One of the most frequently done action while working on the computer is switching between apps or tasks. There are numerous options to switch tasks in Windows 10. Moreover, the task-switching process becomes complicated when you have multiple monitors or virtual desktops.
Fortunately, Windows 10 is packed with many more features than its predecessors to support superior multitasking. You only need to learn and use these features to boost productivity.
That is why I am going to cover all its features along with some third-party tools to help you speed up task-switching in Windows 10. Let’s get started.
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Task Switcher Shortcuts
First of all, let’s learn about the essential task switcher shortcuts, which everyone must know; no matter you are a beginner or an expert user.
Alt + Tab
When you press Alt + Tab, you can see the task switcher, i.e., thumbnails of all running apps. You can move your selection forward (left to right) by pressing Tab while holding down Alt. Whenever you release the Alt key, the selected app or task gets active, and the task switcher disappears as well.
Meanwhile, if you change your mind, you can press Esc to exit the task switcher without changing the active application.
Also, if you press these keys and release them quickly, you get directly switched to the last app, thus allowing you to quick-jump from active to last active app and vice versa.
Shift + Alt + Tab
You can use Shift + Alt + Tab to open the task switcher and move your selection backward (right to left) in the task switcher. Even if you first press Alt + Tab, you can press Shift in the middle to shift the selection in the other direction in the scenario where you go past a thumbnail.
Ctrl + Alt + Tab
You can use Ctrl + Alt + Tab to open the task switcher in sticky mode, i.e., you can release the keys, and the task switcher will still stay in view. You can use the arrow keys to select an app and press Enter to switch to it.
Win + Tab
Task View opens up on pressing Win + Tab. It lets you switch to a different task, work with virtual desktops, and resume timeline activities, interestingly. You can switch to a virtual desktop or a running application by clicking with the mouse pointer or using the arrow keys and pressing Enter.
More Switcher Shortcuts
After you are comfortable with the essential task-switching shortcuts, let’s get to know about the advanced shortcuts for a superior multi-tasking experience.
Switch b/w pinned apps
If you have some favorite apps that you pinned to the taskbar, then you can press Win + 1 to 9 to open or switch to the pinned apps. If the application is already opened, it becomes active then.
For example, if File Explorer is your first pinned app, then pressing Win + 1 for the first time opens the app if it is not opened and maximizes it if it is already opened. If you press it for the second time, it minimizes it.
Switch b/w same app’s windows
Easy Window Switcher is a tool to switch focus to one of the app’s windows using the keys Alt + ` (backtick). That means you no longer need to use Alt + Tab to surf through several windows of the same application. Please note that you must restart your system after installing it to make it work.
Switch b/w apps on the virtual desktop
Windows brings in a new feature for multitasking — the virtual desktop. I find it useful for grouping apps, for example, you can have office apps and personal apps separately.
You can use Alt + Tab to switch between apps on the same virtual desktop, and Win + Ctrl + Left and Win + Ctrl + Right keys to move an application between virtual desktops without opening the Task View. The first shortcut moves the app to the left virtual desktop and the second to the right desktop. This way you can confine to a few apps on one desktop.
Switch b/w Apps on all Virtual Desktops
If you use multiple virtual desktops, Alt + Tab will not allow you to switch between the apps on various desktops, by default. Fortunately, you can change this behavior. Follow these steps to switch between apps on all desktops:
- Open the Start menu go to Settings and click on the System tile.
- Choose Multitasking from the right panel, then under “Virtual desktops“, choose “All desktops” from the dropdown for the setting named “Pressing Alt + Tab shows windows that are open on“.
Switch b/w Apps on the Physical Monitor
If you work in a multi-monitor setup, it becomes complicated to switch between apps as Windows 10 does not provide any good feature for switching apps between multiple monitors. Fortunately, there are a few apps that help in this situation and allow better app-switching between monitors.
Dual Monitor Tools is an excellent tool for users having multiple monitors. Its “Swap Screen” options enable you to move apps between monitors and thus confine some apps on one monitor. There are many more features as you will see in its Options. Let’s see how to tweak its settings in “Swap Screen”:
- Right-click on the icon of Dual Monitor Tools in the notification area and choose Options from the context menu.
