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windows alt tabThere’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 25 Cool Windows 7 Keyboard Tricks That Will Impress Your Friends 25 Cool Windows 7 Keyboard Tricks That Will Impress Your Friends Read More 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 alt tab

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 How To Enable & Troubleshoot Aero Effects In Windows 7 How To Enable & Troubleshoot Aero Effects In Windows 7 Read More .”

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.

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windows alt tab settings

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.

windows alt tab settings

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.

windows alt tab settings

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 Using Registry Cleaner: Does Is It Really Make a Difference? Using Registry Cleaner: Does Is It Really Make a Difference? Advertisements for registry cleaners are all over the Web. There’s an entire industry out there bent on convincing inexperienced computer users that their registry needs fixing, and that, for ten easy payments of $29.95, their... Read More editor:

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

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

alt tab tricks

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

windows alt tab

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 Vista Switcher - Replace Windows' Alt-Tab With Something Cooler Vista Switcher - Replace Windows' Alt-Tab With Something Cooler Read More . 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.

alt tab tricks

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 What's Missing From Windows 8? What's Missing From Windows 8? Windows 8 has seen the removal of many features that have been key to Windows over the years, including the Start button, Start menu, and Windows Aero. We tend to focus on the new features... Read More .

For more information about mastering Windows 7, download our free Ultimate Guide to Windows 7 DOWNLOAD The Ultimate Windows 7 Guide DOWNLOAD The Ultimate Windows 7 Guide Read More .

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

  1. Tony
    August 25, 2016 at 4:56 am

    Thanks! Aero-peek was driving me crazy RDP'ing into a remote system with significant lag. With the slow redraws I could never get it to stop on the correct window! All better now.

  2. Light
    June 23, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    Does anyone know if there is a way to reorder the windows you are alt+tab'ing? I have 7 windows open and wish to alt+tab between two of them while having the others open.

  3. Paul
    May 24, 2016 at 3:38 pm

    Is there a way to stop the application/window icons changing positions each time I switch between apps? It is SO annoying, and a major flaw in interface design.

  4. Corey Alix
    May 13, 2016 at 7:01 pm

    Thank you for the tip on disabling “Aero Peek". That feature drives me nuts! I'm just about so select the window I want and some other window flies up in my face. Hate(d) it!

  5. Fabian
    April 10, 2016 at 3:58 pm

    Alt Gr+Tab works like Ctrl+Alt+Tab.

  6. John
    February 22, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    Very useful, especially disabling Aero Peek, it was so annoying... Thanks

  7. Spidey
    January 29, 2016 at 6:30 pm

    Cool and useful information, thank you

  8. Amy
    January 27, 2016 at 9:14 pm

    how do you undo after edit the registry, I just deleted the entry that was made and it didn't change anything?

  9. André Lacerda Amaral
    June 18, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    you saved my life! now Alt+Tab really works!

  10. Jill
    April 22, 2015 at 9:03 am

    Thanks a million for this the auto peek while alt + tabbing was so annoying.

    you may have saved a life or two ;)

  11. Evelyn
    March 12, 2015 at 10:36 am

    You just made my life a lot more enjoyable! Thank you so much!

  12. UUUUUUUUUU
    March 7, 2015 at 7:07 am

    USE WINDOWS+TAB.................

  13. Ryan
    February 19, 2015 at 2:59 am

    For Classic Task Switcher, instead of editing Registry Settings, you can turn off the "Enable Desktop Composition" option just below the "Enable Aero Peek" tickbox.
    Works similar but may turn off more visual candy

  14. Yunes
    February 10, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    thank you very much....this solved my big problem

  15. Varun Bhat
    April 8, 2013 at 4:25 am

    Nice tricks.. Thanks :)

  16. nihsu
    March 12, 2013 at 10:04 am

    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.

  17. Edward Bellair
    December 4, 2012 at 8:20 pm

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

  18. url 2
    November 5, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    very cool , indeed!

  19. Debarshi Bhattacharjee
    November 4, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    nice article...

  20. ahssan
    November 4, 2012 at 3:52 pm

    cool

  21. ahssan
    November 4, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    i like this thing very much

  22. Commander Bill
    November 4, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    These are great,,,makes life simpler

  23. MT$ Programmers
    November 4, 2012 at 4:12 am

    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.

