Aero Snap in Windows 8.1

Windows 8.1, like Windows 7, includes several “gesture” features that can save you a lot of time. Foremost among them is Aero Snap, a Windows 8.1 feature that’s been inherited from Windows 7 and works great.

On the desktop, Aero Snap is an easy way to place windows side by side, by using a mouse or your finger:

  1. Click the title bar of a window and drag the window a-a-all the way to the left side of the screen.

    As soon as the mouse (finger) hits the edge of the screen, Windows 8.1 resizes the window so that it occupies the left half of the screen and docks the window on the far left side.

  2. Repeat Step 1 but drag a different window to the right side of the screen.

    That makes it two-drag easy to put a Word document and a spreadsheet side by side, or a web page and File Explorer side by side. With the two windows side by side, you can easily click and drag between them and resize, minimize, maximize, and do all the other things Windows does with windows.

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Aero Snap isn’t the only desktop gesture. Check out these window tricks:

  • If you drag a window to the top of the screen, it’s maximized, so it occupies the whole screen. (You always did that by double-clicking the title bar.)

  • This only works if you have a mouse: Click a window’s title bar and shake it, all other windows on the screen move out of the way. They minimize themselves on the toolbar.

There’s another snap in Windows 8.1, and it only works on the tiled side of the fence. Most of the time, Microsoft calls this other snap, confusingly, “Snap.” Think of the the tiled way of snapping as “Metro Tiled Snap.” Not exactly rocket science, but it gets the point across.

Microsoft is trying to get rid of the name “Aero.” For those of you who were raised to believe that Aero was one of the great selling points and big benefits of Windows 7, well, Microsoft killed Aero in Windows 8, and it’s still dead in Windows 8.1.

The old Aero you may remember — see-through window outlines, “X” boxes that light up, cool 3D effects around windows — are all gone, replaced by the tiled vision of regimented straight lines and lifeless boxes. Little pieces of Aero live on, though, and Aero Snap is one of them.

Tiled Metro Snap is a rather lame way of putting two apps side-by-side on the screen. As you can see, one of the “apps” can be the whole Windows 7–style desktop. You can’t drag stuff between the two Metro Snapped apps, can’t resize them, can’t do much at all.

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Are you thinking, “Aero snap, tiled snap, what’s the difference?” The snap terminology can be confusing. Here’s the big difference: On the desktop side of the fence, the two Aero Snapped windows can interact. You can drag things from one window to another. On the tiled side, the Tiled Metro Snapped programs don’t interact at all. Each lives in its own little Windows world.

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