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Alt-Tab issie

Okay I'm getting annoyed now. When I have some windows open on my W2K system all CD icons are the same.

It would be nice if I could distinguish between CD article windows, CD itself or other CD dialogs. Now I keep on tabbing until I find the right one or I start reading the line that says which app I'm about to open, but as Joel knows (he even wrote it in his excellent book) users don't read ;-)

Karl Gram
Sunday, November 4, 2001

I agree on this one.

Terry Kearns
Sunday, November 4, 2001

That's actually a hard one, it's basically a Windows bug. (You'll notice that we have different icons in the task bar. We're doing everything right. The Alt+Tab switcher has a bug.)

If anyone knows any way to get different icons in the Alt+Tab screen for windows coming from the same application, let me know and I'll be glad to implement it.

Joel Spolsky
Sunday, November 4, 2001

I may be missing something, but it does appear that the Windows task switcher dialog (activated with Alt+Tab) will display different icons for different top-level windows of the same process.

I've thrown together an example of this and made it available at

I've only tried this under Windows 2000, so this may be a problem with different versions of Windows. If someone else can try this example under different OSes, that might shed some light on the problem.

Mark Smith
Sunday, November 4, 2001


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Remove the period or try here:

Mark Smith
Sunday, November 4, 2001


You've created an application with two top-level windows. They are in the same "application" but that's about it.

CD is build with VB and uses modeless child forms (if I'm not mistaken). These forms operate under the "Main" CD window.

As Joel pointed out, the CD windows do have a different icon on the task bar, therefore I also (like Joel) think this is a W2K bug and not a CD bug.

Just curious Joel, why didn't you implement CD as a true MDI application instead of using these modeless windows?

Karl Gram
Sunday, November 4, 2001

Just saw that Outlook 2000 also uses modeless child-windows (new message, new contact, ...) but their icons do appear correctly in the Alt-Tab list!!

Maybe it's a combination of VB/W2K that's causing the bug?

Karl Gram
Sunday, November 4, 2001

I'll study the icon issue some more and see if I can figure out a way to fix it.

We didn't use MDI for two reasons:

(1) MDI applications tend to be confusing to people, who accidentally maximize a child window and think that all their other windows are lost.

(2) MDI applications tend to require a lot of extra work to manage the windows... resizing, scrolling, and moving.

Overall their usability is inferior to standalone windows.

Microsoft Office and Windows 95 officially "abolished" MDI for these reasons.

Joel Spolsky
Monday, November 5, 2001

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