LabVIEW Developers Feature Brainstorming

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LabVIEW's use of ALT+TAB in Windows


When using LabVIEW it is common to have more than 20 windows open at a time.  Each of these windows appears in the ALT+TAB list in Windows each with the same icon.  Many people have complained about this behavior, since it makes switching between LabVIEW and other applications difficult.  We have been trying to find ways to change this.

One thing which we have prototyped is to have LabVIEW appear only once in the ALT+TAB list.  When you select LabVIEW with ALT+TAB, then all the nonminimized windows will come to the front, just as they do when you click on a window.  Then you can easily switch away to another application and switch back to LabVIEW.

When using LabVIEW you will no longer be able to use ALT+TAB to switch between your VI windows.  Instead you can use CTRL+TAB, which currently (in 8.0) switches between LabVIEW windows, though this feature is not very well known.  We could implement CTRL+TAB to bring up a switcher window, just like ALT+TAB but only for LabVIEW windows.  The VIs could have their own icons in the window to make it easy to find them.

What do you guys think about this behavior?  It's a very big change.  It would make LabVIEW very nonstandard on Windows, since generally you would expect to find each window in the ALT+TAB list.  Do you think it would be confusing?  Helpful?  Any other ideas?

Message 1 of 41
I think making things which deviate from the standard action of the OS is very often a bad thing, and in this case even the already existing behavior of having all the open LV windows brought to the front whenever I select one of them is something I don't like. The ctrl+tab idea might be useful, but I wouldn't change alt+tab.
What I would like to see is a button on the toolbar which will show us the icons for all the open VIs (similar to the submenus found in the Browse menu (at least prior to 8), but without having to go into a menu) where clicking an icon of a VI will take you to the FP of that VI.
I have tried writing something like that using VI server (a semi-working version of it should be somewhere in these forums), but unfortunately it proved to be way too slow (I think it took a few seconds to open even if there were only a few VIs). I don't remember if the speed problem was with getting the icons or just because I compiled it into an exe so I could run it from an icon in the shortcut bar and loading the RTE was just too slow. I will have to dig it up and have a look.

Try to take over the world!
Message 2 of 41
Here's the most recent version of that browser. Please ignore the messy code, as I never got around to finalizing it, but just tested to see whether it would work fast enough as an executable (which it didn't) and then I pretty much abandoned it. It does show that the concept is a good one, however, and if there was such a button on the toolbar (remember - one click only) it would be pretty cool. I could do it in 2 clicks through the tools menu, but that would take too much time. Maybe a keyboard shortcut?

Try to take over the world!
Message 3 of 41
The alt-tab functionality has been annoying to me as well a few times, not so much the fact that all open vi's turn up separately as that they all line up after each other. If I alt-tab from a specification in i.e. word to my vi, implement some functionality and then want to go back to word to continue reading, alt-tab just directs me to another LV window instead of back to word (at least in LV7.1, please excuse me if there is a different behaviour in LV8). Fixing this would help a lot.

Message 4 of 41


Yes with 20 VI’s open it starts to get annoying to find every VI.

I see that many people use programs in full screen mode.

When I look at VI’s from the forum, I see that also VI’s are used in full screen. Smiley Surprised

I (almost) never use the full screen mode and the Windows taskbar is on the right of my screen. Setting ‘always on top’ and ‘auto hide’ on.

So when I go to the right of my screen the taskbar appears with all open programs and VI’s with enough information to go to the program or VI want.

That’s how I navigate through the open VI’s without going through a list with VI’s when you use a alt-tab method.


It is getting use to having the taskbar on the right side of your screen but after years of working like this I find it very useful for switching between programs and VI’s

Message Edited by K C on 03-22-2006 11:46 AM

Message 5 of 41
Hello philq,

Maybe you saw that thread, (if not yet please have a look at it).

I tend to like standard behaviours (like tst) but some cases deserve exceptions and I think (unlike tst) that this case diserve an exception.

I would vote for :

 - just one occurence of LabVIEW in "alt+tab" (and not one for each VI window)
 - a real good way to switch from a VI window to the other when in LabVIEW (haven't tries LV8 yet, so don't know how works "ctrl+tab"...)

Actually I already have exactly this (even better maybe with Exposé) on my mac @home but @work I use a PC (with Windows Smiley Mad) so no joy.
By the time
I switch to 8, I would like thank tst again on the behalf of all my coworkers for giving the link to "improve" XP's "alt+tab" (see link above).

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.


Antoine Chalons

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Message 6 of 41
Ctrl+tab works at least as far back as 6.1, but it doesn't give you a way to decide - it only switches between the windows. I'm lazy, so I like as many shortcuts as possible to be available using the mouse. That's why I suggested a button on the toolbar. I could live with alt+tab switching to a single LV window if there was a convenient way to switch between open VIs (not windows).
I haven't tried that powertoy myself, because I'm usually content to reading the title of the window, but since you say it's so good, I'll give it a try.

Try to take over the world!
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Message 7 of 41
I guess I like the powertoy because I am use to Exposé and like to choose my windows not on the name but on the "preview image".

If you like shortcuts accessible form your mouse then how about reconcidering one of the window switcher soft I mentioned in that post ?
The first use can be a bit repulsive but once you know which corner does to use, it's heaven !

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.


Antoine Chalons

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Message 8 of 41
By the way, about standards... why the key to hold to select multiple objects in LabVIEW is "shift", in 99% of the software I know it is "ctrl" (1% left is LabVIEW ;)) ?

Is there a reason for this ???

Message Edité par TiTou le 03-30-2006 05:38 PM

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.


Antoine Chalons

Message 9 of 41
In general, I prefer the "don't change the OS interface unless it's for a really good reason". Thus, I would not change the alt-tab behavior from the way it normally works. Even your proposed prototype does not adhere to "standard operating procedure". If you take, for example, Microsoft Word, and you open up a document in it you'll get a window and an item in the taskbar. If you then open up another document in Word (from Windows Explorer), you'll get a new window and another item in the taskbar. When I use alt-tab I see both documents, but when I switch to one I don't automatically get the other document "magically" appear, as you're proposing to do with LabVIEW. I guess my question is what was the reasoning for making LabVIEW behave the way it does for alt-tab? Is it an OS issue?

The ctrl-tab is somewhat standard for use within an application, not at the OS level. For example, ctrl-tab allows you to move from tab to tab when you're in a window that has tabs. In Firefox, ctrl-tab moves you from tab to tab for the browser tabs. In an MDI application I would expect ctrl-tab to switch from window to window at the application level. As mentioned, LabVIEW currently works this way for ctrl-tab, and to me that makes sense. Is LabVIEW considered an MDI application?
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Message 10 of 41