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How to arrange applications in Windows 7, 8 and 10

Michael Passingham
7 Apr 2015
DisplayFusion resize window in area
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Is your monitor cluttered with untidy windows? We show you the secret tricks to quickly arrange applications and make everything neater

Managing the location of applications on screen is one of Windows's strongest suits. However, there are some great ways to make it even easier thanks to hidden keyboard shortcuts and some clever third-party software. In this guide, we'll show you Windows's built-in features as well as how use DisplayFusion to go even further.

Windows shortcuts

There are several handy shortcuts in Windows 7, 8 and 10 that might satisfy your needs if you have a single Full HD monitor. All three operating systems have some shared features, although some of the less obvious additions differ between each.

Aero snap

Using the mouse: Since Windows 7, users have been able to "snap" their windows to the left and right of the screen, allowing you to easily place two windows side-by-side. This can be done by simply dragging the title bar of a window to the left or right of the screen until the cursor hits the edge; a guideline will appear and, when you let go, the window will resize so it fills exactly half of the screen.

Aero Snap

Windows 10 adds a new feature: you can drag a window into the corner of the screen so it takes up a quarter of the space. Handily, the OS will also pop up some suggestions of windows you can put in the remaining space.

Using keyboard shortcuts: Alternatively, there are some handy keyboard shortcuts. The following shortcuts work in Windows 7, 8 and 10.

  • Windows key + left/right arrows: snap a window to the left or right of the screen
  • Windows  key + up: maximise a window
  • Windows key + down: restore a full-size window, press again to minimise
  • Windows key+shift + left/right arrows: move a window to the next monitor to the left or right

Taskbar and Task manager

Taskbar commands are a little harder to reach but they can sometimes be useful. In Windows 7 these commands can be found by right-clicking on a piece of empty taskbar in Windows 7 and 8, and additionally right-clicking in the very bottom left corner of the screen, next to the Start menu icon.

Windows management Task manager

You can stack windows on top of one another, which is useful for monitors in portrait mode. You can also choose to show windows side-by-side. This action changes depending on how many windows you have open (not minimised): if you have up to three windows open, they'll sit side-by-side, and if you have four they each get a quarter of the screen each. Any more, and things start to get messy, so this option isn't very predictable. You can also choose to have windows cascaded, one on top of the other like a stack of cards in Solitaire.

You can also go into task manager and select multiple programs and clicking on several while also holding down the ctrl button. Right-click on the last program you select, and you'll be able to arrange these windows using the same options as you'd find on the taskbar.

Make your big screens easier to manage

Window management with single monitors with common resolutions such as Full HD is easy enough in Windows 7 and 8, but as soon as you throw high resolutions such as 2,560x1,440 and 3,840x2,160 and start toying with strange aspect ratios such as 21:10, snapping a window so it fills up half a screen is a big waste of desktop space. Higher resolution monitors can easily handle upwards of four legible windows on screen simultaneously and wide screens can manage at least three, if not six on the high resolution models.

Some monitor manufacturers ship their own software to make this easier, but it's often a bit buggy and limited in terms of features, so we recommend spending a little money on some third-party software. DisplayFusion is a powerful window management tool that goes a lot further than the features already found in Windows 7 and 8.

At its most basic, you can use a different wallpaper for each monitor. However, it's the advanced functions that make this piece of software truly impressive. Included in its long list of features are multi-monitor taskbars with different programs displayed on each, customisable hotkeys for managing window location and sizes and "virtual desktops" so you can split a single screen into several sections.

Split your monitor into sections

STEP 1
DisplayFusion's most powerful feature for high resolution or ultra-wide monitors is its virtual desktop tool. It can be accessed by finding DisplayFusion in the taskbar and right clicking on it.

DisplayFusion select

STEP 2
Hover over Monitor Profiles and select Create/Edit Monitor Profiles. If you have multiple monitors, select the monitor you want to split and then select Splits and Padding. From this window you can add new horizontal and vertical splits, effectively making new areas that windows can fill.

DisplayFusion split monitors

To make your first split, click Horizontal Split or Vertical Split. To add more splits, click again. The area you're about to split will be highlighted in blue. You can change which area you're splitting by clicking in that area.

STEP 4
You can also add padding between splits so there's a bit of empty space between windows. For each split you can add padding to the top, bottom, left and right. When you're done, hit OK then click Save Profile on the top left of the Monitor Configuration window. Enter a name and click Apply. You can create new profiles depending on what sort of arrangement you want; you could have a different layout for web browsing and photo editing, for example.

STEP 5
Now you can start arranging windows. In order to get a window to fill the areas you've created, drag it into that area. A guide should appear, letting you know which part of the monitor it will fill.

DisplayFusion resize window in area

If this doesn't work first time, move the window to the side of the monitor like you would if you were using Windows 7's standard Aero snap tools. Now you should be able to drag a window into any section of your screen and have it resize automatically to fill it. 

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