How to Work with Windows 8.1's Tiled Metro Snap

Windows 8.1 has a new, odd way of running two — and possibly more — programs side by side. Call it Tiled Metro snap to distinguish it from Aero Snap (also known as Windows Snap). The easiest way to explain the difference is to show you what they look like.

Aero Snap has been around for several years; it involves snapping a desktop program to either the left or the right side of the desktop screen, by clicking and dragging the program’s window to the left or right edge of the screen.

After an old-fashioned Windows “legacy” program has been Aero Snapped, it takes up exactly half of the screen. The resized window behaves just like any other window on the old-fashioned desktop: It can be resized, moved, maximized to take up the whole screen, and so on. The figure shows an old-fashioned Windows program that’s been snapped to the right half of the screen.

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Tiled Metro snap is similar to Aero Snap, but more rigid:

  • Maximum number of snapped apps: To calculate how many apps you can Metro snap, take the width of your screen in pixels and divide by 500. Throw away the remainder. Thus, a screen that’s 1024 pixels wide can Metro snap two programs. A 1680 screen can handle three.

  • Cumbersome resizing: Tiled Metro snapped apps have a vertical bar between them. Click or tap and drag on the bar, and you increase the width of one app while decreasing the width of the other. Drag the bar far enough, and the pinched app closes.

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  • No interactivity: Whereas apps snapped on the old-fashioned desktop can interact with each other — you can click and drag files or text from one to the other, for example — the apps in a Tiled Metro snap arrangement cannot. There’s no interaction between them, other than through the Share charm.

Many apps don’t do well in a small space, although some may surprise you. Solitaire, for example, turns the card deck on its side — and the gameplay is good! The Music app, which looks horrible full screen, retreats into a reasonably usable playlist view if you Tile snap it.

Here are the many ways to Tile snap a tiled app:

  • Swipe or drag from the left side of the screen to bring up the most recently run program, and slowly drag it to the right. When the Tiled snap vertical bar appears, release the thumbnail. The thumbnail’s program gets Tile snapped on the left.

  • Bring up the running program thumbnails in the black carpet Switcher. There are many ways to show the Switcher. Tap or click one of the thumbnails and slowly drag the thumbnail to the right. When the Tiled snap vertical bar appears, release the thumbnail.

  • With a mouse, click at the very top of a tiled app or at the very top of the desktop. Slowly pull the top down toward the middle of the screen. When the app turns into a big thumbnail, drag it to the left or right and then release. The app gets snapped next to the last-running program. You can do the same thing with your finger, swiping down slowly from the top.

  • Bring up the running program thumbnails in the black carpet Switcher described earlier. Right-click the thumbnail you want to Tile snap and choose either Snap Left or Snap Right.

  • If you have a keyboard, when you’re running a tiled app or when you’re working on the desktop, press down the Windows key and tap the period. The current app (or the desktop) gets snapped to the right.

Here are a few handy tips:

  • You can’t Tile Metro snap the Start screen.

  • When you Tile snap the desktop into one of the small spaces, individual programs running on the desktop have their own thumbnails on the snapped screen.

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  • You can make the apps switch sides (so the wide one is on the left or on the right) by dragging the vertical separating bar. If you drag the vertical separating bar all the way to the edge of the screen, the snapped app disappears, and the main app takes over the whole screen.

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