Better Cool Switches: Flip and Flip 3D
One of the first keyboard shortcuts almost all Windows users master is Alt+Tab for switching programs. As you hold down Alt and press the Tab key, a small window of icons appears, one icon for each open program window.
This handy shortcut—generally known as the cool switch—has served us well since Windows 95, but it suffers from a glaring drawback: The Alt+Tab window shows only the program icons and titles. You can usually figure out which window you want to switch to, but sometimes the limited size of the cool switch window text box means that you can’t tell whether the current window is the one you want.
If you have a video card that supports the Windows Vista Device Driver Model, Vista’s version of the cool switch is similar to the Alt+Tab Replacement PowerToy. When you hold down Alt and press Tab, Vista displays not an icon for each open window, but a scaled-down version of each window. (There’s also an icon for the desktop, which gives you a quick way to minimize all open windows and get to the desktop.) The power of WPF brings two considerable benefits to this so-called Flip method of switching windows:
- The WPF vector-based graphics ensure that the scaled-down windows are easily viewed and that the contents of these miniature windows are still fully readable.
- The WPF access to the GPU and its hardware acceleration mean that the scaled-down windows are "live" in the sense that they reflect the current state of each window, even if a window is playing full-motion video.
Figure 3.13 shows the Flip feature in action.
Figure 3.13 Press Alt+Tab to flip through live thumbnails of your running windows.
Flip is a nice update to the Alt+Tab cool switch, but Vista has another trick up its window-switching sleeve: Flip 3D. Press Windows Logo+Tab to convert the open windows to a 3D stack, as shown in Figure 3.14. To flip through the thumbnails, hold down the Windows Logo key and press Tab. Alternatively, press Windows Logo+Ctrl+Tab to get a 3D stack that doesn’t require you to hold down any keys. When you have the stack displayed, you have two choices:
- Use the arrow keys—Press the down arrow or right arrow to move thumbnails toward the front of the stack; press the up arrow or left arrow to move thumbnails toward the back of the stack.
- Use the scroll wheel on your mouse—Scroll forward to move thumbnails toward the front of the stack; scroll backward to move thumbnails toward the back of the stack.
Figure 3.14 Press Windows Logo+Tab and then scroll the mouse wheel to flip through a 3D stack of live thumbnails.
As with the Flip method, Flip 3D thumbnails show live content. When you bring the thumbnail you want to the front, press Enter to switch to that window.