Great! Does the Ultimate Guide to Windows 7 contain a user friendly list of these shortcuts. If not, I sure would like to have one.
Thanks

0 votes

Robert Bolland

Just a quick “Atta-Boy” to your entire staff for doing such a terrific job on ALL of these presentations . . . very handy, to say the least! Thanx!!!

0 votes

Jim Spencer

Great little article on the hidden little gems in Windows, Chris! All the more reason not to rush into Windows 8, when Windows 7 still has plenty of punch!

0 votes

4e07efd1d7ca8cff52a913f3ea90ccfe

Thanks for sharing! This is very useful. Till now I didn’t know some of the shortcuts. :)))

0 votes

c smith

Great! Will try it out asap.

0 votes

Charles Yost

I am definitely going to have to try this out when I get home today! This is really cool!!

0 votes

Fish Fishman

I am an interface junkie and there is so much here to play with, thank you.

0 votes

Peter McLennan

I found that the Alt-Tab thumbnail images were a bit small, so I wrote a program that changed the relevant registry settings to allow them to be enlarged (as well as tweaking a few other layout attributes). See more at http://catplace.net/gondwana/alttab/index.html.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

Yup, there are quite a few registry settings you can change to tweak the Windows 7 Alt+Tab switcher, too.

0 votes

Rigoberto Garcia

Great tips Chris. Thanks…

0 votes

MT$ Programmers

Great article. Thanks for the tips and tricks.

We did not know 3D Flip was being removed in Windows 8.
Wonder what they will replace it with as Microsoft isnt known for just removing features without putting something in its place.

0 votes

Chris Hoffman

WinKey+Tab will be the switcher for the new Modern (formerly known as Metro) apps.

0 votes

Commander Bill

These are great,,,makes life simpler

0 votes

ahssan

i like this thing very much

0 votes

ahssan

cool

0 votes

Debarshi Bhattacharjee

nice article…

0 votes

url 2

very cool , indeed!

0 votes

Edward Bellair

Going to bookmark. To much for my brain to remember.

0 votes

nihsu

for 3 D tab switching you can press windows key + tab and use mouse wheel or arrow keys to switch between them otherwise you can press ctrl + windows key + tab at same time and 3 D window switcher will remain active and one can use mouse/arrow keys to switch, use escape to exit.

0 votes

Varun Bhat

Nice tricks.. Thanks :)