Snap Apps Alongside the Windows 8 Desktop

Windows 8 normally keeps the Start screen and the desktop separated into two distinct worlds. You can work within the Start screen or within the desktop, but not both. Sometimes, though, that’s not good enough.

For example, you may want to see the Start screen’s Calendar app resting alongside your desktop to remind you of your day’s commitments. Or perhaps you need your Messenger app open while you work, so you can consult a friend on a name for your latest jazz band.

The solution is to snap your app alongside the desktop: The app consumes less than one quarter of the screen, while the desktop fills the rest. Or, you can give your app the larger screen portion, shrinking the desktop.

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To snap an app on your desktop, follow these steps:

  1. Open any Start screen app.

    To reach the Start screen, press the Windows key. Or, using a mouse, point at the bottom-left corner of your desktop and click when the Start screen icon appears. Then open an app you want to snap alongside the desktop.

    If you’re using a mouse or touchscreen, jump ahead to Step 3.

  2. If you’re using a keyboard, hold down the Windows key and press the period key.

    The app snaps to the left of your screen. (Press the Windows key + . [period] again to snap the app to the screen’s right edge, instead.) If you don’t see the desktop along the app’s side, move to Step 3; the desktop will open alongside the docked app.

  3. Switch back to the desktop.

    To return to the desktop, hold down the Windows key and press D, or click the Start screen’s Desktop tile.

  4. Snap the app of your choosing against your desktop.

    These steps are much simpler to do than read. But here goes:

    • Mouse: Point at the screen’s top- or bottom-left corner until a thumbnail of your most recently used app appears. Right-click the desired app and, from the pop-up menu, choose Snap Left or Snap Right to snap the app to the screen side of your choosing.

    • Touchscreen: Slowly drag your finger from the left edge of the screen inward; your most recently opened app appears, following along with the motion of your finger. When a vertical strip appears onscreen, lift your finger, and the app snaps itself to the screen’s left edge.

When the app snaps against the desktop’s edge, it leaves a vertical bar separating it from your desktop. When the app snaps against the desktop’s edge, it stays there, even if you switch to the Start screen or load other apps.

Although app snapping works well for a few tasks, it comes with more rules than a librarian:

  • To unsnap the app, drag that vertical bar toward the screen’s edge. Or press Windows key + . (period) until the app disappears.

  • When the app sticks to the side, you can drag the vertical bar inward, making the app fill most of the screen and turning the desktop into a rather useless little strip.

  • To toggle the app from one edge to another, press Windows+. (period); the app switches sides. Press Windows+. (period) again, and the app unsnaps from the edge.

  • You can’t snap an app to the side of the Start screen. The Start screen always consumes the entire screen. But when you switch away from the Start screen, the previously snapped app will still be in place, clinging to its same edge.

  • You can only snap one app at a time. For example, you can’t snap an app onto each side of your desktop.

  • You can snap apps only on a screen with a resolution of at least 1366 x 768. In human language, that means an extra-wide computer screen, which you won’t find on most netbooks or older laptops. You will find that resolution, however, on all Windows 8 tablets.

  • To see your screen’s resolution, open the desktop by pressing Windows+D. Right-click a blank part of your desktop and choose Screen Resolution from the pop-up menu. You can select your resolution from the Resolution drop-down scroll bar. (You should usually choose the highest resolution offered.)

For more information about Windows 8 and its features, explore Windows 8 For Dummies, available online.

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