Navigating Those Windows

I’ve been computing since my dad bought me a Commodore 64 way back in the early 1980’s. When I started my professional I.T. career later that decade, we were running computers sporting Intel’s 8088 processor, our desktop OS platform was DOS 3x, and our networks were running on ARCnet.

Operating Systems continued to evolve and Microsoft’s Windows platform really took-off with the release of Windows 3.1 in 1992. This version of Windows included a navigation tool that made it easy to switch between running programs. As the Windows Operating System continued to evolve, and more information about the running applications was readily available through the taskbar interface at the bottom of the screen, this little gem received much less use, particularly by new PC users who started with the later releases of Windows. Many of us old-timers, on the other hand, can’t live without it.

I hadn’t even given this much thought until a couple a weeks ago when a, 20 something, friend of the family observed me employ my little magic key combination, to which he asked, “how’d you do that”? I didn’t have a clue as to what he was talking about. He clarified, “how’d you make that little window pop up so you could switch between programs”? Ahhhh – at that moment I felt that I (the old geezer) may not have claim to the “20 something” title but I did have a tidbit of information he didn’t; albeit, a very small piece of information.

So here’s the trick, press and hold the ALT key and then press TAB. Keep your finger on the ALT key and each time you press TAB you’ll advance to the next running application (it’s really geeky but these running applications are stacked on top of each other in what’s called Z-order).

While we’re at it, let me share a couple of other interesting, and perhaps less useful, windows surfing tricks that even the old timers may not know, or may have forgotten.

ALT+SHIFT+TAB same as ALT+TAB but runs backwards
ALT+ESC takes the current (top) window and sends it to the bottom of the program stack (and the window next-in-line comes to the top)
ALT+SHIFT+ESC takes the bottom-most window and brings it to the top of the program stack, but doesn’t open the window if it’s minimized.

If you’re confused, my advice is to just try what I’ve outlined above and see what happens, you won’t hurt anything.

If you didn’t already know these navigation techniques – enjoy. If you did, I’m guessing you’re a bit older than 20 something.