The All Apps view in Windows 8 is quite useful, considering many of the applications a geek might want to use won’t be pinned to the Start Screen – but it is a pain to get there. We set out to find a better solution.

When it comes right down to it, the All Apps view is the most similar analog to the All Programs view from the Start Menu going all the way back to Windows 95. Windows Vista changed it significantly, and Windows 7 a little more, but overall, the Start Menu was the way to access all of your apps, and the All Apps view is the same thing, just full screen.

And sure, you can pin all of those other Windows apps like Event Viewer and your regular desktop apps directly to the Start Screen, but the icons look awful on the screen, since you also can’t replace them with a pretty Metro-style picture icon. If you could do that, we might be in business, but since they are ugly, and we are system tweakers, there is no way we’re pinning them there. So we need the All Apps screen.

The problem is that getting there is confusing and lousy.

To get there, normally you’ll open up the Start Screen by clicking in the corner or hitting the Windows key. Then you have to right-click on the empty space on the page or hit the Win + Z key combination to bring up the App bar, from which you can launch the All apps screen. If you were on a touch device, you could swipe up from the bottom of the screen, which is a little easier, but still rather hidden.

After months of dealing with that nonsense, I decided it was time to figure out a better solution. Naturally, I turned to AutoHotkey to get the ball rolling.

The first thing I did was check into keyboard shortcuts, and remembered that the WIN + Q shortcut key combination opens up the All Apps view… sorta. What it actually does it open the search box, which is fairly useless since I can do the same thing by just hitting the Windows key and typing my search.

Then I realized you can use CTRL + TAB on the Start Screen to switch back and forth between the Start Screen and the All Apps screen. Voila! My solution was simple – automate this with AutoHotkey. The script was simple enough, after I realized you had to add a very slight delay between the keystrokes.

So I created a script that automates hitting the Windows key, waits for 60 milliseconds, and then sends the Ctrl + Tab key combination.

Send {LWin}
Sleep 60
Send {Lctrl down}
Sleep 10
Send {Tab}
Sleep 10
Send {Lctrl up}

You can take that AutoHotkey script and compile it into an executable, create a shortcut, and then customize the icon to whatever you want.

And then finally, pin that shortcut to the Taskbar. Now you have one-click access to every app on your system.

Where it gets surprisingly useful is actually on the Start Screen itself… on a tablet device. Instead of swiping up and hitting the icon to access the All Apps view, you can just hit a single tile with your finger, and you are right there at the All Apps view, ready to launch any application.

There is a quick second, of course, where the screen flashes back to the desktop, because AutoHotkey is a desktop application. Perhaps Microsoft will provide a better way to do this in Windows Blue, but for now, this works quite well. Note: it won’t work on the Surface RT, because, well… almost nothing interesting works on Windows RT.

If you really wanted to, you could change the script to launch All Apps with a shortcut key instead.

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Lowell is the founder and CEO of How-To Geek. He’s been running the show since creating the site back in 2006. Over the last decade, Lowell has personally written more than 1000 articles which have been viewed by over 250 million people. Prior to starting How-To Geek, Lowell spent 15 years working in IT doing consulting, cybersecurity, database management, and programming work.
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