If you like to have a lot of programs open at once, it's a good idea to understand how your program windows are organized on the taskbar and how you can quickly sort through them. Learning to manage multiple windows makes it easier to get to a window quickly and arrange open windows in a way that makes the most sense to you.

Group windows on the taskbar

All open windows are represented by taskbar buttons. If you have several windows open (for example, if you open more than one file in a single program or if you open several instances of a program such as a web browser), you might run out of space for your taskbar buttons. To create more space, Windows automatically groups open windows from the same program into one taskbar button.

For example, if you have several Internet Explorer windows open, they will be stacked into one group represented by one taskbar button. When you click that taskbar button, you see a preview of the open windows.

Picture of grouped windows in one taskbar button
Grouped windows in one taskbar button

If you don't want to group windows, you can turn off grouping. But without grouping, you might not be able to see all of your taskbar buttons at once.

To stop grouping similar taskbar buttons on the taskbar

  1. Open Taskbar and Start Menu Properties by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, clicking Control Panel, clicking Appearance and Personalization, and then clicking Taskbar and Start Menu.

  2. If Group similar taskbar buttons has a check mark next to it, the buttons will automatically stack on top of each other. To turn off grouping, click Group similar taskbar buttons, which clears the check mark.

Preview open windows using Windows Flip 3D

With Flip 3D, you can quickly preview all your open windows (for example, open files, folders, and documents) without having to click the taskbar. Flip 3D displays your open windows in a stack. At the top of the stack, you'll see an open window. To see other windows, you can flip through the stack.

Picture of windows in Flip 3D view
Switching windows with Flip 3D

To switch windows using Flip 3D

  1. Press the Windows logo key Picture of the Windows logo key +TAB to open Flip 3D.
  2. While holding down the Windows logo key Picture of the Windows logo key, press TAB repeatedly or rotate the mouse wheel to cycle through open windows. You can also press RIGHT ARROW or DOWN ARROW to cycle forward one window, or press LEFT ARROW or UP ARROW to cycle backward one window.
  3. Release the Windows logo key Picture of the Windows logo key to display the window in front of the stack. Or, click any part of any window in the stack to display that window.
    To close Flip 3D, release both the Windows logo key Picture of the Windows logo key +TAB.

Tips

  • Another way to use Flip 3D is to press CTRL+Windows logo key Picture of the Windows logo key+TAB to keep Flip 3D open. You can then press TAB to cycle through the windows. (You can also press RIGHT ARROW or DOWN ARROW to cycle forward one window, or press LEFT ARROW or UP ARROW to cycle backward one window.) Press ESC to close Flip 3D.
  • You can also open Flip 3D by clicking the Switch between windows button Picture of the Switch between windows button on the taskbar. Click a window in the stack to display that window, or click outside the stack to close Flip 3D without switching windows.

Note

  • Flip 3D and taskbar window previews will not work unless your computer's video card can display the advanced visual effects in Windows. For more information, see Troubleshoot problems with Windows Aero.

Jump to a window

Another way to quickly change which open window you're working with is to press ALT+TAB. When you press ALT+TAB, you see a list of all your open files.

To select a file, press and hold ALT and continue to press TAB until you've highlighted the file you want to open. Release the keys to open the selected window.

Picture of previews that appear when you press ALT+TAB
Switching windows with ALT+TAB

Tip

  • You can also press CTRL+ALT+TAB to keep the dialog box open. You can then press TAB to cycle through the windows. Pressing ENTER opens the selected window. Pressing ESC closes the dialog box.

Arrange your windows

You can arrange open windows in one of three ways:

  • Cascade, which puts windows in a single stack that has been fanned out so that the window titles appear.

  • Stacked, which puts windows in one or more vertical stacks depending on how many windows you have open.

  • Side by side, which places each window—open, but not maximized—on the desktop so you can see them all at once.

Picture of windows arranged in a cascade, vertical stack, and side-by-side pattern
Arrange windows in a cascade (left), vertical stack (center), or side-by-side pattern (right)

To arrange your open windows, right-click an empty area of the taskbar, then click Cascade Windows, Show Windows Stacked, or Show Windows Side by Side.

To arrange windows that are grouped by program or folder, right-click the taskbar button that is grouped, and then click Cascade, Show Windows Stacked, or Show Windows Side by Side.

Minimize all your open windows and show the desktop

To see your desktop without closing your open windows, minimize all of your windows at once by clicking the Show desktop button Picture of the Show Desktop button on the Quick Launch toolbar on the taskbar on the taskbar.