Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

Switching between apps

Using Windows 8 and the Metro Interface

Switching Metro apps is very simple on a touchscreen. You just swipe your finger in from the left side of the screen to get the next app. Swipe it into the middle to have it full screen, or wipe until you see a thumbnail of the app at the side of the screen; pause briefly then drag it to the left or right of the screen. With a touch screen, that’s easier to do than it is to explain and it feels as fast and fluid as using a smartphone.

With a mouse, when you hover at the left side of the screen you see the thumbnail of the next app and you can drag it to fill the screen or take up a ‘full’ or ‘snap’ window. If you have a mouse with a scroll wheel, when you put the mouse cursor at the left side of the screen to show a thumbnail of the next app, you can use the scroll wheel to scroll through your open Metro apps. Each time you scroll up or down, the thumbnail changes to show a different app. Click when you see the one you want to see either full screen, or in the full-size window if you have the screen split. If you want to change what’s in the snap window you need to pick that by clicking on the thumbnail and then dragging it to the correct area. When you have it in the right place, the app that’s already open there will shrink slightly in size and you can release the mouse.

Hover the mouse at the side of the screen to switch apps; scroll to pick the app you want next.Hover the mouse at the side of the screen to switch apps; scroll to pick the app you want next.

Again, that’s simpler to do than it is to describe but if you find it awkward, you can right-click when the thumbnail of the next app appears at the left side of the screen and choose Snap to put the app in the thinner snap window. Right-click on the thumbnail and choose Snap sides if you want to swap the contents of the snap window and the full-size window. For some reason, the right-click button on the keyboard doesn’t work for this.

You can also use the Windows and Tab key together to switch between apps. Each time you press the key combination, you switch to the next running app. If you have the screen split into full and snap windows, you switch between apps in whichever window has focus, although sometimes apps only cycle in the full-size window, which looks like a bug. Alt-Tab gives you the usual strip of thumbnails to choose from, just in a Metro-style dialog.

Alt-Tab shows desktop and Metro apps.Alt-Tab shows desktop and Metro apps.

With a touch screen, all this swiping and swapping is easy and intuitive. With a mouse it’s easy to drag thumbnails into place and after a couple of hours apps nearly always go into the window you want. It’s more awkward with keyboard shortcuts and it’s too easy to put the app you’re switching to in the wrong window.

React To This Article

Tom’s guide in the world
  • Germany
  • France
  • Italy
  • Ireland
  • UK
Follow Tom’s guide
Subscribe to our newsletter