Create Shortcut to Launch the Alt-Tab Switcher (for Mouse users)

The most useful and frequently used Alt + Tab keyboard shortcut has been there since the Windows 3.1 era. If you’re are primarily a mouse user and want to open the Alt + Tab switcher screen using shortcut or script, this post tells you how to do that in Windows 7 and higher, which includes Windows 10.

launch alt-tab switcher using shortcut

Windows Vista introduced a fancier version of the task switcher named Flip3D, which is invoked using WinKey + Tab keystroke or by clicking on the Taskbar shortcut. Flip3D was dropped in Windows 8 and higher.

In Windows 8, WinKey + Tab lists only the metro apps. Whereas in Windows 10, it opens the “Task View” mode wherein you can switch windows, as well as create new virtual desktops or switch to an existing virtual desktop.

Although the fancy task switchers “Flip3D” and “Task View” came into existence, many users still prefer the classic window switcher to change program windows — due to the force of habit, or because it’s much faster.

Launch Alt + Tab switcher using Script or Command-line

Both Flip3D and Task View have a Taskbar shortcut by default, but the Alt-Tab switcher doesn’t have one. Here is how to create it.

Method 1: Using Windows Script

Copy the following lines to Notepad and save the file with a “.vbs” extension, say “switcher.vbs”.

Set WshShell = WScript.CreateObject("WScript.Shell")
WshShell.SendKeys "^%{TAB}"

Create a shortcut to the script by prefixing “wscript.exe” as below:

wscript.exe d:\scripts\switcher.vbs

Customize the shortcut icon as desired.

launch alt-tab switcher using shortcut

You can pin the shortcut to the Start menu or Taskbar if you so prefer.

launch alt-tab switcher using shortcut



Double-clicking the script or clicking its Taskbar icon would open the Alt-Tab switcher and make it remain on the screen until you select a window or dismiss the switcher using mouse click.

alt+tab transparent

Method 2: Using NirCmd

If you’re using the excellent, multipurpose automation tool NirCmd, you can create a shortcut with the following target:

nircmd sendkeypress ctrl+alt+tab

Customize the shortcut icon, and place or pin the shortcut wherever you want.

The above script and the NirCmd command-line methods send the keystroke: Ctrl + Alt + Tab.

Alt + Tab Vs. Ctrl + Alt + Tab

When you press Alt + Tab in the Keyboard, with the Alt key unreleased, the window switcher remains on the screen. Releasing the Alt key would dismiss the window switcher, and the last application that you accessed comes to the front with active window focus on it.

Whereas, pressing Ctrl + Alt + Tab launches the window switcher and keeps it on the screen even if the keys are released. The switcher remains on the screen until the user makes a selection, presses {ESC} or clicks on an area that’s outside the switcher grid.

Related article: This post How to Make Alt + Tab Background Fully Transparent? may be of interest to you.


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About the author

Ramesh Srinivasan founded Winhelponline.com back in 2005. He is passionate about Microsoft technologies and he has been a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) for 10 consecutive years from 2003 to 2012.

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