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Alt + Tab Replacements

Given that one of the most consistently *popular searches on my site is for TopDesk (blog posts) either with people looking for similar apps or serial number generators, I thought I’d try to help out with the former. The latter I’ve commented on before, $9.95 is cheap.

So here’s a list of what springs up on a quick Google search, with half arsed commentary:

  • TaskSwitchXP (free) – If you’re after a enhanced Windows replacement, this is the best of the bunch. A medium sized window appears on top of your desktop and you get a thumbnail view of the selected window, with a list of mini icons. It’s very tweakable.
  • Screen Edge Task Switcher (free) – Not a true Alt+Tab replacement. Move your mouse to the top edge of the screen and click and it’ll switch back and forth between the two last used windows. Good if you’re a mouse user, but heavy keyboard users (like me) will find this hard work… and a little bit pointless.
  • Alt-Tab Replacement – XP PowerToys (free) – Kind of like TaskSwitchXP in that it shows a thumbnail of the selected window, but that’s about it.
  • WinGlance ($11.99) – Takes over the entire screen, like TopDesk, and shows a reasonable size preview of each app with tooltip details on them. Kind of like TopDesk’s tile all windows option. Unfortunately it’s not multi-monitor compatible.
  • Exposer for Windows ($7) – The name is the giveaway here, it’s OS X Exposé for Windows. It’s not very good though since it’s slow to generate a list and then, even though its multi-monitor capable, it moved some apps to the primary screen when they were on the secondary. And it doesn’t replace Alt+Tab, its set up on different shortcut keys.

Out of the free ones TaskSwitchXP is best but it is just doing a replacement of what Windows does with more info. The commercial ones are going to offer you more and in particular it’s popular to emulate the OS X Exposé style of working. Out of them, and to be honest there aren’t that many, TopDesk is the best. It’s also worth noting that TopDesk is the only one to use hardware acceleration, which is a good thing.

So what do I use? I switch (pun not intended) between the default one and TaskSwitchXP. I’m a bit old school in my task switching.

*The most popular search at the moment being “Outlook 2007 crashes”, say no more.

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