Switching Programs With Alt+Tab

Switching between open programs is one of the most frequent things we all do as we work on our computers. For this task most of us use a mouse to select a button on the task bar. There is a much faster way.

Pressing Alt+Tab (or on a Mac Option+Tab) will open a rectangular grey pop-up window in the centre of your screen. It will have an icon for each program that is running on your computer.

Press and hold down the Alt key, and then repeatedly press Tab to jump from one icon to the next in this pop-up window. To help you find the program you want, the text from the title bar of each window appears in a box at the bottom of the pop-up. Simply release both keys simultaneously when you get to the program you want.

And note: In this pop-up window, the icons are presented, from left to right, in the order you last looked at the respective programs. This means that the window you were in previous to the current one is just one Alt+Tab click away. This lets you jump back and forth between two programs in the blink of an eye. This is real handy if you are comparing info or cutting and pasting information between two programs.

Every lawyer and staff person in every law office should know this keyboard shortcut. Go and tell others at your firm about this tip.

And look for more keyboard shortcuts in future Slaw Tips on tech. Odds are your hands are on the keyboard most of the time. Taking them off to reach for the mouse just breaks your rhythm and slows you down. With keyboard shortcuts you can do almost everything you can do with a mouse much more quickly– the key is learning the shortcuts for the various programs you use. Stay tuned.


  1. This is a great tip to keep hands on the keyboard! Those running Win 7 with the Aero theme enabled also have the option to ‘flip’ through their open windows by holding the ‘Windows’ key down, while tapping on the ‘Tab’ key (add in the Shift key to move backwards through the stack). The bigger your display, the nicer the effect!

  2. I am a great fan of keyboard commands. It is disappointing that some of the newer Microsoft products (like Windows 7) seem to be dropping the underlining of menu terms that told us which letter, + Alt, would select the item.

  3. It’s Command-Tab on a Mac.

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