October 8, 2005
When I see people using the default, crappy Windows ALT+TAB task switching behavior, I experience physical pain.
TaskSwitchXP is completely free and so much better. It's super small, totally elegant, lightning fast, and generally a massive improvement in task switching functionality. Friends don't let friends suffer through the default Windows ALT+TAB. If I was forced to run only one Windows enhancement on my machine, this would be my choice.
Since this is a static screenshot, I have to explain a few things.
- you can use your mouse to switch to any active task
- as you hover over the tasks, the screenshot preview changes.
- the mousewheel and arrow keys cycle through the tasks
TaskSwitchXP works flawlessly with the default install options, but there are a bunch of advanced tweaks, keyboard shortcuts, and an extensive configuration interface that you might want to explore. I highly recommend reading through the quick start guide.
Note that Windows Vista has two new ALT+TAB behaviors as of this writing, and one of them is a simple set of scrolling screenshots, somewhat similar to what TaskSwitchXP already offers.
* Extreme as in Extreme Ironing. EXTREME!!
Posted by Jeff Atwood
I've used this "Extreme" Task switcher and I am sorry to say I am not impressed by the UI. Its a definate improvement over the native Alt+Tab but come on....make the UI a bit better. After squinting at it on a 3200*1200 monitor, I gave up....scalability people...scalability!
That said, the functionality definately ROCKS! As Eric Cartman would say...Functionality Nya....UI Nya! :-)
For large monitors (like my 1600x1200 primary)*, set TaskSwitchXP up as follows in the configuration app (ConfigTsXP.exe)
Preview. Width of preview image (in pixels): 800
Task List. Number of lines: 25
Task List. Width (in pixels): 250
That sets up a nice 800x600 preview. I also turn off the Info Pane (the thing at the bottom) in the advanced settings because I think it's useless..
* However, with that many windows you need 2+ monitors (I use 3, both at home and at work) and UltraMon. UltraMon sets up a taskbar PER MONITOR which shows only the tasks on that particular monitor. It's great!
Yep. Ultramon is kickass! I started using it after you post on it and I love it. On my XP install however, I didn't install Ultramon because I saw it eating away at my processor and it makes my computer start up slower.
Have you tried Scalable Fabric from MSR? Its a nifty idea.
Microsoft Scalable Fabric
"Scalable Fabric is a task management system for the Windows desktop. A central focus area, defined by you, contains windows that behave in the traditional way. When you drag a window into the periphery, it becomes smaller and continues to get smaller the closer you get to the edge of the screen. This makes it possible to keep windows open all the time, and change "minimize" to mean "return to the periphery". Groups of windows can easily be created to represent different user tasks. Switching between groups is done simply by clicking on the task marker flag."
wasn't impressed with the performance
I am EXTREMELY sensitive to performance* and I found this very, very fast. Are you sure you're not thinking of the windows PowerToy that does something similar? Because that one is excruciatingly, unusably slow.
You might want to try again: as of July 18 (version 2.0.6), the app spins up screenshot previews on a second thread:
* this is the guy who bought his own dual-core AMD at work, and overclocked it to 4800+ levels. I also have to have 60fps in my games, but I play FPS'es mostly. I only mention these things to illustrate that I'm a guy who tends to notice crappy performance..
I noticed the performance too. I'm running a P4 2.4ghz machine with 1gb ram and I can see it thinking when I ask it to switch. AI?? :-)
I downloaded a version of this a while back, at the time it couldn't show previews of minmized tasks.
I'm downloading the latest versions, I hope that one is fixed!
I have to agree with Sushant and Peter on this. I tried this app when it was first released: wasn't impressed with the performance. I tried it again recently: performance was definitely better but there is still a slight lag between hitting Tab and having the window show up. This lag is long enough that I can feel it and get annoyed immediately. The original Alt+Tab, while not as UI friendly, works and is fast.
Here's hoping Vista's new Alt+Tab feature works and is fast and actually functional, not just showy for demos.
In short, if I hit Alt-Tab and let go of the keys too quickly, it doesn't always manage to switch.
I can't duplicate this in a few minutes of concerted trying. I always get switched after I ALT+TAB no matter how fast I go. Granted, I have a very fast machine (4800+), and I also run with minimal graphics styling (no XP theming).
Here are some tips from the TweakXP author on getting better perf:
1. Disable option "Include Windows Taskbar to preview image" or use the "Window" preview mode (Preview page).
2. Disable all additional appearance effects: shadow, transparency, fade in/out (Appearance page).
3. Disable Visual styles for TaskSwitchXP (option "Force use TaskSwitchXP Classic style" on the Appearance page).
4. Also you can remove caption and info panes (Advanced page).
I, too, am having performance issues as Eric describes -- lag on first Alt+Tab
Fair enough. I can see this being an issue on a slower PC. I'd try some of the tips above.
