Selecting a Window

by Allen Wyatt
(last updated September 7, 2015)


One of the primary functions of the Windows operating system is to allow you to work with different programs at the same time. Each program is displayed in its own window (hence the name of the operating system) and you can display any of those windows at any time.

When you are working with multiple windows, you may be interested in this cool tip: Hold down the Windows key on your keyboard and press the Tab key once. (The Windows key is available on any enhanced keyboard; it typically is located on the bottom row of the keyboard next to the Alt keys.)

When you do this, Windows displays the different windows in a layered manner on your screen. The desktop also occupies one of the layers. You can cycle through the layers by continuing to press the Tab key. When the window you want is visible as the front layer, release the Windows key, and that particular window will have focus so you can continue with your work.

 This tip (11272) applies to Windows 7 and 8.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He  is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...


Getting Rid of the "Enable Macros" Notice

Do you get tired of the dialog box that says "do you want to enable macros" that is displayed when you open a workbook. ...

Discover More

Getting Bookmark Information in VBA

Bookmarks are a handy way to "mark" locations within a document. If you are creating a macro that processes the document ...

Discover More

Setting Up Your Printer

Need your printed output to look its best? You may need to change the settings used by your printer, then. Here's ...

Discover More
More WindowsTips

Differences between Hibernate and Sleep

If you want to conserve energy or preserve your laptop's battery life, you should know about hibernate and sleep. There ...

Discover More

Changing the Desktop Background

You can change the image that is displayed for your desktop background to a more aesthetically pleasing picture. There ...

Discover More

Using Flip 3D

Flip 3D is an Aero feature that allows you to cycle through your active windows in three dimensions. Because they are ...

Discover More

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WindowsTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.


If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is one more than 2?

2015-09-25 14:28:25

Scott Renz

Yes, Susan, I have been using Alt+Tab for years as well, but I am curious to see these layered windows as decribed in the tip.

2015-09-24 18:55:13


I use Windows 8. Win+Tab doesn't do anything on my machine, but Alt+Tab works. I've used that for years in different versions of Windows.

2015-09-15 11:18:56


Aero is a fancy windowing system that showed up in Vista. It enhances the visual experience in a variety of ways, including the Win+Tab feature. Again, I'm saying I *think* Aero needs to be turned on for Win+Tab to work. I haven't tried it with Aero turned off. I don't know the status of Win8 or Win10 with regard to Aero and/or the Win+Tab functionality. You can find a bunch of need stuff that Aero provides by googling "what is aero".

2015-09-15 11:01:01

Scott Renz

Hi Barry,

What is Aero?
I have never heard of it.

2015-09-14 12:35:39


I can't get Win+Tab to work on my Windows 8 machine, but it does work on my Windows 7 machine. I think it requires that Aero be running, so if you're on 7 and it's not working, check to see if perhaps you're running under a Theme that has Aero disabled. I'm afraid I'm short on time today to research further.

2015-09-14 12:25:28

Scott Renz

Thanks, Linda M, but it still is not showing the layers of windows. It must like you best.

2015-09-14 01:00:18

Shreepad S M Gandhi

Hello. Windows key serves as a hortcut for a couple of functions. like
WinKey + M - Minimize all windows on your screen
WinKey + R - Run a program or access a location for which you can type the path
WinKey + E - To open a new windows explorer window...
and many more.
I would request Barry Dysert to post a new Tip here for Windows Key utilisation. Instead of googling for a millions of pages, let us have a crisp write up here. Thanks.

2015-09-11 14:38:04

Linda M

Scott--My initial press of Win + tab did not work either. Try pressing the Windows key on your keyboard then press and hold the Windows key again while pressing tab. This seems to work consistently for me.

2015-09-08 16:24:25

Scott Renz

Win+tab has no effect for me.

2015-09-08 11:49:58


I agree with Chip. Thanks for this great tip!

2015-09-07 08:19:41


On my Win 7 computer Alt+tab lets me cycle thru windows. But win+tab seems to change the little display of URL's at the bottom of the screen without changing the main window...

2015-09-07 07:11:00


Hey Allen,
That's pretty neat. I always wondered what the "window" key was for. Thanks. Chip

Newest Tips

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in WindowsTips, a free productivity newsletter. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.