- Under “Swap Screen” on the left, click on “Active Window“.
- Click Change with the option named “Move active window to next screen“, check “Enable this Hotkey” and set a key combination.
- Repeat the same for the option “Move active window to previous screen“.
- Finally click Close to save the changes and exit from its Options.
Finally, you will be able to use the set key combinations to move an active app window to the next or the previous monitor. Although they function similar to Win + Shift + Left and Win + Shift + Right yet I found they perform better as DMT moves a window while preserving its size unlike the latter.
VistaSwitcher is an alternative to the task switcher, which shows a list of thumbnails of the running apps like the other. When you press Alt + Tab, it shows a list of all running tasks along with their previews.
You can press Tab to scroll the application list and release it to choose one of them. You can also change display settings and limit switching of apps between a single or multiple monitors. Follow these steps to set its options:
- Press Alt + Tab to open the task switcher (VistaSwitcher).
- Hold down Alt and right-click on its screen > choose Preferences.
- Switch to the Behavior tab > under Position, select “Monitor #1” (or your choice) for “Show VistaSwitcher on” and click OK.
Switch b/w Apps on all Physical Monitors
By default, when you press Alt + Tab, task switcher is shown, which shows all applications running on all physical monitors. However, if you wish to see the apps running on the current monitor, just press Win + Tab.
Customize Task Switcher
Finally, let’s check out some tools to customize the task switcher. You can use these tools to tweak as well as replace the original task switcher.
Winaero Tweaker is an all-in-one customization utility as well as a task switcher tool. It helps modify numerous hidden settings of the task switcher. I have compiled some of my favorite customizations below.
Enable Classic Task Switcher
It is possible to get back the classic task switcher, which showed open windows as icons, unlike the modern task switcher that shows app thumbnails. Follow these steps to enable the traditional task switcher using Winaero Tweaker:
- Under the Appearance menu, select “Alt + Tab Appearance“.
- In the right panel, check the option “Enable classic Alt+Tab dialog“. Please note that it will commence after logging out and logging back in.
Set Background Transparency
You can adjust the transparency of the task switcher dialog to hide or see its background per your preference. Here are the steps to achieve it:
- Under the Appearance option, click “Alt + Tab Appearance“.
- In the right panel, move the slider under the option “Alt+Tab background transparency“. You can set it to 0 for making it transparent (as shown in the below screenshot) and 100 for making it opaque.
You can dim the wallpaper and background windows. by setting it to 100 and non-dimmed when 0 (zero). Follow these steps to dim the desktop:
- Under the Appearance option, choose “Alt + Tab Appearance“.
- In the right panel, move the slider under “Dim Desktop“. You can set it to 0 to see the desktop and 100 to hide everything else the switcher.
Alt-Tab Terminator is an alternative to the de facto task switcher. It enables switching between apps and brings more features than the task switcher of Windows 10. It shows window previews with task management capabilities to control the running applications, making it a perfect alternative.
You can close a window, terminate, or run the app in focus. It lets you close all open windows in one go. It has a few customization options as given below.
Replace Alt + Tab
You can switch the default task switcher with the Alt-Tab Terminator. You can enable this option by clicking the bar-icon and choosing “Replace Alt-Tab”.
Replace Win + Tab
Alt-Tab Terminator can also replace the Task View (that comes at pressing Win + Tab) using this application. You can replace it by clicking the bar-icon and selecting the option named “Replace Win-Tab”.
I find this as an awesome option if you wish to like Alt-Tab Terminator but do not want to replace the default task switcher. However, you must note that Task View that comes at pressing Win + Tab provides a unique functionality (virtual desktops) that is not available in the Alt-Tab Terminator.
View it in Full Screen
When you press F11 or click on the full-screen button in the bottom-left corner, the switcher window maximizes to the full screen, making all things big.
Set a custom shortcut
You can enable keyboard shortcuts to take actions inside Alt-Tab Terminator. Please click the bar icon and choose Settings. In the new window, set the required shortcuts under the option named “Hotkeys“, as shown below.
For example, you can also set Alt + ~ as the hotkey to launch the Alt-Tab Terminator. In this way, you can stick to the task switcher as well as the Task View without compromising on the features of Alt-Tab Terminator.