Alt Tab behavior is needlessly inconsistent and difficult

Reported by Matthew Paul Thomas on 2011-08-23
56
This bug affects 10 people
Affects Status Importance Assigned to Milestone
Ayatana Design
Undecided
Unassigned
Unity
Undecided
Unassigned
unity (Ubuntu)
Undecided
Unassigned

Bug Description

unity 4.8.2-0ubuntu4, Ubuntu Ocelot

Example A:
1. Open three LibreOffice Writer documents: X, then Y, then Z.
2. Copy some text from Z.
3. Try to use Alt Tab to switch to document X.

Example B:
1. Focus a LibreOffice document, then a browser window, then another LibreOffice document.
2. Try to use Alt Tab to switch to the first LibreOffice document.

What happens: You can't -- unless you know about, remember, and have a free hand available to use, the arrow keys while still holding down the Alt key, or you know about and remember the Alt ` combo.

This behavior is inconsistent with what practically every current or potential Ubuntu user will expect, regardless of what they have been using previously:
* In every previous version of Ubuntu, Alt Tab lets you switch between every window.
* In every version of Windows, Alt Tab lets you switch between every window.
* In every version of Mac OS X, Command Tab switches purely between applications, and there are other keyboard combos for switching between windows.

Consistency of behavior in shortcut keys is more important than consistency of anything else in an interface. <http://www.asktog.com/basics/firstPrinciples.html#consistency>

Even if ease of migration was somehow not a concern, the design is wrong in at least three other ways.

First, it is inconsistent with itself: the subset of windows that you can switch to with Alt Tab changes depending on which window is currently focused.

Second, switching to a window outside this subset requires using two hands, when Alt Tab in one hand is very often used in combination with a mouse or touchpad in the other hand.

And third, the overall result is that it is easier to switch to windows that you're *less* likely to want to switch to, and harder to switch to windows that you're *more* likely to want to switch to.

What should happen:
* Whatever visuals are applied to it, Alt Tab should switch strictly between windows by recency.
* Any function for switching between applications should use a different keyboard combo.

description: updated
Jason Smith (jassmith) wrote :

alt-grave (key above tab in qwerty) allows for switcher between windows using the same hand as alt-tab

Neil J. Patel (njpatel) on 2011-08-23
Changed in unity:
status: New → Incomplete
Adolfo Jayme (fitoschido) wrote :

But the use of Alt+grave was necessary? I’d like to see that behaviour as optional. <trolling>Don’t take dumb design decisions like in GNOME</trolling> ;)

description: updated
John Lea (johnlea) on 2011-09-15
Changed in ayatana-design:
status: New → Opinion
Didier Roche (didrocks) on 2011-09-30
Changed in unity (Ubuntu):
status: New → Incomplete
Tiede (marcarthur) wrote :

Confused as to why Didier Roche marked this as incomplete...
No further information is requested (!?!)...
Clarify?

Jesse Glick (jesse-glick) wrote :

I had no idea Alt-GRAVE and the arrow key tricks were available and just assumed this was impossible via the keyboard in Unity until I searched Launchpad and found this bug - there is no clue in the visual display to the contrary. Very confusing. Much prefer older behavior of having Alt-TAB simply switch between open windows; I do not much care which application "owns" them.

Omer Akram (om26er) on 2011-12-05
Changed in unity:
status: Incomplete → Opinion
Changed in unity (Ubuntu):
status: Incomplete → Opinion
Changed in ayatana-design:
status: Opinion → New
status: New → Invalid
status: Invalid → New
Changed in unity:
status: Opinion → New
Changed in unity (Ubuntu):
status: Opinion → New
Changed in unity:
status: New → Incomplete
Changed in unity (Ubuntu):
status: New → Incomplete
John Lea (johnlea) on 2011-12-14
Changed in ayatana-design:
status: New → Opinion
Changed in unity:
status: Incomplete → Opinion
Changed in unity (Ubuntu):
status: Incomplete → Opinion
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