    • Chris Hoffman
      November 7, 2012 at 6:12 pm

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

  24. Rigoberto Garcia
    November 2, 2012 at 8:51 pm

    Great tips Chris. Thanks...

  25. Peter McLennan
    November 2, 2012 at 4:25 am

    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.

    • Chris Hoffman
      November 7, 2012 at 6:12 pm

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

  26. Anonymous
    November 2, 2012 at 12:25 am

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

  27. Charles Yost
    October 31, 2012 at 1:36 pm

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

  28. c smith
    October 31, 2012 at 11:59 am

    Great! Will try it out asap.

  29. Anonymous
    October 31, 2012 at 9:16 am

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

  30. Jim Spencer
    October 31, 2012 at 6:43 am

    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!

  31. Anonymous
    October 30, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    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!!!

  32. Theresa Banks
    October 30, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    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

  33. Aashish kumar
    October 30, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    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 :)

    • Logan Badger
      October 30, 2012 at 6:46 pm

      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

  34. Logan Badger
    October 30, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    This doesn't work in Windows XP

    • Aashish kumar
      October 30, 2012 at 6:26 pm

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

    • Chris Hoffman
      November 7, 2012 at 6:11 pm

      I believe you can use Ctrl+Alt+Tab or install a third-party Alt+Tab replacement. Microsoft even makes their own Alt+Tab replacement for Windows XP. It's called Alt+Tab Replacement and it's available here: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/xp-downloads#2TC=powertoys

  35. Logan Badger
    October 30, 2012 at 5:23 pm

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

  36. Logan Badger
    October 30, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Will this work for Windows XP?

  37. Alex Perkins
    October 30, 2012 at 4:46 pm

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

    • Chris Hoffman
      November 7, 2012 at 6:09 pm

      Ah, neat -- I've never thought about it, that makes sense.

  38. Concerned Citizen ?
    October 30, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    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 !

    • Chris Hoffman
      November 7, 2012 at 6:07 pm

      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.

  39. randy
    October 30, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    cool !

  40. Yiz Borol
    October 30, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    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...

  41. Lisa Santika Onggrid
    October 30, 2012 at 3:20 pm

    Cool. I learnt some new shortcuts today. Thanks!

  42. Tan Nguyen Nhat
    October 30, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Very good post!

  43. Ritwick Saikia
    October 30, 2012 at 2:25 pm

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

  44. Gabriel Barron
    October 30, 2012 at 2:22 pm

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

  45. Arron Walker
    October 30, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    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

  46. Vipul Jain
    October 30, 2012 at 10:38 am

    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

  47. tom
    October 30, 2012 at 9:59 am

    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.

    • Chris Hoffman
      November 7, 2012 at 6:04 pm

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

  48. Norbert Gruszfeld
    October 30, 2012 at 9:31 am

    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

    • Chris Hoffman
      November 7, 2012 at 6:04 pm

      Looks cool, but more awkward to use, really!

    • Norbert Gruszfeld
      November 8, 2012 at 9:13 am

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

  49. Michael Greene
    October 30, 2012 at 5:32 am

    Thanks for the tips, only knew one of them.

  50. Nikhil Chandak
    October 30, 2012 at 5:05 am

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

    • Chris Hoffman
      November 7, 2012 at 6:03 pm

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

  51. Achraf Almouloudi
    October 30, 2012 at 3:45 am

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

    • Boni Oloff
      October 30, 2012 at 2:34 pm

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

    • Achraf Almouloudi
      October 31, 2012 at 2:44 am

      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 .

    • Chris Hoffman
      November 7, 2012 at 6:03 pm

      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!

    • Achraf Almouloudi
      November 7, 2012 at 11:36 pm

      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 .

    • Chris Hoffman
      November 10, 2012 at 3:16 pm

      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.

    • Achraf Almouloudi
      November 10, 2012 at 6:31 pm

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

  52. Nikhil Chandak
    October 30, 2012 at 3:24 am

    seems to be amazing
    gonna try it out
    ;)

  53. Boni Oloff
    October 30, 2012 at 1:01 am

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

  54. Lee
    October 30, 2012 at 12:46 am

    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.

    • Chris Hoffman
      November 7, 2012 at 6:02 pm

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

  55. Bradley Steynbergh
    October 29, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    awesome!

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