Master Windows 10’s Alt+Tab Switcher with These Tricks

Alt + Tab selector on the desktop of a Windows 10.

Alt + Tab lets you switch between open windows, but there’s more to it. Alt + Tab selector has other useful but hidden functions Keyboard shortcuts. These tips apply to both Windows 10 and 7.

Standard Alt + Tab usage is pretty basic. Just press Alt + Tab, hold down the Alt key, then keep pressing the Tab key to cycle through your open windows. Release the Alt key when you see an outline around the desired window.

Alt + Tab in reverse

Switch between windows with Alt + Tab on Windows 10.

Alt + Tab advances normally, left to right. If you miss the window you want, you don’t need to keep pressing Tab to browse the list again. It works, but it’s slow, especially if you have a lot of windows open.

Instead, press Alt + Shift + Tab to move through windows in reverse order. If you use Alt + Tab and go past the window you want, hold down the Shift key and press Tab once to move left.

Select Windows with the arrow keys

You can select windows in Alt + Tab with the arrow keys. Press Alt + Tab to open the picker and hold down Alt. Rather than pressing Tab, use the arrow keys on your keyboard to highlight the window you want, then release the Alt key, press the Enter key, or press the space bar.

Use your mouse to switch and close Windows

Click the red X to close a window in Windows 10's Alt + Tab picker.

You can also use your mouse with the Alt + Tab selector. Press Alt + Tab, hold down Alt, and click on the window you want to switch to.

When using your mouse, you’ll notice a bonus: an “x” appears in the upper right corner of a window thumbnail when you hover the mouse over it. Click the “x” to close an application window. It’s a quick way to close a lot of windows.

Alt + Tab without holding Alt

The Alt + Tab selector normally closes when you release the Alt key. But, if you want to use Alt + Tab without holding Alt key all the time, you can. Press Alt + Ctrl + Tab, then release all three keys. The Alt + Tab selector will remain open on your screen.

You can use the Tab key, the arrow keys or your mouse to select the desired window. Press Enter or the space bar to move to the highlighted window.

Close the Alt + Tab selector without changing

You can close the Alt + Tab selector at any time by releasing the Alt key, but it will switch to the window you currently have selected. To close the Alt + Tab selector without changing windows, press the Esc key on your keyboard.

Activate the old Alt + Tab selector

Classic gray Alt + Tab selector on Windows 10.

Remember the old Windows XP style Alt + Tab selector? There were no window thumbnails, just icons and window titles on a gray background. You may still see this Alt + Tab selector on Windows 10 for compatibility reasons when playing certain games.

You can open the old Alt + Tab selector with a hidden keyboard shortcut, as well. Press and hold the left or right Alt key, press and release the other Alt key on your keyboard, and then press Tab. The old selector appears, but this one time only. The next time you press Alt + Tab, you’ll see the new standard Alt + Tab selector.

The classic selector does not allow you to use your mouse or the arrow keys. However, it does support Ctrl + Shift + Tab to cycle through windows in reverse, and you can press Esc to close it.

If you really like that old Alt + Tab selector – and we don’t know why you would – you can come back to it by modifying the value “AltTabSettings” in the Windows registry. It will then always appear when you press Alt + Tab.

Switch between tabs instead of Windows

Switch between tabs with Ctrl + Tab in Google Chrome.

It’s not an Alt + Tab keyboard trick, but it’s so similar and important that we have to include it. In almost any application that has built-in tabs, you can use Ctrl + Tab to switch between tabs, just like you would use Alt + Tab to switch between windows. Hold down the Ctrl key, then press Tab repeatedly to switch to the right tab.

You can even switch tabs in reverse (right to left) by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Tab. There is a lot of other keyboard shortcuts for working with tabs, as well.

Use task view with Windows + Tab

Windows 10 task display interface.

Okay, technically this one isn’t an Alt + Tab shortcut either, but hear us out. Windows + Tab is a keyboard shortcut similar to Alt + Tab. He opens the task view interface, which offers a miniature view of your open windows and even multiple desks you can organize them on. It also includes the Windows Timeline, but you can disable it if you prefer.

After pressing Windows + Tab, you can release both keys and use your mouse or the arrow keys to select a window. To move a window to another virtual desktop, drag it to the desktop icon at the top of the screen with your mouse.

This is the same interface that opens when you click the Task View button to the right of the Cortana icon on your taskbar. However, the keyboard shortcut may be more convenient.

At the very least, it’s more useful than the old “Flip 3D” function on Windows 7 and Vista. It looked more like a tech demo for 3D on Windows than a useful window picker.

Install a replacement Alt + Tab switch

Alt + Tab Terminator on Windows 10.

You can also replace the built-in Windows Alt + Tab selector with a third-party Alt + Tab replacement. For example, NTWind is free Alt + Tab terminator offers a more powerful and customizable Alt + Tab selector. It has larger window previews and a built-in “Finish” feature to close misbehaving apps. If you are looking for something a little different, give it a try.

Alt + Tab Terminator is the successor to VistaSwitcher, which we have advised in the old days.

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