In Windows Vista, Microsoft released a new feature called Aero Flip 3D to showcase the hardware acceleration capabilities. To use it, you must have the appropriate hardware and also an Aero theme.
This feature is also present in Windows 7 and can be activated using the Windows Key + TAB combination rather than the standard ALT + TAB combination. If you really liked this feature, it was removed in Windows 8 and Windows 10.
The keyboard shortcut still works, but it works differently in Windows 8 and differently in Windows 10! Yes, thanks to Microsoft for changing features in every version of Windows!
Anyway, in this article I will explain to you how Aero Flip 3D worked in Windows 7 and how the Windows and ALT key combinations now work in Windows 8 and Windows 10.
Aero Flip 3D
On Windows 7, if you press the ALT + TAB key combination, you get the following screen for your programs:
Basically, you get small thumbnails for each program or window that is on the taskbar. If you use Windows Key + TAB combination you get a cool 3D stack flip:
By the way, if your computer does not support hardware acceleration, then when you press ALT + TAB you will see small icons instead of previews, as shown below:
If Aero Flip 3D doesn’t work on Windows 7, then you might not be using the Aero theme. Right-click on the desktop and select Personalize. Then select one of the themes under Aero Themes.
Windows 8 switching between apps
So what happened in Windows 8? First, Flip 3D has been removed in favor of new sliding bars that appear on all sides in Windows 8. Do you remember the Charms bar on the right side?
In Windows 8, if you press ALT + TAB, you get a similar thumbnail view of all open programs, including desktop apps and the new Windows Store apps introduced in Windows 8.
This is logical and makes sense, right? However, if you press Windows Key + TAB, you get this sliding bar on the left side of your screen:
First, I don’t use so many Windows apps to justify this annoying sliding bar on the left side of the screen. I preferred the 3D version of Windows 7. Also, it doesn’t have a list of desktop applications, instead it has a single tile called Desktop. This is one of the many reasons people simply hate Windows 8.
Windows 10 switching between apps
Fortunately, Windows 10 has fixed some of these issues. On Windows 10, you still won’t get any 3D flip effect, but I don’t mind it anymore.
First, when you press ALT + TAB in Windows 10, you get the same thumbnails as in older versions of Windows, but the thumbnails are huge compared to the preview versions of Windows, so they look very nice.
As in Windows 8, the keyboard shortcut ALT + TAB displays PC apps and Windows Store apps. Luckily, in Windows 10, Store apps are inside windows and can be used like desktop apps instead of going full screen and being really annoying.
So what does Window Key + TAB do in Windows 10? Well, now that Windows 10 supports multiple desktops, like OS X has for a while, this keyboard shortcut will let you switch between desktops. What’s nice about this keyboard shortcut is that you can also let go of all the keys and it doesn’t disappear.
This is where things get a little more interesting. When you are in this mode, clicking a tab does not switch you between applications on a specific desktop. Instead, it will switch you from the bottom of the screen, where all desktops are listed, and the top of the screen, where all applications and programs on a specific desktop are listed.
If you press the left or right arrow key, it will allow you to switch between different programs on that desktop, as shown below.
You will see a small white box around the selected application. Then you can press Enter to select that app. In this mode, if you press TAB, you activate the bottom, and you can now navigate the desktops by pressing the left and right arrow keys. As you can see below, two desktops appear brighter because one was active when I pressed Windows Key + TAB and the other I used the arrow key to highlight.
Now, if you just press Enter when selecting another desktop, it will just load that desktop and show you what was previously the active window for that desktop.
However, to display all windows active for another desktop, you must press the SPACEBAR. Then you can press the TAB key again to return to the top of the screen and specify which app you want to select. Then press Enter and you will download this application from this desktop.
Since I use multiple desktops quite often, these new keyboard shortcuts are pretty useful and make a lot more sense. The space bar trick was not intuitive, but once you get the hang of it, navigation between desktops and apps changes dramatically. Hopefully this gives you some insight into how these shortcuts have changed over time. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to comment. Enjoy!