Windows 10: MS Rethinks Control Panel, ALT + TAB

John Lister's picture

Microsoft has unveiled the latest batch of changes coming to Windows 10. Most are usability improvements, though fans of the Control Panel might be concerned.

The changes come in the latest release in the Windows Insider Dev Channel. That's recommend only for the most technically confident users and is the first place that new features and changes are tested by people outside of Microsoft itself.

One change had already leaked, namely the appearance of the tiles in the Start menu. They will now be partially transparent and will reflect the user's choice of a light or dark theme, the idea being to make sure nothing in the Start menu is too visually jarring.

Alt-Tab Changes Focus

There will also be a change to one of the most basic actions in Windows: using Alt + Tab to switch between Windows. At the moment this simply switches between windows and therefore only switches to the active tab in a web browser.

The change means the default will be that when Alt + Tab reaches a window with a web browser, each subsequent press of the Tab button will switch to the next tab in the browser. Once it gets to the last tab, the next press will switch to the next window in sequence.

Users will be able to change the settings to only go through three or five tabs this way, or to return to the current system. (Source:

System Information Moves Home

Another change is to the Taskbar at the bottom of the screen. This will now be automatically customized to reduce clutter and only show relevant icons, which will depend on whether the user has linked an Android phone to their PC and/or has an Xbox Live account on the PC.

Notifications in the bottom-right corner of the screen will now list the app that has created the icon.

Finally, some of the key information that appears on the System page in the Control Panel will move to the Settings -> System -> Control Panel page in the Settings menu. Microsoft believes that will reduce redundancy in finding information, but the news has prompted fears that it may have started the process of downplaying and eventually phasing out the Control Panel. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Does the Start Menu's appearance matter? Would you find the Alt-Tab changes useful? Is system information best placed in Control Panel or the Settings menus?

Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (12 votes)


Dennis Faas's picture

I've never been a fan of the Control Panel views (by category) - I prefer the "All Items" view, which is the same Control Panel view that's been used since Windows 7. If they start messing around with this in favor of moving things over to the "Settings" app, I won't be a happy camper. The Settings app always takes long to load and what I'm looking for is usually buried deep in sub-menus.

anniew's picture

I really enjoy the W 10 setup you gave me, Dennis, including the "shell" option. I keep watching the updates and hope that my setup is not tampered with. At times I postpone updates and am especially watching for the one that includes Edge, which I never use! You recently wrote about that possible problem also.
Thanks for all the help you give us!

nospam_5346's picture

I have to agree with you Dennis. I have never been a fan of the category view and trying to guess where Microsoft has decided to hide what I want. In my view, all of the settings should be in the control panel.

I have also run across things in the settings app that don’t work for me, but do from the control panel.

Tha alt-tab change is probably 5 steps back in usability as it is much faster to open the browser and click on the relevant tab than tabbing through multiple tabs to the tab you want, but is typical of Windows versions where someone seems to think why not add a click or two or three to do the same thing you used to do.

As for the start menu, it doesn’t matter to me as I remove all of the tiles anyway. Never had a use for them on a desktop. Not sure what advantage having transparent tiles provides. Do you need to see the desktop when using the start menu?

eric's picture

The problem with phasing out the classic control panel is that the UWP interface ("modern apps") crashes frequently enough that it would render the system unusable and/or irrecoverable.
It's been extremely handy to have both the modern setting apps and the classic control panel both, in case of the inevitable UWP crash.

David's picture

Micro$oft really needs to go back to the old adage, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." They are tinkering with things their users are used to finding in certain places, complicating things instead of simplifying them, so just leave well enough alone. If they don't want unnecessary duplication they can always have the icon in both locations launch the same program.

And I'll gladly dogpile on - the category view is utterly useless to me, I want the full listing of all control panel options up front. I would be willing to concede with a categorized listing, so long as it showed the category and all options under it, without having to click to expand the category header.

crick616's picture

The function change for the Alt-Tab shortcut is most disturbing as it accomplishes nothing positive and cripples the shortcut I use the most. Apparently, few people realize there are already THREE other simple keyboard shortcuts to navigate tabs in a browser window... Ctl-Tab, Ctl-PgUp and Ctl-PgDn (at least, these are shortcuts in Chrome and Firefox).

Being an old-timer who grew up with CP/M and DOS, I prefer to keep my hands on the keyboard and I resent being forced to move them to a mouse or touchpad. I usually have multiple browser windows open (each with multiple tabs open) and several non-browser windows open as well. My PC has 16gb RAM and can handle LOTS of open choices and I depend on keyboard shortcuts to navigate them all. I use Alt-Tab, Ctl-Tab, Ctl-PgUp and Ctl-PgDn all the time and only use the touchpad when shortcuts can't accomplish what I want to do.

I fully understand the value of upgrading an interface, however I strongly believe they should leave existing keyboard shortcuts alone and respect that most users don't bother to learn them at all but many users depend on them. Most of the other cosmetic changes are of no interest whatsoever to me and I'm amazed at the time/effort people expend tweaking them.

I'm SO tired of rent-a-kid programmers finger painting on a masterpiece.