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Alt-tab behavior changed for minimized windows RRS feed

  • Question

  • A gesture I have become used to in XP and Vista is alt-space, n, then alt-tab. What this does is minimize the frontmost window, let me see something in the window behind, and then get the previous window back since alt-tab switches to the most recently used window.

    As of windows 7 RC (and possibly Beta, didn't try the Beta), alt-tab doesn't work to bring up the window that was last minimized. Minimizing a window now seems to demote it to a random (though consistent) position in the alt-tab order, rather than the previous behavior of popping the second window in the stack up to the top and dropping the minimized window down to second in the list.

    Why was this changed? Is there a way to restore the previous behavior?
    Developer, Display Ads Platform, Microsoft
    Thursday, September 17, 2009 9:33 PM

Answers

  • Hi Ratha,

     

    Yes I got the same situation as you --- But I got the same issue on Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

     

    The screenshot I provided is collect after minimize a windows and click Alt+Tab. The minimized window go to the end of the list, so it will not be started when we click Alt+Tab. Alt+Tab will get the second program in the list.

     

    Meanwhile I found following article which mentioned there is a chance in Windows Vista:

     

    http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2008/07/01/8673981.aspx

     

    meanwhile, stop the cursor on Show Desktop button for a while can help display Desktop. Also we can Click Alt + Tab to the program we need to have a lot, hold Alt key and all other windows will be hidden. Hope these features can be a workaround.

     

     

    • Marked as answer by Ratha Grimes Friday, September 25, 2009 5:33 AM
    Friday, September 25, 2009 3:27 AM

All replies

  • Hi Ratha,

     

    I tried to minimize a window in Windows XP Professional (SP3), Windows Vista Home Premium (both are virtual systems) and Windows 7 Ultimate systems.

     

    I got a same result: the minimized window will be put to the end of the Alt+Tab list (In Vista and Windows 7, it went to the end but one in front of Desktop). Thus Alt+Tab after minimized a window will bring the third window in the list (as first one is minimized and went to the end, second one is displaying so Alt Tab get the third one).

     

    Here are the screenshot, I use the "My Computer/Computer" window on these screenshots.

     

    http://cid-b7ed40feb32ba29f.skydrive.live.com/browse.aspx/.Public/alttab

     

    Generally I will directly click Alt + Tab to check the other windows. Then simply click Alt + Tab again can help me get the original window back. In Windows 7, when we selected a window in Alt+Tab list, it will help display it directly if we hold Alt key for a while.

     

    If we would like to see the Desktop, we can click the Show Desktop icon (right side of Taskbar). Click it again can bring original window back.

    Friday, September 18, 2009 7:19 AM
  • Hi Shaon,

    I had trouble following your reply. I think you said you were able to reproduce my issue? The screenshot didn't make any sense to me. I'm not actually sure you grasped what I was describing.

    You then pointed out that there are workarounds. Certainly, it is still possible to navigate the windows. I am disappointed that more attention was not paid to preserving existing behavior, when the earlier behavior makes more sense (IMO).

    Thanks,
    Ratha

    Developer, Display Ads Platform, Microsoft
    Thursday, September 24, 2009 8:13 PM
  • Hi Ratha,

     

    Yes I got the same situation as you --- But I got the same issue on Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7.

     

    The screenshot I provided is collect after minimize a windows and click Alt+Tab. The minimized window go to the end of the list, so it will not be started when we click Alt+Tab. Alt+Tab will get the second program in the list.

     

    Meanwhile I found following article which mentioned there is a chance in Windows Vista:

     

    http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2008/07/01/8673981.aspx

     

    meanwhile, stop the cursor on Show Desktop button for a while can help display Desktop. Also we can Click Alt + Tab to the program we need to have a lot, hold Alt key and all other windows will be hidden. Hope these features can be a workaround.

     

     

    • Marked as answer by Ratha Grimes Friday, September 25, 2009 5:33 AM
    Friday, September 25, 2009 3:27 AM
  • I've been using Vista x64 for nearly a year and I didn't notice that change.  I always expected minimized windows to move to the end of the list; it's a real surprise that this no longer happens.

    I'm with you, Ratha, it did something predictable and it shouldn't have been changed.  However, now that it's been this way in Vista it's probably not likely to be changed back.

    -Noel
    Friday, September 25, 2009 4:14 AM
  • Aha. Shaon, thanks for finding the article, you nailed it.

    This explains why I was not able to reproduce the new behavior on Vista - apparently it is *dependent on the number of windows*!

    This is terrible. Not only is the behavior inconsistent depending on such an arbitrary factor as how many windows you have open, but it replaces a muscle memory intuitive way of navigating with the need to stop and think about where your window would be in alphabetical order. Argh!

    Noel, you're right, given that it has been this way since Vista it looks like I missed my chance to complain. I only wish they would give you an option to restore legacy z-ordering functionality. PowerToy anyone?

    Thanks to you both for helping me figure it out.

    Developer, Display Ads Platform, Microsoft
    Friday, September 25, 2009 5:30 AM
  • Ah, well, it is what it is now.

    I like that Alt-Tab removes focus from the current window.  My editor saves files when I do that, and then they're already saved for the other app (e.g., Visual Studio) that I'm entering.

    It would have been (would be?) GREAT if the Z-order was an option that could be selected, even if by a registry tweak.  Minimizing a window, then expecting it to be at the end of the list is a powerful feature that some people really did use (me and Ratha, clearly, and I'm sure others).  I didn't really notice that it was not doing that, but I often found myself hunting for the application I knew should be in there.  I can't count the number of times I shrugged my shoulders, put in the extra effort to go to the right icon, then moved on.  It never occurred to me that the software was going to extra effort to reorganize my apps for me.

