Tuesday Tip: Alt + Tab – The Fastest Way to Switch between Open Windows

By Richard Stokes

ALT TABWe have a term in the office called ‘cranking’.  Essentially it’s a word that my colleague, Tony, uses and we have all adopted, that means you’re hard at work on something and have your head down.  Typically when I’m ‘cranking’ I’ll have multiple applications open on my desktop (Word, Excel, a browser, etc.).  And, if I wanted to switch between them I would have to stop what I’m doing and use my mouse to click each one to find what I was looking for.

This may seem straightforward to you but depending on the number of windows open and the frequency with which this action is performed it can be slow and slightly annoying.  Oftentimes I find myself clicking through each window multiple times because, in my haste, I missed what I was looking for.

Then I discovered the ALT + TAB keyboard shortcut.  It’s simple and a great time saver.  Here’s how it works:

1)    Make sure you have several different applications open

2)    Hold down the ALT key and then press and release the TAB key

3)    A small rectangular window appears in the middle of your screen that shows thumbnails for all the active applications you have open

4)    Every time you press the TAB key (while continuing to hold down the ALT key), your screen switches between these open applications

5)    Once you have found the window you are looking for, release the keys and your screen changes to that selected application.  Simple.

So if you’re like me and you’re used to having lots of applications open on your desktop, this is a great way to quickly and easily bounce between your open programs without having to pause and use your mouse.

Interestingly enough, I also found out that this shortcut is not new; in fact, it’s been around since before Windows ’98.  I never knew about it and I’m guessing some of you didn’t either, so enjoy!

Richard Stokes: As the Director of Sales for Network 1, Richard identifies “future” clients that can benefit from the support of an experienced, outsourced IT team. He helps clients and prospects find technology solutions they need to achieve better productivity and efficiency so they can focus on making money and growing their businesses.

Network 1 designs, builds and supports the IT you need to run your business more securely, productively and successfully. Whether you want to outsource all of your IT needs to a reliable, responsive, service-oriented company, or need to supplement the work of your internal IT staff, we will carefully evaluate where you are now, discuss where you want to go and implement and support a plan to get you there with as little interruption as possible.


  1. Tuesday Tip: Word Shortcuts and Macros Made Easy on February 11, 2014 at 10:02 am

    […] It Anywhere with Ctrl F) a shortcut to search documents.  Richard also covered a useful tip – Alt+Tab – The Fastest Way To Switch Between Open Windows .  I’ve picked some of the ones that I use […]

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