Also, this is already a compromise solution in favor of speed: Apple Expose-style apps-- which do something similar but more visually interesting-- are much, much slower than TaskSwitchXP!
I, too, am having performance issues as Eric describes -- lag on first Alt+Tab. Repeating Alt+Tab immediately is fast, tho. I wonder it it has to do with the preview feature, or with some sort of cache-load hit, or something like that. I set the preview delay to 500 ms or something, and that helps a little.
I try this every year or so when someone raves about it, and I always get rid of it within a couple of days because of the perf.
I'll tell you what *really* kills it for me: it doesn't work if you Alt-Tab too fast for the UI to appear.
I often want to toggle between two or sometimes three tasks for certain kinds of workflows. The built-in Alt-Tab in Windows will switch no matter how fast you type. If you've let go of the keys before it's had time to bring up the UI, it just switches straight away. But my experience with TaskSwitchXP is that it can often be confounded by such switching.
In short, if I hit Alt-Tab and let go of the keys too quickly, it doesn't always manage to switch.
This makes it useless for me. The "I need to *see* the task list" case is the minority case for me. I usually know where I'm going without looking.
It's almost as though the authors of the software decided that if they didn't manage to get the UI to appear before I let go of the keys, that switching would be The Wrong Thing to do. And I can see that might sound reasonable - why would they switch tasks when they haven't even shown me which task they're going to switch to?
But from my perspective, I hit the keys, knowing exactly what the next task in the stack was, I expect to see it, and I don't. Bye bye TaskSwitcherXP. Better luck next year.
Vista gets this right btw. Even if it doesn't have time to bring up its flashy new task switching UI, it honours your keypresses.
(I'm not sure I like the new UI in Vista all that much. It has that Mac quality of looking great but not working all that well in practice. The Alt-Tab-without-looking works fine, but in the cases where you actually wanted to look, it seems to take a lot of screen space to show you not very much. It only requires a few windows to be open before you can't see all the apps.)
I can't duplicate this in a few minutes of concerted trying.
That methodology won't reproduce the problem. It works fine if you do that.
Try doing a bunch of other crap for a few minutes, and then do an alt-tab. And then another bunch of unrelated crap for a few more minutes and then another alt-tab.
It's easy to make something perform if you're doing it over and over and over and you never do anything else. The challenge is making it just as snappy when Windows thinks you didn't care about that process any more. That's a whole lot harder. (Not least because it's a whole lot harder to set up an objective test for how well you're doing. And even once you get that right, testing takes much longer.)
If that doesn't break for you, try it when a virus scan is in progress.
Also, I'm on the road a lot, so I use a laptop as my main machine, so everything's a bit slower than it would be on a desktop. So try it on a laptop. :)
Tried it. Performance is decent, but not good enough for as fast as I Alt-Tab. Preview is nice, but not good enough to offset the performance drop. I'll never use the rest of the features. Worth trying, but I'm uninstalling now....
You guys really should experiment with the performance enhancing settings listed above.
And if you think *this* is slow (I am still scratching my head over this), you never EVER want to try Winplosion, Exposer, TopDesk, or WinGlance-- they all emulate Expose:
I just installed it on my Dell XPS m170 (laptop) and it runs just fine - I don't notice a difference between it (speedwise) and the normal alt-tab. I'll try it out for a few days and report back if it starts having issues - particularly when I'm running on battery power (I'm currently plugged in).
running taskswitcherxp on a extremely-budget toshiba lappy, and no performance hit what so ever. I mean cmon, i AM the bottom end of the spectrum, a little low-clocked celeron M, 192 mb of RAM 0.0, and stinky integrated gfx. And it cruzes. I mean, it will switch as fast as 6 windows running on 192mb of RAM possibly could. And that is very smooth. With windows media player running, an excel, a few words, and a combination of firefox and IE explorer both having 4 tabs open each, and all i can say is: Wow! Great app!
Nice... But: I'm using two monitors, and I'd like the task list to be displayed on the active (ie: the one where the mouse is, where I'm working on) rather than on the primary monitor. The original task list always gets displayed on the primary monitor. The same goes for AltSwitchXP: no imporvement on this side...
As for the task window thumbnail, it won't be displayed unless the window has already be unminified/displayed, so what's the use ?
I mean... let's say a new msn contact talks to you, a new window will be opened but you won't see it unless you switch to the task... And using altswitchxp won't display its contents... until you have opened the window once...
When I see people using the default, crappy WindowsXP, I experience physical pain.
Linux is completely free and so much better. It's super small, totally elegant, lightning fast, and generally a massive improvement in complete platform functionality. Friends don't let friends suffer through WindowsXP. If I was forced to run only one enhancement on my machine, this would be my choice.