    If an arbitrary change is being made to the UI, please, Microsoft, always make it dependent on a setting so that people who really want to continue their "classic" experience can do so. 

    In this particular case it's clear that the decision to change the way it worked to make it less "computer like" and more "human oriented" clearly makes it less "computer geek oriented".  :)

    Even taking a little while to add such configurability back into Windows 7 would yield a great deal of good will with we geeks.

    -Noel
    Friday, September 25, 2009 4:13 PM
  • Hi All,

    I've been nagged by a similar problem since I first installed Vista RC, and was fortunate enough to finally stumble across a solution today. I'll summarize both below.


    THE PROBLEM

    On Windows XP and it's predecessors (going back to 3.1, if memory serves) I use ALT+TAB to switch back-and-forth between two windows. For example, I often have two cmd.exe windows open - one for writing code (SQL, Python, batch file, etc.) and one for running the code. It's fast, easy, and by now reflexive, to quickly:

    1. Edit code in one window
    2. ALT+TAB to the second window
    3. Run the new code, and watch it crash
    4. ALT+TAB back to the first window and fix the problem
    5. Repeat steps 1-4 all day long

    I perform this simple workflow hundreds of times per day. I can work for tens-of-minutes at a time without ever taking my hands from the keyboard. I love my mouse, but when I'm coding or writing doc, its substantially more efficient for me to keep my hands on the keyboard and ALT+TAB between a few key windows.

    Since moving to Windows Vista and Windows 7, the ALT+TAB behavior has been essentially useless for me, due to the seemingly random order in which windows appear. I've read the blog post that Shaon cited, and understand  (though disagree with) why the ALT-TAB list works this way now. What I can't get over, however, is that I can't simply flip/flop between the two most recent windows, regardless of how the rest of the list is ordered.

    So, for the past year or two (whenever it was that Vista RC was released), I've always had at least one XP machine available on my desktop. I've done all my coding and most of my documentation on an XP computer because ALT+TAB works predictably on that platform. Now, however, I'm getting ready to upgrade my last XP machine to Windows 7 and am dreading having to battle with Windows "helping" me by shuffling around the ALT+TAB list. Hence, my finally putting in the requisite time today to find a real solution.


    THE SOLUTION

    Fortunately, the solution turns out to be easy. You can restore the XP-style ALT+TAB behavior - even while preserving the cool new Vista/7 Flip3D behavior - by adding the following registry value:

    HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\AltTabSettings = 1

    This gives you predictable, reliable ALT+TAB switching like XP, albeit with the loss of the cool looking big ALT+TAB icons that Vista/7 offer. Personally, I can live without the eye candy in order to work more effectively.

    I credit and thank the following post for turning me on to this solution:

    I hope this helps someone else, too; it made my day.

    -Michael

    • Proposed as answer by LFN_Nikita Monday, June 27, 2011 9:37 AM
    Wednesday, February 17, 2010 5:20 PM
  • The key HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\AltTabSettings = 1 is very useful!

    In Windows 7, alt-tab shows the transparent windows effect. It is bugging me because the screen change is distracting while I'm trying to figure out which window to switch.

    Thanks!

    Monday, June 27, 2011 9:39 AM
  • In Windows 7, alt-tab shows the transparent windows effect. It is bugging me because the screen change is distracting while I'm trying to figure out which window to switch.

    That's called Aero Peek, and it can easily be disabled right from the UI configuration settings.

    • Control Panel - System.
    • Click Advanced system settings.
    • In the Performance section, click the [Settings...] button.
    • Uncheck [ ] Enable Aero Peek.

    -Noel

    Wednesday, June 29, 2011 8:49 AM
  • My sad story on windows 7 new features :S.

    I was one of the big time users of Alt+Tab. Anyone spends his/her life in front of the computer(am i programmer) would know what it is not having predictable Alt+Tab behavior. Today i decided i would google to understand what is the actual behavior.

    I always had a problem with windows 7 behavior. Most of the time i would not switch to the desired window by using Alt+Tab. Second thing is the task bar grouping that i am not used to.

    So what i do now is i always disable the Task bar item grouping in any computer i happened to use and use the mouse to switch to the desired window by clicking on the task bar. I know fishing one mouse without looking where it is less annoying than fishing one desired window in the 10s of opened windows.

     

     


    Mr Genius
    Friday, September 9, 2011 3:23 PM
  • MrGenius, you might be interested in a tweak that brings up the Taskbar Live Previews more quickly:

    Speed Up the Display of Taskbar Live Previews

    In a lot of places in the Windows UI there are times where you have to hover the mouse over things to get them to come up.  An example is when you hover over a Taskbar button and want to see a Taskbar Live Preview of the application.

    Normally the wait times before Windows responds are pretty long - on the order of a second or a good part of one - and it can feel like a long time when you're really trying to get things done quickly.

    The good news is that the wait time can be sped up to be nearly instantaneous.

    This involves editing the registry with the Registry Editor tool.  BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN EDITING THE REGISTRY.

    ·  Click Start and type regedit into the search box, then press Enter.

    ·  Add a hover time value of 50 milliseconds:

         [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Advanced]

         ExtendedUIHoverTime    REG_DWORD    0x00000032 (50)

    -Noel

    Friday, September 9, 2011 4:10 PM
  • And you made my day, Michael. Thanks for that.

    Note that the default AltTabSwitcher panel includes only seven columns and three rows of icons. In XP, I used Tweak UI or PowerToys to get more rows.

    At http://social.technet.microsoft.com/Forums/ar/w7itproui/thread/9ebf508d-835f-4603-9dea-5b6bfdeda93e

    Daniel Martin has indicated new registry keys in Windows 7 that increase the number of columns and rows in the alt-tab switcher.

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011 11:43 PM