Change the number of icons displayed in Alt-Tab

I recently stumbled on a simple registry change that alters the display the Alt Tab window. You can edit the number of rows and columns of icons that are displayed when you Alt-Tab. For people like me, with a wide-screen monitor and dozens of windows open, this is a must. The default values of 7 rows and 3 columns only show 21 icons, then they scroll (once you tab past the last icon, you get a new line of icons that you couldn’t see before).

This is a simple hack. Copy the following text into a .reg file, and merge it into your registry (I prefer to use .reg files).

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Control Panel\Desktop]

This is a per-user change. To change the number of icons displayed horizontally, edit the value for CoolSwitchColumns. To change the number of rows of icons displayed, edit the value of CoolSwitchRows.

I have no idea what happens if you pick numbers that are too big for your screen, but you probably won’t like it.

You “have to” reboot for the change to take effect.

Why: According to the Wikipedia article, Alt-Tab is a function of csrss.exe. Csrss.exe is a “Critical System Process,” which you can’t kill with the task manager. So you really don’t “have to” reboot, you just have to reload csrss.exe. Unfortunately I don’t know how to do that without a reboot 😦


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  1. #1 by Dested on June 29, 2008 - 3:27 pm

    You are a god, this is 100% exactly what I was looking for. Very useful information here. I wonder what happens if you change CoolSwitch to something other than 1.

  2. #2 by sethrh on June 30, 2008 - 6:22 pm

    I suspect that nothing too interesting happens if you change CoolSwitch. But if you try it, please post the effects!

    – S –

  3. #3 by Mark on September 21, 2009 - 7:12 am

    Thanks – came up if the first google search. Useful!

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