Regular readers (and thanks to all of you) will know the predilection in ToWs passim for articles about shortcut keys in Windows. The simple truth being, if you’re able to use a keyboard with both hands and most of your fingers, it’s always going to be quicker than fishing about with a mouse or a pen.
One set of oft-overlooked shortcuts that have been around since Windows 7, deal with switching between applications. Yes, you can use the venerable ALT-TAB method (or even WindowsKey+TAB, if you want to recall the heady Flip 3D days of Vista, or make use of the multiple desktop feature in Windows 10) to flick between open applications, but if you’ve multiple applications running or have pinned apps to the Task Bar then there’s a more direct and arguably simpler way.
The Taskbar goes back to Windows 95 but has grown a lot of functionality over the years – as well as customising it, you could try moving it to the vertical plane (maybe better on widescreen monitors as it gives you more real estate when you need it), and more; so much so that it has a whole section of the Settings menu devoted to it – right-click on your Taskbar and click settings to activate.
If your Taskbar is in the traditional horizontal position and if you have nothing running and nothing pinned to it, you’ll see if fill from left to right as you open apps up. If n is a number from 1-9, you can use WindowsKey+n to jump to those apps which are open as if they were numbered from the left. If you are a bit more north-south in your approach and keep your taskbar tucked to the side, then it will go 1-9 from the top.
When you pin an app to the Taskbar by right-clicking on the icon from its running self on the ‘bar, then it will stay in its current position. After pinning, if you drag it around on the taskbar (to the left or top), then it will remain there in future, even when the app isn’t running.
If you’re disciplined about this, you could have it that your browser of choice is always app #1, Outlook, app #2, etc. This would mean it’s easy to switch between apps, but also to start up apps which are pinned but not running. In the vertical taskbar example shown on the right, the Amazon Music app and Microsoft Word are not running (no blue line to the left of the icon) but the others are; Edge is pinned, but Outlook & Mail might just be active, but not pinned.
If you use Amazon Music, the Win32 program has such poor support for common conventions of UX (despite being an otherwise decent app, especially if you’re a Prime or Music Unlimited subscriber), little things like pausing music can be a right pain – it doesn’t support the Pause key found on many keyboards, and doesn’t offer any system-wide control keys to navigate music… the app needs to be in the foreground for anything to work. A solution to hand can be to pin it to a static position on the list (let’s say #1), then press WindowsKey+1 to jump to it, and SPACE to pause or left & right arrow keys to jump back & forth in the current playlist.
Similarly, if Outlook is in #4 on the Taskbar, then WindowsKey+4 followed by CTRL-SHIFT+I will always take you to Inbox, and CTRL+2 will take you to Calendar. If you want to check what’s going on in your schedule, this quick sequence (WinKey+4, CTRL+2) can be a great time-saver in jumping straight to calendar whatever else you’re doing, followed by CTRL+1 to jump back to the mail folder you might have been in previously.