Suggestion for More Efficient App Switching in Windows 8 RRS feed

  • General discussion

  •      After using the Windows Developer Preview for a little while, I have [possibly] come up with an idea for a more efficient way to switch apps.  Although I currently use the desktop version, I have seen that users may switch between apps on a tablet by swiping in from the left of the screen with one finger.  This is fine, but can become tedious if many apps are open, especially considering that app switching is unidirectional.  An example of this would be if I had 5 apps open, and my desired app is last in line.  Not only would I have to swipe 4 times to get to it, but if I were to accidentally swipe 5 times, I would then have to swipe through all of the apps again to get back to the one I want. 
         Another problem I foresee, is that people may accidentally swipe out of their desired app while using a similar gesture during a game, etc..  This could interrupt the task at hand, and would become frustrating.

    Instead, I suggest the following:

    ***I've drawn some pictures of what I am about to describe and uploaded them to my SkyDrive.  It might be best to look at them (5 total) before reading my descriptions below, to avoid confusion. Here's the link:


    And here's the description.

    1)  The user would begin by touching 2 fingers (thumb and pointer) in a "pinched" position (as if getting ready to pinch-to-zoom in on an object) to the left side of the screen.  If only one other app is open, then the user would simply continue to swipe to the right to switch to that app, just as usual. HOWEVER, if there are multiple other apps open, then the user would proceed to Step #2.

    2) If multiple other apps are open, then sliding in (slightly) from the left would cause the current screen to temporarily move over to the right, leaving the left-most 1/4 of the screen for what I am about to explain.  This time, the user would see a "stack" of apps sliding in from the left (similar to a deck of cards). These would stacked in the left-center of the screen with empty space above and below the stack.  There might also be a number in the top-left of the screen indicating how many apps are open, simply to help the user realize that multiple apps are open.  If at this point, the desired app is on top of the stack, then the user could simply continue to swipe to the right, and the app would become fullscreen.  If the desired app is NOT next in line, then the user would NOT continue to swipe, and would move to Step #3.

    3)  To re-cap, the user will now have their fingers 1/4 of the way in from the left of the screen, with their fingers still in a closed-pinch position.  Knowing that multiple apps are open, the user will now be able to spread the stack out by simply un-pinching their fingers (as if to zoom-IN on an object).  The other open apps would slide out from underneath the top of the stack, and the user may now lift their fingers off of the screen.

    4)  The left 1/4 of the screen would now show snapshots of a few of the other apps positioned above and below the app that was originally on the top of the stack (the original app is still displayed in the left-center). If there are more apps than can fit nicely in the screen, then an arrow at the top and bottom of that portion of the screen would show up, informing users that they can scroll up and down through these apps by sliding their finger up and down.  Once they find the app that they would like to switch to, then they can do several things:  The user can:
                            A) Tap it once to instantly make it fullscreen
                            B) Drag it partially to the right to bring it into 1/4 view (as usual)
                      or   C) Drag it in completely for fullscreen (also, as usual)


    ***I have also expanded on these ideas as a reply further down the page.  Hopefully these fill in some gaps that may have existed!***

    That's it!

         I think that this method would provide a much more reliable and efficient way to switch between apps.  It seems to me that gestures involving 2 fingers are far less common than ones that require only 1.  An advantage of the above method is that it is more deliberate.  The user will be less likely to accidentally exit an app by swiping in from the left with only 1 finger, which would be especially handy for games that involve a lot of touch gestures. Another advantage would become apparent for users who have many apps open. They would no longer have to swipe over and over through a long line of apps. They would also no longer need to worry about accidentally swiping one too many times, leading them to have to start all over.

         I'm brand new to these forums, so I'm not sure what usually happens from here, haha. I have drawn up a simple schematic of this (albeit poorly drawn), however I don't believe that I can upload photos to these forums, so feel free to suggest pictures and I will e-mail them.  I'm also not even sure that I'm posting this in the proper section for making Windows 8 feature suggestions, so if anyone can help direct me to the right place, I would really appreciate it!  I'd like to know your thoughts and suggestions!

