If you are a longtime Windows user (as I am, I've been using Windows since version 1.03 in 1987), you've probably developed some deeply-ingrained habits.
On of my most oft-used techniques from the old days: Switching between desktop windows using the Alt+Tab key combination, A.K.A. 'Coolswitch'. Windows 7 and Windows Vista have altered this feature, and not for the better, in my opinion.
The behavior of this feature has remained consistent all the way through Windows XP: Press and hold the Alt key, then press and release the Tab repeatedly, and you can cycle through an iconic array of windows, arranged by Z-order (most recently used windows are first in the list). The window title appears in a text field at the bottom of the grid. While holding down the Alt key, keep pressing Tab. Select the window icon you want then release the keys, and the desired window is activated. Pressing and releasing the Alt+Tab combination once will activate the last window you were working with. So you can cycle between two application windows very quickly by pressing and releasing Alt+Tab repeatedly. Simple, powerful, and very helpful for the Windows power user.
Starting with Windows Vista, and continuing in Windows 7, the behavior has changed: the windows are no longer presented using a simple icon array, nor are they presented in Z-order, making it much more difficult to switch between two most recently-used application windows.
I've struggled for a while, trying to get used to the 'new and improved' way of doing things, but I just can't. So I found out how to restore the Windows XP (and earlier) Alt+Tab behavior:
Modifying your registry incorrectly can destabilize your system or render it unusable. Please back up your registry before applying any registry changes. You've been warned.
I opened RegEdit, navigated to
And added the following REG_DWORD value:
As soon as I set that value in the registry, I had my familiar, useful Alt+Tab behavior back. No more struggling to find the last window I was looking at.
If you don't want to fire up RegEdit, you can import this registry file. (Right-click, select "Save As" or similar, and save to your desktop. You can double-click the file and add it to your registry. Be sure to back up your registry first.
You can revert to the default (standard) behavior by setting
AltTabSettings = 0 (or just delete the entry from the registry).