Chrome OS to fix the Alt-Tab shortcut when using Virtual Desks

Without a doubt, Virtual Desks are the best feature to launch for Chrome OS power users over the last year, allowing you to organize your thoughts, apps, and tasks into separate “desks.” However, the classic Alt-Tab shortcut to quickly swap between your most recent windows does not currently respect the separation of your desks, but that’s about to change.

As it stands today, if you use Alt-Tab with more than one virtual desk in Chrome OS, you’re presented with every single window from every desk. Because of that, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll accidentally swap desks, which is definitely a frustrating experience if you’re not expecting it.

The Chrome OS team is aware that this is not the behavior that everyone is expecting, and is working to isolate the Alt-Tab menu to just your current desk. Like most new Chrome and Chrome OS features, the work is being started behind a flag in chrome://flags.

Limit Alt-Tab windows to active desk

Enable limiting the windows listed in Alt-Tab to the ones in the currently active desk.


Once enabled, Chrome OS will only show the windows of your current desk when you press Alt-Tab. That means you’ll need to manually switch desks to see the windows from the other desks. As someone who likes to keep separate desks for work versus play, I’m very much looking forward to this quality of life improvement.

As for when we can expect this new adjustment to the Alt-Tab experience for Virtual Desks in Chrome OS, it’s hard to say for sure. Google has paused the Chrome and Chrome OS release schedule, even going so far as to cancel version 82 altogether. That said, perhaps we’ll see this new flag by the time Chrome OS 83 reaches stable, presumably later this year. Meanwhile, those brave enough to use Chrome OS Canary should find the flag in the next few days.

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Avatar for Kyle Bradshaw Kyle Bradshaw

Kyle is an author and researcher for 9to5Google, with special interests in Made by Google products, Fuchsia, and Stadia.

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