How to quickly switch between Word and Office windows
Often you need to switch between windows of the same program, so there should be a quick keyboard shortcut to do that. Here are your options in Windows or Mac.
Whether you’re moving between Word documents, Excel workbooks or PowerPoint decks or Outlook emails, the need is the same. You want to quickly move between currently open windows for that program only.
Mac users are provided with a simple shortcut to fill this obvious and useful need.
Windows users have nothing that simple! After 37 years of Windows, Microsoft hasn’t bothered to act. Keep that in mind next time you hear Microsoft talking about how they ‘listen to customers’.
Here’s how quick switching within an application works on a Mac, then the lame options offered to Windows users.
There are long-standing keyboard shortcuts to switch between windows of the same application.
Command + ` (backtick) moves to the next window for the same app
Command + Shift + ‘ moves back to the previous window
Unless there are a lot of windows, most people just use Command + ` until they reach the right window.
That’s it … job done. For Windows users it’s a lot more complicated … we’ll start with options in Office for Windows (many versions) then the lame alternatives in Windows itself.
Office for Windows
In Office for Windows there are two choices. The Ctrl + F6 shortcut or Switch Windows on the ribbon.
Ctrl + F6 should cycle through all the open windows in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. But it only works properly for Word and PowerPoint!
Office Watcher, Brian M., reports that Excel 365 for Windows only switches between two open sheets, ignoring the third or more open windows. We just tested ourselves and he’s right.
View | Window | Switch Windows shows all the open windows in Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
Alt, W, W is the quick shortcut to that menu, then type a number for the document you want.
There’s no shortcut or command to switch between Outlook windows. (if there is one, it’s hiding!)
But that shortcut or menu doesn’t work in Outlook (Grrrr) or other non-Office programs.
In Windows there’s no simple shortcut to cycle through the open windows of the current program only.
Alt + Tab shows all visible applications. Keep pressing that shortcut to move through the open windows.
The window list starts with the most recently opened, so often the window you want is only a few Alt + Tab away,
Alt + Shift + Tab does the same thing in the opposite direction.
More great Windows help and advice …
Hover the mouse or click on the taskbar icon for a program to see thumbnails of the open windows. Clicking on a thumbnail will switch to that window. The exact look of the taskbar depends on your version of Windows.
Ctrl + click on a taskbar icon to open the last used window of that program.
Right-click on a taskbar icon to see a menu of recently opened documents, including the currently opened docs. Again, the exact look depends on your version of Windows.
Win + <number> lets you switch to a program according to its position on the taskbar. If Word is fourth open program along the taskbar then Win + 4 will open it.
Keep pressing that Win + <number> shortcut to cycle through the window thumbnails.
Win + Ctrl + <number> cycles through the open windows for that program. This is the closest Microsoft has come to quick switching within a program.
EasySwitch is a simple utility that brings to Windows a simple way to switch between windows of the same program.
It even copies the Mac shortcut using the Alt + ‘ (backtick) and Alt + Shift + ‘ shortcuts.
Windows 8 expiring for Microsoft 365 users
Microsoft Office license info coming to Windows