Microsoft is changing how Alt-Tab works on Windows 10

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

Microsoft’s next major Windows 10 update, codenamed “Redstone 5,” has been in testing for a few weeks now, and the company is now ready to unveil some new features that it's experimenting with. Alongside the new Sets feature for all Windows 10 apps, Microsoft is also changing the way the Alt-Tab feature works. Instead of tabbing between apps, Microsoft is experimenting with allowing Windows 10 users to also switch between the tabs within the Sets feature inside the Alt-Tab interface.

Microsoft hasn’t overhauled its Alt-Tab task switcher for years, and this feels like a major addition. Essentially, it means Alt-Tab will now work for apps and browser tabs or app tabs. Microsoft is also working on bringing groups of tabbed apps to Timeline, its new Windows 10 feature that keeps a history of activities and webpages.

Microsoft appears to be betting on Timeline for productivity on Windows and across devices, and the company will extend this feature to both iOS and Android. Microsoft’s Android Launcher will include Timeline so you can quickly pick up webpages on the go, and the Microsoft Edge browser on iOS will include access to Timeline.

Microsoft will start testing these changes shortly with Windows Insiders, but there’s no guarantee they will all ship with the next major Windows 10 update. Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore made it clear at Build today that the company will only ship its Sets feature once it’s ready, and that same approach applies to other Windows 10 features like “Your Phone.”


This is just really dumb as far as I’m concerned, and not just because it will completely break the process flow for how I use my computer.

They already have a shortcut to flip between tabs, it’s Ctrl-Tab. Alt-Tab is (and should continue to be) for switching between windows. Ctrl-Tab should continue to be for switching between tabs within a window. And Win-Tab should show everything (and in my opinion, it shouldn’t show Timeline until you click a button at the bottom to flip to that view).


It remembers your last used tabs, not all your tabs and it probably won’t work if you don’t use Edge.

That doesn’t make inconsistent behavior any better.

It’s because it’s in Sets, you know what would be really confusing? Alt-tabbing around and not seeing half your "apps". Anyway we will see how bad/well it works once its actually implemented.

‘Normal’ users don’t know Alt-Tab anyway, so you don’t have to design around what’s confusing. These users click on icons on the task bar (or will use tabs in the Sets scenario). The people who use Alt-Tab can understand the difference between a window context and a tabs context.

Yea so you’re one of those guys, who is always complaining. You must have a wonderful life

It is pretty great, thanks.

This is why they are testing this. Sets will already alter the workflow of many people. Alt-Tab is not a solution if you can’t switch between different apps and tabs in different sets.

I prefer to use Windows Key + Tab instead than Alt + Tab since you can preview the window and see part of its contents.
This is very useful if you have many Outlook emails/shell/Lync windows opened and want to see what they have before you open that window

You also can see the contents with Alt + Tab, though…?

For what it’s worth, I’ve left a Feedback Hub entry for this for anyone who agrees.

agree. this is the dumbest stuff ive seen since vista or the destruction of the start menu. microsoft must really want to make windows a PITA to use. lame.

Fuck NO! Especially considering that quite a few people have browser tabs opened somwhere in the double digits.
I was so pissed when Google changed the app switcher to have each crome tab show as a separate page. Thankfully it was easy to change.

I’m hoping you’ll have to opt into this, or at least be able to disable it.

It just makes sense to merge both. More and more apps are available through the browser, plus with the new Sets feature, every app will also become a potential tab.

If you’re referring to the merge between alt-tab and ctrl-tab, then no, I don’t think so, because imagine you have an application that uses many different tabs. If your only way to navigate through that window is by alt-tabbing repeatedly, it would take forever. By leaving alt-tab and ctrl-tab separate, you can choose what window/program you want and then navigate through those tabs, it’s much quicker.

I sincerely hope that they don’t modify alt-tab and just implement a feature to ctrl-tab through tabs in sets.

So you mean CTRL+Tab, the way I switch between tabs in apps all the time now? If anything, they should revamp how Winsows+Tab works…

They just have if you’ve got the latest version of Windows 10 – you’re now in the Timeline view by pressing Windows+Tab.

For me it is only logical way to work with Sets. App is represented in Alt-Tab whether it is "docked" or not. Good.
P.S. Some programs with own tabs can also benefit from beeing "dockable" to Set and there should be used Ctrl-Tab shortcut.

I agree, Ctrl-tab already exists for this exact use-case, why break alt-tab?

Anyway, not a big deal. This won’t have any impact if you don’t use sets or Edge.

Pressing alt + tab should not show all of my porn tabs that are open.

It’s like half the comments didn’t bother to read the article or even attempt to understand what Sets are.

Or we did read the article, do know what Sets does, and still think it makes no sense for Alt-Tab to change from being per-window to something else all of a sudden just because more apps are able to be integrated into tabs now.

Again, there’s already a shortcut for switching between tabs, it’s Ctrl-Tab. I definitely think Win-Tab / Task View should explode everything so you can see all individual tabs and windows, but Alt-Tab should continue to only switch between windows.

I mean, if they want, they can even adjust the view of the Alt-Tab popup to more explicitly show what tabs are in each window. I’d be fine with that. But the actual keyboard shortcut should only switch from window to window.

I’m all for this if you can toggle it on and off!

Glad Microsoft is continuing to test and extend their OS.

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