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011 1:01 AM

All replies

  • I like the basic suggestion, task switching definitely needs some attention in metro. I'm not so sure about the stack or deck of cards view but the idea of using two fingered swipe would be quite intuitive- one finger brings last app, two fingers give choice of all open apps, I could live with that.

    As for posting images, it used to work on here but now seems to be missing the browse button/box to upload, other people have put pics on their skydrive and then posted a link in the thread.

    Acer W500 tablet & dock, New 'works' Lenovo laptop Too much apple stuff. Remember: A Developer Preview is just that, a preview for developers - not everything will work 'just right' on day 1.
    Tuesday, November 1, 2011 1:41 AM
  •      I'm not sure whether you're telling me that you're confused about what I meant by the "stack" or "deck of cards," or whether you just aren't crazy about the idea.  In any case, I took your advice about the SkyDrive link, and here are the pictures.  I'm certainly not any kind of artist, but hopefully they clarify.


         What I mean by a stack is that there would be something similar to how the taskbar groups/displays multiple windows in the taskbar of Windows 7.

         Lastly, did I post this in the correct forum? Thanks!

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011 2:41 AM
  • lol Deck of cards conjured up thoughts of the overlapping cards in Solitaire - sorry it's late and it's been a long day.

    The skydrive pictures clarified things and I think the idea is excellent, I hope MS are taking notes.

    Some Questions for discussion:

    Q. What order should the list of available apps be in?

    Last used, alphabetical, user selectable?

    Q. What if the app I want has been automatically closed by W8 to free memory?

    Does it matter that the app is closed, Windows must know which apps I had open this session should it display those, if so how many?

    Should the start screen be available as on of the 'apps' in the list


    I'd say this is the right place to post.

    Acer W500 tablet & dock, New 'works' Lenovo laptop Too much apple stuff. Remember: A Developer Preview is just that, a preview for developers - not everything will work 'just right' on day 1.
    Tuesday, November 1, 2011 3:56 AM
  • Hmmm, I like the idea of having the order be user selectable.  Perhaps there could always be an option to let the user choose which apps they want to keep handy, and would only last for the duration of their logon.  This would take a few extra seconds initially, but would save time in the end.  If they wish to get rid of their selections, they might have the option to clear the list, or exchange programs with another.  My guess though, is that most novice users, and therefore the vast majority of users wouldn't bother with that option (though I still think it should be offered).  In this case, there could be a preferences section (in the Control Panel or something) where users can select between things like:
    - most frequently used apps
    - alphabetical
    - most recently used
    - those consuming the most memory/cpu...

    ... and what have you, and the selected option would be the default unless otherwise specified.  The preferences section could also have a switch to toggle whether or not to display the ability to choose custom apps, to reduce clutter for those who would rather let the computer choose.

         The problem of the automatic closing of apps might be kept under better control just by allowing the option to choose a set of quick-access apps for that session, like I mentioned above.  I'm not sure how Windows chooses which apps to close, but I'd bet it has a lot to do with frequency of use, how recently it was used, or what kind of program it is.  If Windows is going to be doing this automatically anyway, then at least users would be able to prevent a select few from ever closing during that session.  I'm thinking that it would be good to have a section in the Control Panel dedicated to making these things very customizable.  The options could be set by default to keep things as simple as possible for novices, and could have a "reset to defaults" option for novices that might not be able to get themselves back to the original settings.  I also don't see any reason not to include the option of setting a specific number of apps to keep open at once, or to just turn off the automatic closing of apps altogether (for users with plenty of power and memory).  I think 7 or 8 would be a good default number of apps to keep open.  I also think that the automatic closing of apps should apply to apps only, not to separate windows of the same app.  For Example:  Having 5 separate Internet Explorer windows open would count as one app only. In another scenario, having 3 Internet Explorer windows, 5 Word documents, and Zune open would count as 3 apps.
         What would be the use of having the start screen though?  Isn't that already the function of the Windows logo charm?  If your thought is to launch a new app more quickly, then maybe there could be button (maybe a + button or something) to open up a new app). There could also be a blank space with "Open New App" written on it.  There could even be a small search bar at the top or bottom where a user can type the name of an app and click on a result, without ever even having to leave the app that they are currently displaying.  This could eliminate the need for the aforementioned button/blank space idea.  Everything that I'm mentioning as far as extras would be located in the left pane of the screen, where the apps are displayed.  I will try to draw what I am talking about and post it after this.
         To keep the contents of the apps more visible, I think it would be best to show only 3 apps at once on the left.  I also think that Windows could automatically determine whether users with larger/higher resolution displays could be able to see 5 apps at once, but not any more.  My reasons for choosing 3 and 5 are because although the idea is to provide choices, users won't be able to see the screenshots of each app if there are too many squeezed into a small area.  The odd number would also allow the app that was at the top of the stack to remain in the center, while the other apps slide out from underneath.  I think that it might look funny if the user's hand gesture doesn't pair well with the animation.
         If a user does wish to use the search bar to find and open an app, they could click on the empty space to begin typing, and the action of clicking (or tapping) that space could bring up a small section where results would be displayed.  Maybe it would be good to have a button for "recently closed apps," to show which apps the person had used during their session. 
         Finally, Windows could begin searching while the user is typing, and once they find what they want, they could:

