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I know there's Alt+Tab for switching between windows in MS Windows. This only works for windows that appear as their own item in the taskbar, though.

The person I'm asking this for is blind. He's stumbling across a modal dialog that, for some strange reason, loses focus when opened. Is there some sort of shortcut or another way to get the modal window to be active again without a mouse?

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I haven't found a solution yet, but to help others search: The screenshot Franz posted below shows the "Go To Time" window of VLC Media Player. This window is a tool window (not a modal dialog box). – Bavi_H Dec 7 '10 at 3:34
up vote 2 down vote accepted

As I mentioned in my comment above, the window is a "tool window", which

is intended to be used as a floating toolbar. A tool window has a title bar that is shorter than a normal title bar, and the window title is drawn using a smaller font. A tool window does not appear in the taskbar or in the dialog that appears when the user presses ALT+TAB.

For some reason, a few VLC Media Player windows appear as tool windows that don't have focus. There doesn't seem to be a way to activate them with the keyboard without using some helper program.

One possible solution is to find an Alt+Tab replacement that will list tool windows. I found an AutoHotkey script that might work, but will require you to install AutoHotkey and modify a script. Here are the steps involved:

  1. Download and install AutoHotkey.
  2. Go to Alt-Tab replacement and save the AltTab.ahk file.
  3. Open the AltTab.ahk file in Notepad.
  4. Find the following text in the file and delete it.

    If (((es & WS_EX_TOOLWINDOW)  and !(Parent))
        or ( !(es & WS_EX_APPWINDOW)
          and (((Parent) and ((Style_parent & WS_DISABLED) =0))
            or ((Owner) and ((Style_Owner & WS_DISABLED) =0)))))
  5. Save the file.

  6. Put the AltTab.ahk file in a folder somewhere. (It will make a settings file when you run it.)
  7. Make a shortcut to AltTab.ahk on the desktop or Start menu or Startup folder.

After the modified AltTab.ahk script is run, pressing Alt+Tab will bring up a new window switcher that lists tool windows. Here is what it looks like:

enter image description here

Ideally, VLC Media Player should be updated to either not use tool windows, or at least give them focus. You or your friend might try discussing the problem on the VideoLAN forums, perhaps other users have found better workarounds or solutions. For example, I found the following threads that report the same issue with the "Go To Time" box and show a bug report has been filed:

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Very exhaustive. I suppose this is the only way also. Thanks for your help! – Franz Dec 7 '10 at 17:39

Alt-Esc cycles through windows in reverse order, including windows which do not show up in the Alt-Tab list.

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Doesn't work. I'll post a screenshot in a second. – Franz Dec 4 '10 at 21:50 That shortcut didn't help. – Franz Dec 4 '10 at 22:02

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