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Windows 7 tips and tweaks

The many ways to switch programs

When you have several programs and Explorer windows open on the desktop there never seems to be sufficient space to arrange them so that they are all visible, no matter how big the screen is. Inevitably some windows and programs are hidden behind others. How do you switch from one program or Explorer window to another? There are many ways in fact and you will certainly know more than one, but do you know them all? There may be ways of switching from one window to another that you don't know about and it might just save a bit of time and effort.

Here is a rundown of the different methods of program and window switching. We'll start with the most obvious and then move on to some less obvious ones you may not have heard of. These are all for Windows 7, but many work in Vista and a few work in XP too. OK, so the most obvious way to switch from one program or Explorer window is to click the button or icon in the taskbar. Windows 7 makes it easier to select the right window or program by displaying thumbnail images when the mouse hovers over a program icon in the taskbar. If there are multiple windows, such as two Explorer windows, you'll see multiple thumbnails. If a thumbnail is too small to see, let the mouse hover over it and all the other windows on the desktop are hidden so you can see the selected one on its own on the desktop. This is a useful feature and you just click the thumbnail to select it.

Another way to switch programs or windows is to hold down the Alt key and press tab. There are actually two ways to do this and if you Hold down Alt and press Tab, Tab, Tab quickly then a strip of thumbnail images shows each window and you simply tab to the one you want and then let go of the keys. If you do this slowly by holding down Alt and pressing Tab once then pausing, all the windows are hidden except for the selected one. Press tab and again all the windows are hidden except for the hidden one. This way you can see the window as it really is instead of straining your eyes to see a thumbnail image.

Switch programs in Windows

A more flashy way to switch windows or programs is to hold down the Windows key and press Tab. This stacks the windows in a 3-D pile and each time you press Tab the next one is brought to the front. The stack rotates in a cool animated fashion. Just stop tabbing when you get to the right window. An alternative is to hold down Ctrl and the Windows key, press Tab and then let go of them all. The 3-D stack stays on the desktop and you can either click the window you want with the mouse or flip through the windows using the arrow keys. Press Return when you get to the one you want.

Switch programs in Windows

The final way to switch programs is to use Task Manager. It's slow, it's boring, but it works. Right click an empty part of the taskbar and select Task Manager or press Ctrl+Alt+Del and select it. On the Applications tab just double click the program you want to switch to.

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