    1) Tap the name to open it on the side, where it would be treated just as any other app that is in this section.  This way the user could choose to drag it out partially (for the 1/4 view), or completely for full screen view.
    2) Simply tap the name and drag it out towards the right to open it in full screen right away, pushing the currently-displayed app to the side. 

         I think that covers everything... obviously I'm just brainstorming, but I think that these are all very feasible, and that they won't necessarily add clutter to the UI, as long as there are default settings to keep it clean.

    Tuesday, November 1, 2011 6:57 AM
  • Tuesday, November 1, 2011 9:40 AM
  • I'd like to see a feature like this as well. I love the app switching feature on my android phone, although the taskbar is a better

    alternative to this for multiple windows, I wish that there was some way to bring up a list of closed application in windows, quickly Like Windows Key +C or something. I think this is an invaluable feature of android and could be easily ported to windows in some way. Think about all the times you opened control panel then closed it, or device manager, then had to click 5 times to get it back up, or anything really. Sounds properties, explorer, text documents. It allows you to be a little more disorganized with app management, momentarily, while focusing efforts on another task. 

    Friday, November 18, 2011 2:46 PM
  • Good idea, however, its awkward to use two fingers from the edge of the screen, especially when you are on the go. Ipad uses 4 finger swipe however it is generally only useful for copying and pasting between apps (which is the most common usage for this kind of app switching), swiping between too many apps is still inefficient.

    Your idea requires too many actions, I like the idea of the stack of cards though, this will make switching between a multitude of apps rather than between three much more usable. What it should be is:

    1: Drag one finger (most likely a thumb) from the left edge towards the right slightly, keep the finger on the screen

    2: Screenshots of the other open apps appear lining up next to each from top to bottom along the left side of the screen (vertical taskbar of screenshots), the next in-line app always appears directly below the finger that began the gesture (regardless where the finger started). Releasing the touch will switch to that app, dragging it further out and waiting slightly will snap it.

    3: If the user wishes to switch to a different app, the user should drag the finger across the screenshots until the finger is touching the app the user wants to switch to. Releasing the touch will switch to that app, dragging further out and delaying will snap it.

    4: Sometimes there will be many apps open leaving many obscured, there should be a hint that the screenshot queue is scrollable (in fact the desktop superbar should be finger swipe scrollable like Ubuntu (though the unity launcher is incomplete) feature request to Microsoft) the user will then drag the finger to the top or bottom edge of the screen depending on which way the user wishes to scroll towards, the queue of screenshots will scroll. Moving the finger away from the edge will stop the scrolling, then the user performs the needed action to either switch of snap to that app.

    I realize that having the finger over the app screenshot may obscure it, maybe the screenshot underneath the finger will move outwards and expand to emphasize that it is selected. It would also be wise to have a slight overlap of the screenshots to fit more apps in the queue without scrolling.

    Saturday, February 25, 2012 11:32 AM