Quick Tip: Change Stacked Window behavior in the Windows 7 Taskbar

The Windows 7 Taskbar is great feature, but you may want to tweak one of its default behaviors with this registry edit.
The default Microsoft Windows 7 behavior when dealing with a set of single-app stacked windows in the Taskbar is to display the set as thumbnails when you hover or click the icon, similar to Figure A. But I find myself almost always wanting to return to the last active window, which means I have to find the right one via the thumbnails (Figure B).

Figure A

These are thumbnails of a set of single-app stacked windows in the Taskbar.

Figure B

Hover over each thumbnail to find the right one.

By tweaking the Windows Registry, you can change the stacked window behavior in the Taskbar to automatically open the last active window of that particular application.

This blog post is also available in PDF format in a TechRepublic download.
Stay on top of the latest Microsoft Windows tips and tricks with TechRepublic's Windows Desktop newsletter, delivered every Monday and Thursday. Automatically sign up today!

Registry Edit

Warning: The Windows Registry is an integral part of the Windows 7 operating system. Editing and changing the registry file could render the system inoperable. Please make a backup of the registry file before you make any edits or tweaks. Click the Start button and enter regedit in the search box and then click the regedit.exe menu item. Answer the UAC prompt to get to the edit screen (Figure C). Navigate to this key:


Figure C

Find the right key.
Right-click in a blank area in the right pane, click New, and then click the DWORD (32-bit) Value menu item, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D

Create a new DWORD.
Change the name to LastActiveClick, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E

Change the name to LastActiveClick.
Double-click on LastActiveClick to open the Value dialog box and change the Value Data field to 1 and click OK, as shown in Figure F.

Figure F

Change the Value Data field to 1.

Exit out of regedit and restart Windows. Now, when you click the icon representing stacked windows of a single application, you will automatically be sent to the last active window. If you click the stacked windows icon again, the next to last active window will be brought to the forefront and so on. No more thumbnails to choose from.


Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.


...stubled across this behavior a while back and have found it handy


I often have 10-15 open windows for the same app, and wished the preview would respond more like the Alt+Tab behavior of last clicked!


Can you point us to a complete list of all possible/supported options for these areas of the registry? That way we could all set things up the way that best suits our purposes.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do you prefer the thumbnail behavior in the Windows Taskbar or the last active behavior enabled by this Quick Tip? Perhaps it is just me, but the thumbnails are often not enough to distinguish between instances ??? last active is more efficient.

Editor's Picks