The order of windows in alt-tab

Big surpriseWhen you press alt-tab under Metacity, the windows you see in the switcher are displayed in most-recently-used (MRU) order, except that minimised windows are always sorted to the end, and urgent (“needs attention”) windows are sorted to the beginning. A comment in the source describes this as “Windows sellout mode”.

In a recent blog post, Aza Raskin suggests using Markov modelling to learn which applications you commonly switch between, so that they will be in the right place when you need them.  For example, if the system learns that you most often switch between gedit and firefox, then when you are using firefox, gedit will be the first application in the list.

Your chronicler believes the readership of this journal may be interested in discussing the idea.  Anyone who wishes to implement it may count on all the help and advice they need from the Metacity maintainers.

Thanks to Arun Raghavan for bringing this to our attention.

Photo © Kevin Dooley, cc-by.


  1. Posted May 3, 2010 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    Again, interesting idea. Provided that someone wants to code it, it could be tested as the default behavior and, if beta users don’t like, it should be made optional (via gsettings) or removed.

  2. Posted May 4, 2010 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    The idea of my computer knowing exactly what I want before I know I want it is very alluring, it is actually something I would expect from such a mature open source platform. That said, I remain skeptical it would actually work.

  3. Posted May 5, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Wouldn’t Zeigeist be a good source of data for this particular usecase ?

  4. Marco
    Posted May 7, 2010 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Can’t see this would gain us much. If you commonly switch between Firefox and gedit, then the chances are that you’ve just switched from Firefox to gedit (or vice versa) anyway, so the correct application will already be first in the Alt-Tab list.

  5. chanel
    Posted May 12, 2010 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    what I want before I know I want it is very alluring,
    it is actually something I would expect from such a mature open source platform

  6. frizzle
    Posted May 28, 2010 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    wouldn’t it make sense to take the thought even further and to create an overlayed widget-layer-like interface for application switching upon alt-tab?

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