An early version of what is likely to end up being a major Windows 11 update has been rolling out to people signed up to test it out, and it looks like Microsoft is making a rather large change to one of the most useful features: Alt + Tab.
As Neowin reports (opens in new tab), it looks like Microsoft will limit the amount of recent windows that you can scroll through when pressing the Alt + Tab keys on the keyboard.
A twitter user known as Xeno has been digging into the latest version, and noticed that in the ‘Multitasking’ settings of Windows 11, the limit of tabs you can quickly switch to (with each ‘tab’ representing an open application) has been reduced from an unlimited maximum to 20.
“All tabs” has been replaced with “20 most recent tabs” in Builds 25330, 23424 and 22624.1537 https://t.co/bM7BoQrubxMarch 31, 2023
While I’m not a big fan of Microsoft removing features and functionality from Windows 11, in this case, it might be a good move.
Alt + Tab is one of the oldest features of Windows, and one of its most useful. By holding down the Alt key, and then tapping the Tab key, you can quickly switch between open programs. This can be a lot faster than trying to find the open app on your desktop or taskbar, especially when using devices with smaller screens, such as laptops.
Alt + Tab lets you switch between full screen apps as well, such as games, rather than having to close them down, and it has been a life-saver for many people when an app or game becomes unresponsive, as you can Alt + Tab out of it and close it, rather than having to restart your entire PC and potentially lose any unsaved work.
Limiting the usefulness of this feature would certainly be worrying, but as Xeno points out in another tweet, 20 is still a big number of open apps. If you have huge amounts of apps all running in the background, your PC will start performing slowly – and trying to find the app or window you need quickly can also become a nightmare.
Because Alt + Tab allows you to instantly switch to apps and start using them, Windows 11 needs to keep them running in your PC’s memory (RAM), so having 20 or more will be a severe drain on resources, slowing down your computer and even potentially making it crash.
It seems to reduce the likelihood of these crashes, Microsoft has implemented the limit, and in this case, it’s probably the right thing to do. I’m terrible for closing apps once I’ve used them, but even I have never had more than 20 open at once to wade through. For extreme power users who often have lots of apps going at once, and have the best RAM to handle it, Windows 11 will at least let you quickly Alt + Tab between the 20 most recently-used apps. Bad news for the 21st app, but it’s likely you weren’t using it much anyway.