Controlling Application Windows in Windows 8.1

By Faithe Wempen

Application windows are different in Windows 8.1 depending on whether you are working with a desktop app or a Windows 8-style app. (Windows 8 apps are very different from anything else you have probably encountered in the Windows world.)

For desktop applications, all the same window-control commands and buttons are the same as they’ve been for the last decade’s worth of Windows versions. You can minimize a window so that it shrinks to just an icon on the taskbar, maximize a window to fill the screen, or restore a window to a resizable rectangular area that can be moved around on the desktop and resized as needed.

For Windows 8 applications, there are no windows in the traditional sense. Each app fills the entire screen when it is active. However, you can run two Windows 8 apps side by side.

Managing desktop windows in Windows 8.1

Windows that appear on the desktop can have any of three states:

  • Maximized: The window fills the entire desktop. Maximize a window when you want to concentrate on the program or document in that window and nothing else.

  • Restored: The window is open but not inflated to full-screen size.

  • Minimized: The window is still open, but it’s hidden from view. An icon for the application appears on the taskbar.

You choose the window’s state with the buttons in the window’s upper-right corner, as shown. The leftmost button is Minimize. The center button is either Restore or Maximize, depending on the window’s current state. (When the window is already maximized, the button is Restore; when the window is already restored, the button is Maximize.)

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The rightmost button (X) is Close. This button closes the window, and closes the application too.

When a window is not maximized, you can move and resize it on the desktop. To move a window, drag its title bar. To resize a window, drag anywhere on its border (except at the top, because that’s where the title bar is). Dragging a corner enables you to resize both dimensions at once.

When you position the mouse pointer over the border of a window, the pointer changes to a double-headed arrow when it is positioned correctly for resizing.

Arranging Windows 8 apps

Windows 8 apps are designed to run full-screen. They can’t be windowed like the traditional desktop applications.

However, you can use the Snap feature to make a Windows 8 app occupy only one side of the screen, rather than filling it completely. You can then do the same to another app, so that the two of them are side by side and you can see them both at once. The figure shows the People app and the Calendar app.

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To snap an app, start dragging the top of it downward, as if you were going to close it, but instead of dragging all the way to the bottom, pause in the center of the screen. The app appears as a thumbnail image, and a vertical bar appears onscreen.

Still holding down the mouse button, drag to the left to make the vertical bar appear on the left, or drag to the right to make the vertical bar appear on the right. Then release the mouse button to drop the app into the space between the vertical bar and the edge of the screen.

After you’ve got one app snapped into place, go back to the Start screen and open another. The second app nestles itself into the remaining space next to the first app.

You can drag the divider line between the two apps to change their respective shares of the screen space.

The desktop itself is seen as an app in the eyes of the Windows 8 interface, so you can place it side-by-side with a Windows 8 app if you like. Just drag down from the top of the desktop until the desktop turns into a thumbnail image, and then drag it left or right to snap it into place, just like you would a Windows 8 app.