Improving Window Switching Interfaces

  • Susanne Tak
  • Andy Cockburn
  • Keith Humm
  • David Ahlström
  • Carl Gutwin
  • Joey Scarr
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 5727)


Switching between windows on a computer is a frequent activity, but current switching mechanisms make it difficult to find items. We carried out a longitudinal study that recorded actual window switching behaviour. We found that window revisitation is very common, and that people spend most time working with a small set of windows and applications. We identify two design principles from these observations. First, spatial constancy in the layout of items in a switching interface can aid memorability and support revisitation. Second, gradually adjusting the size of application and window zones in a switcher can improve visibility and targeting for frequently-used items. We carried out two studies to confirm the value of these design ideas. The first showed that spatially stable layouts are significantly faster than the commonly-used recency layout. The second showed that gradual adjustments to accommodate new applications and windows do not reduce performance.


window switching revisitation patterns spatial constancy 


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Copyright information

© IFIP International Federation for Information Processing 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susanne Tak
    • 1
  • Andy Cockburn
    • 1
  • Keith Humm
    • 1
  • David Ahlström
    • 2
  • Carl Gutwin
    • 3
  • Joey Scarr
    • 1
  1. 1.Computer Science and Software EngineeringUniversity of Canterbury8140New Zealand
  2. 2.Department of Informatics SystemsKlagenfurt UniversityKlagenfurtAustria
  3. 3.Department of Computer ScienceUniversity of SaskatchewanSaskatchewanCanada

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