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New Windows 7 User here (Mac OS X user, Windows XP if I have my choice in a windows only environment)

Is there a way to customize the Windows 7 Alt-Tab user experience? Ideally I’d like to return to

  1. Not switching to the application until I release both keys (Windows 7 changes to the application as you alt-tab through)

  2. Showing Icons instead of screenshots in the alt tab overlay

Built into the operating system solutions are preferred, although third party applications are welcome.

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Windows 7 does not actually change to the application, it gives you an "Aero Peek" at it, just as hovering your mouse over the icon in the Taskbar does. However, with Alt + Tab it seems as though it selects the Window because you cannot "cancel" the task switch since releasing the keys DOES select the Window. – Jim Clark Aug 5 '10 at 15:25
Phoshi's answer below is the best for part 1 of this question. – KC Baltz Dec 23 '13 at 21:42
From Phoshi's answer: Control Panel -> System -> Advanced System Settings -> Advanced tab -> Performance dialog – Brandon Kuczenski Apr 23 at 20:34
up vote 10 down vote accepted

Just found this lifehacker- alt tab-tuner-makes-windows-7s-task-switcher-thumbnails-larger-and-much-more

You can even use the utility to switch back to the old XP-style Alt+Tab dialog if you were so inclined.

alt text

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Sadly this doesn't seem to be available for download any longer. – CoryTrese Jun 30 '15 at 14:44
You can download it from WinAero for Win 7 here, and the updated version for Win 8/10 here – NightShovel Sep 16 '15 at 16:22

Similar question superuser- getting-back-the-old-alt-tab-windows-switching-behavior-in-windows-7, Shevek's answer can solve the icons issue:

  1. Hold down the left alt key
  2. Press and release the right alt key, keeping the left alt key held down
  3. Then, still keeping the left alt key held down, tab-tab-tab away to you heart's content...

Perhaps some autohotkey magic can turn Left Alt + Right Alt into just Left Alt. I bet Phoshi can help with that.

Other customizations (which may not help with your specific requests):

vistaswitcher is very customizable

alt text


alt text

iswitchw filters through a list of open windows as you type—with a semi-transparent dialog accessible by simply pressing the Caps Lock key.

alt text

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Where did you ever discover about the left-alt / right-alt sequencing? I would like to data-mine that resource! – javadba Mar 27 '14 at 18:36
Vistaswitcher is good, it could be better if the order of windows stays unchanged, sadly that the development seems has stopped since 2012. – Edward May 10 at 7:50

The first can be solved by going to advanced system settings (Hit Windows+Pause/Break (That's Apple/Meta, to you)) and disabling "Use Aero Peek" in performance, and the latter can be changed back to normal by setting


to 1, it seems.

edit: That last one might not be true - I just set it back and the aero-style previews are refusing to return. Hmf. If you don't particularly care, you can disable desktop composition entirely - that'd definitely fix it.

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This is the correct answer-- the more general solution is 'Control panel -> System -> Advanced System Settings -> Advanced tab -> Performance dialog' to turn off all sorts of visual fluff. – Brandon Kuczenski Apr 23 at 20:33

I know this is old, but

  1. CTRL+ALT+TAB shows the switcher, but you don't have to hold the keys. You can then cycle through with TAB/SHIFT+TAB, or the arrow keys. Aero Peek is the feature that hides everything else temporarily and shows you the actual window, which you can disable from the Taskbar configuration settings I think.
  2. Using registry key (included below) as answered elsewhere

Here are some registry settings to customize ALT+TAB behavior - I'm combining several sources (indicated in comments). Note I've made the preview thumbnail size much larger; without restarting your computer the columns setting won't take effect, and so if your resolution is too small this will push some thumbnails off the screen. I've included the registry key for #2, but disabled since that would defeat the purpose of the other customizations.

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

; Customize Alt+Tab settings, like Alt+Tab Tuner

    ; sizing:
    ;   1024×768: MaxThumbSizePx = 00000078
    ;   1280×1024: MaxThumbSizePx = 0000009E
    ;   1680×1050: MaxThumbSizePx = 000000d2 (=210)
    ;   1920×1200: MaxThumbSizePx = 000000f5 (=245)
    ; ^ 100
    ; the following require force-quit explorer:
    ;   ctrl+shift+right click in start menu >> Exit Explorer
    ;   ctrl+shift+esc to open task manager >> File >> Run >> explorer.exe
    ; see Daniel Martin's second reply

; additional column configuration tip via
;   requires restart
; source
; source 2:
; note: if there are more icons than would be available for Columns x Rows, it should scroll the extras
; NOTE: this only affects the classic style of XP switching
[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop]

; ; disable Vista-style previews, use XP-style icons only --
; ; can also access via LEFT_ALT+RIGHT_ALT (release)+TAB --
; [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer]
; "AltTabSettings"=dword:00000001

Update Corrected my row/column misconceptions -- most of my sources were wrong until I stumbled across the correct explanation.

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