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In XP, if you minimize the current window, it goes to the end of the list for Alt-Tab purposes. In Windows 7, if I minimize a window and then Alt-Tab, I go right back to that window I was trying to get rid of.

Is there a way to make minimize push the window to the end of the list, or some other way to manage the Alt-Tab list order?

Edit: I apologize for saying that this is how Windows 7 behaves. It turns out that Windows 7 sometimes gets into a state where Minimize does not put the window at the bottom of the z-order. I cannot figure out exactly what steps cause Windows 7 to get into this state, but I must do it pretty frequently because this bugs me all the time.

So, when Windows 7 is in this state, here is what happens:

  1. Open multiple windows. I usually have them all maximized.
  2. Press Alt-Tab. Call this window "A".
  3. Press Alt-Tab. Call this window "B".
  4. Minimize window "B". Window "A" is now visible.
  5. Press Alt-Tab.

At this point, I see window "B" again, even though it should have been at the back of the Alt-Tab list (or Z-ordering as it's called).

When Windows 7 behaves this way, I've tried adding the AltTabSettings registry entry. This changes the appearance of the Alt-Tab dialog, but doesn't change the Z-ordering effect of the Minimize button.

When I just now tried to reproduce this, Minimize works properly (pushes window to end of Z-order). I haven't yet been able to pinpoint what changes this behavior.

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  • Status no-repro.
    – NGLN
    Oct 16, 2012 at 21:08
  • @NGLN, you're saying that when you minimize a window in Windows 7, it goes to the end of the Alt-Tab list? Oct 17, 2012 at 14:14
  • 5
    This drives me mad too! Most of the time minimizing the window puts it at the end of the list, but at some point while I'm using the PC that changes and minimizing it leaves it at the beginning of the list. It's the inconsistency that really annoys me.
    – Alan Third
    Feb 7, 2014 at 10:57
  • 1
    Comments on the article @lightinthedark linked to ( superuser.com/a/766448/244608 ) suggest that the behaviour may be dependent on how many windows are open. (:sigh: Oh, Microsoft.) Unfortunately, no one mentioned whether or not that number is adjustable (e.g. in the registry) or hardcoded. I suspect the latter, but if anyone finds anything to the contrary, I'd love to know.
    – Wilson F
    May 29, 2015 at 17:48
  • As an aside, the same behaviour could sometimes be observed in Win XP, too. As far as I could tell, it tended to sometimes (but not always) start happening when there were too many windows open (typically more than could fit in the Alt-Tab pane, so around 22+), and stopped once enough windows were closed. Jan 19, 2019 at 18:18

6 Answers 6

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+75

Instead of minimizing, hit Alt-Esc. This will put the window at the bottom of the Z-order.

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  • 2
    But without minimizing it. It'd be nice to be able to do both.
    – Wilson F
    May 29, 2015 at 17:38
  • This is quite beside the point, and does not work. The window only goes to the next in the queue, not last. Plust this does not minimise the window, either. Feb 17, 2021 at 2:26
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    This does NOT work. Aug 17, 2021 at 9:19
  • @NZDev, it used to. I assume you tried in Windows 10. It worked in Windows 7. Aug 18, 2021 at 4:09
  • In windows 10 it does not work because it does not adhere to the Z-Order, It would seem. The below answer adjusting the Registry works, but it removes the visual Tiles of Windows 10 Alt Tab. Alt-Esc does minimise and does put to the bottom of the order. Cheers. I wish I could have best of both worlds??? Aug 30, 2021 at 1:26
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AFAIK- it's not the bottom of the Z-order, unless I'm missing something.

When you do Alt-Esc and then Alt-Tab, the window you Alt-Esc-aped comes right back.

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  • The Alt-Esc is working for me (moves the window to the end of the Alt-Tab list).
    – James
    Apr 4, 2020 at 16:33
  • And now it's not working for me any more ... ¯\_ (ツ)_/¯ (note: I was and am using Win10)
    – James
    Oct 11, 2021 at 15:54
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From a similar question Getting back the old alt-tab windows switching behavior in Windows 7?:

To restore the XP Alt-Tab functionality simply, lauch regedit, add a DWORD named AltTabSettings to HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer and set its value to 1.

You need to restart Explorer for changes to take effect (restarting your computer is an easy way to do this)

Personally I prefer the 3D Aero flip (Windows Key + Tab) which (on my system at least) pushes minimised apps to the back of the stack

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  • 5
    ? The WindowsKey+Tab doesn't push minimized apps to the back of the stack for me. It behaves in the exact same way as when I press Alt+Tab (with the only exception that it select the currently focused window first)
    – p_strand
    Oct 17, 2012 at 14:31
  • Are you using Windows 7? As far as I know I have no add-ons or tweaks that would change this behaviour.
    – James P
    Oct 17, 2012 at 14:32
  • Yes. Windows 7 Professional 32-bit. I don't have any add-ons or tweaks either AFAIK...
    – p_strand
    Oct 17, 2012 at 14:33
  • Strange - I would be interested to know what other peoples' experiences are. As far as I can tell, the registry tweak I posted should work though.
    – James P
    Oct 17, 2012 at 14:37
  • This changes the Alt-Tab dialog. It does not change the Minimize behavior. Someone else posted the same thing and then deleted it when they realized it was wrong. Please leave up this answer for others to see, since it's pretty common advice on the web, but unhelpful in this question. Oct 17, 2012 at 14:55
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I don't know if there's a way to change the Z-order of a specific window (other than the method that Jeremy suggested) but you can cycle through the list in reverse order if all you wish to do is Alt+Tab through the rest of the windows:

  1. Minimize the window
  2. Press Alt+Shift+Tab
  3. If you continue to hold down Alt+Shift, you can cycle through the list in reverse order by pressing Tab

If you follow these steps, the window that you just minimized should appear last in the Alt+Tab list order.

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  • As an addendum, note that this follows normal keyboard tab switching behaviour, as long as you keep the <kbd>Alt</kbd> button held down. If you release <kbd>Shift</kbd> and press <kbd>Tab</kbd>, then it goes back to iterating in normal order. (Or vice versa, holding <kbd>Shift</kbd> while iterating in normal order lets you go in reverse instead.) Jan 19, 2019 at 18:02
  • This is not what I would want to do. If I minimize a window, I'd like it to go to the back of my queue, and be able to get to my next most recently used app with a single alt-tab.
    – James
    Dec 17, 2019 at 18:29
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It would surprise me a lot if there was a way to force Windows to change the way it does alt-tab. The only tweaks I know of have to do with the look of the alt-tab window, rather than with its algorithms.

You might instead be interested in one of the following two alt-tab replacements, which might better suite your working habits :

VistaSwitcher

image1

Switcher

image2

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I think this article explains what's going on and why sometimes a minimised goes to the back, and sometimes not.

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    While the link might provide an answer it can quickly become outdated. Please include the main points from the link in your answer. Thanks. Jun 9, 2014 at 11:59
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    Actually, you have to go into the comments to get the real story. It seems that whether minimize/z-order behaviour is correct (i.e. what the OP wants) is dependent on the number of windows open. The hell? I wonder if that number is hardcoded somewhere, or is read from the registry...
    – Wilson F
    May 29, 2015 at 17:44
  • Link 403s, here's it on the web archive with the aforementioned comments: web.archive.org/web/20100905092558/http://blogs.msdn.com/b/…
    – kuilin
    Apr 18, 2023 at 5:04

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