Windows 8 and 8.1 Forums


How to switch efficiently between applications

  1. #1


    Posts : 9
    Windows 8.1

    How to switch efficiently between applications


    Hi,

    The basic way to easily switch between applications, besides using the mouse to click on task bar icons, is the alt-tab key. However, that key is almost totally useless when there are more than 3 windows opened. On Windows 7, I was using Virtuawin to solve this. That allows to group windows into workspaces similar to desktops offered by Ubuntu. Virtuawin works on Windows 8, but it has more issues that makes its use annoying for me. First, it looses track of windows in focus and sometimes ordering on each desktop. Because of that, when switching to the desktop with, say, Emacs, to the one with Firefox, keyboard stops working from time to time, until I figure out that no window is in focus and press alt-tab. Pressing alt-tab conservatively after each desktop switch will not work around, because when the window is in focus, alt-tab switches to something else. Having one window per desktop doesn't work around as well, because Windows "cleverly" includes the desktop as one alternative to alt-tab. Virtuawin also offers from time to time, randomly, without any clear rule, to close itself when I close several windows with alt-f4. I thought that this behavior would happen when Virtuawin was the only window on screen, but no, it can happen even when other windows are present.

    I tried two different alternatives with even worse results. Switcher, which would at least act as an alt-tab replacement, just doesn't load at startup and doesn't retain its settings. The default shortcut key, Windows-`, is really bad for because I have a canadian french keyboard. WindowsPager, the second one I tried and which seemed to work, causes non-working keyboard or annoying beeps on EACH desktop switch! Moreover, WindowsPager has absolutely no installer, just useless instructions telling to put a symbolic link on the autostart to load it at startup. But Windows does NOT support symbolic links! Searching for a solution on Google only gives download links for the applications, seems I am the only one stupid enough to try these applications on Windows 8. I also tried VistaSwitch a while ago, but it just adds confusion by imposing a different keyboard shortcut to start it, displays window names in a random order forcing me to look at each window the same way as it happens when maintaining alt-tab. In summary, it works for 2-3 windows, but for more, it will take me from 30 to 45 seconds to find the target window, each time I do a switch.

    Is there any way to switch between multiple running windows other than clicking on the task bar icons or using alt-tab until I get lucky and fall on the right window? At least, is it possible to remove the desktop from the possible targets of alt-tab? Even something that would bind shortcut keys to running applications would help.

    Thanks for any idea.

      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  2. #2


    Posts : 22,575
    64-bit Windows 10


    Hello Eric,

    You might see if either option in the tutorials below may work better for you.

    Switcher - Open in Windows 8

    "Window Switcher" Shortcut - Create in Windows 8

    Hope this helps,
    Shawn
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  3. #3


    I use Alt+Esc.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  4. #4


    Posts : 9
    Windows 8.1


    The above tutorials focus on switching between Metro applications. I'm even not sure they apply to mainstream Windows 8, maybe just to Windows RT, because Alt-tab switches between desktop applictions, not Metro ones. Anyway, my problem is switching among desktop applications. Using alt-tab or alt-escape works well when there are two applications to switch back and forth between. Otherwise, I have to skim through a long list of applications in a somewhat random order. Sometimes, it takes less time to randomly try pressing alt-tab three times until I reach the correct target rather than trying to figure out from the icons which applications are which and find the target in the list. Having a way to group applications into desktops or workspaces is thus valuable for me. Virtuawin has been an excellent solution for this in the past, but it now slowly but surely introduces as much erratic behaviors as alt-tab. This could be Windows 8, could be some newly running application, there is no obvious way to figure out what exactly is causing the issues.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

  5. #5


    Posts : 22,575
    64-bit Windows 10


    From the first tutorial, you could press the CTRL+ALT+TAB keys to keep it open, and then press the Tab key to cycle between the opened desktop windows.
      My System SpecsSystem Spec

How to switch efficiently between applications
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