Compiz default Application Switcher (Alt+Tab) is difficult to use

Matt Price matt.price at
Tue Apr 29 00:17:50 UTC 2008

On Mon, 2008-04-28 at 23:55 +0100, chombee wrote:
> I originally filed this as a big report, which I thought was the right
> thing to do, but it got rejected as not a bug:
> Binary package hint: compiz
> The default Alt+Tab switcher ("Application Switcher") in Ubuntu/compiz
> is badly designed from a usability point of view, and differs from the
> alt-tab in metacity. Since the application switcher is a default feature
> and fundamental feature of the desktop, I think this issue is important.

+1  .  i've disabled compiz primarily because of this issue.

> In metacity: when you alt+tab, previews of all windows are shown at
> once, if necessary organised into multiple rows and shrunk to fit them
> all on screen. The window previews stay in a fixed position, and as you
> press Tab the highlight moves from one to the next. Because the windows
> stay still and the selection moves it is easy to spot the window you are
> moving to and to judge how far you are from it, and know when you have
> arrived at it. Also, you immediately understand how many windows there
> are, can quickly see how many windows of a given application there are,
> and can easily see when your selection has moved past the last window
> and back to the first. Basically, it works very well and should be taken
> as an example of the correct behaviour.
> In compiz:
> 1. A fixed maximum number of window previews appear on screen at once,
> regardless of how many windows there are. This makes it impossible to
> see how many windows you have open, or how many windows of a given app,
> without cycling through them all and counting. And it means you don't
> easily know when you have cycled back to the first window, you have to
> recognise it when it comes around again.
> 2. The selection stays still, while the windows move. This makes it
> difficult to find the window you want with your eyes, because they are
> moving. It promotes a slow mode of use where you press tab, wait for the
> next window preview to focus, look at it and decide what it is, then
> either release alt or press tab again. (As opposed to just finding the
> window you want with your eyes because they are all on screen, then
> quickly pressing tab the right number of times to move the selection to
> it.)
> In both aspects compiz should be changed to match metacity.
> Another problem with Alt-Tab in compiz is caused by the highlighting of
> the selected window. If the user is quickly alt-tabbing back and forth
> between two windows it causes the screen to flash disturbingly,
> especially if one of the two windows is maximised. Alt-Tab has two use
> cases:
> 1. The user is searching for a window to switch to. In this case the
> window previews and window highlighting are useful.
> 2. The user knows which window is the previous one, and just wants to
> switch to that by pressing Alt+Tab once, for example when switching
> repeatedly between two windows by just pressing alt+tab quickly. In this
> case the window previews and highlights serve no purpose.
> There should be a brief delay before drawing the window previews and
> highlights. If alt is still held after half a second, say, they will be
> drawn. This would allow very quick switching to the previous window
> without the screen flashing.

just want to say i agree with this fundamentally.  just a user talking
here, though.


Matt Price
matt.price at

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