Your Windows PC’s Snap feature is either the best part you’re not using or the best feature you’re probably not using to its full potential. Sure, you may have snapped some windows, but do you know about all the keyboard shortcuts, Snap Layouts, and Snap Groups — and have you tried Microsoft’s even more powerful alternative to Snap?

Microsoft initially introduced Snap in Windows 7, where it was called Aero Snap; it let you snap two windows side-by-side on your screen. It got an upgrade in Windows 10, allowing you to snap up to four windows in quarters rather than two in halves.

It’s even better in Windows 11 with new features like Snap Layouts and Snap Groups, which makes it easier to find — and more powerful.

I’ll show you how to take advantage of Snap on Windows 11 and 10 and go beyond Snap for even more powerful multitasking and control of your open windows.

Snap basics on Windows 11 and 10

Snapping is easy. Just click a window’s title bar, hold down the left mouse button, and drag it to either the left or right edge of your screen or one of the four corners. You’ll see a preview of the shape the window will take when you release the mouse button — either taking up the left or right half of the screen or one of the four quadrants, depending on where you drag it.

In Windows 11, once you’ve dropped the window in place and snapped it to your desired shape, Windows will prompt you to choose from other open windows to fill in the other regions of your Snap layout. Microsoft calls this Snap Assist.

You can snap windows with keyboard shortcuts, too. Press and hold the Windows key on your keyboard and press the arrow keys to move the current window around. If you have a maximized window and press the Windows key + the Right arrow, it will snap to the right half of your screen. If you keep holding down the Windows key and press the Up arrow key after the Right arrow key, it will snap to the top-right quadrant of the screen.

When you grab the handle between multiple snapped windows and drag it to resize a window, Windows will resize both windows simultaneously.

Snap Layouts and Groups on Windows 11

Windows 11 makes Snap much easier to find and use. You can mouse over the Maximize button at the top-right corner of any window to see Snap Layouts. Windows will show you a variety of layouts; click a position to snap the window into that position on your screen immediately.

There’s a keyboard shortcut, too, using the Windows key + the capital letter Z. If you press Windows + Z to open Snap Layouts, you can press the number keys that appear in the overlay to quickly assign the window to a location on the screen without touching your mouse.

You can also drag a window to the middle of the top edge of your screen. You’ll see the Snap Layouts options, then drop the window wherever you like on one of the layouts to snap it to attention.

Windows will show different layout options depending on your screen size. If you have a big widescreen monitor, you may see options to snap three windows side-by-side in columns, while you may see options to snap only two windows side-by-side on a typical laptop screen.

These grouped windows will appear together on the taskbar. You can use Alt + Tab to switch between groups of multiple windows simultaneously quickly. Just hover over a taskbar icon of one of the applications snapped in the group to see the group.

Let’s say you have two windows snapped side-by-side and another four in a grid. You can go back and forth between these two groups with Alt + Tab or by selecting one of the applications on the taskbar — you don’t have to manually pull up all two (or four) windows each time you switch among them.

Fine-tuning your Snap settings

So many of these behaviors are customizable. By default, Windows has all these Snap settings turned on, but you can deactivate any of them individually — or even disable Snap entirely. (I don’t see why you would want to, but Windows is powerful and customizable; the choice is yours if it gets in the way.)

You’ll find the options for controlling Snap in the Windows Settings app. Launch Settings from the Start menu and head to System then Multitasking to find them. On Windows 11, click the “Snap windows” header to see various options. On Windows 10, you’ll see the options under “Work with multiple windows.”

You can turn off the Snap Assist suggestions after you snap a window, prevent the Snap Layouts pane from appearing when you hover over the Maximize button, or stop seeing groups of snapped applications when you press Alt + Tab.

Snap is for everyone

I’m a huge fan of Snap. Assuming you have multiple windows on the screen simultaneously, you should use Snap constantly. It’s hard to believe we had to live without it back in the Windows XP era, resizing our windows by hand to take proper advantage of all that desktop real estate on our PCs.

Thanks, and safe computing!

Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft officially released Windows 11 on October 5, 2021. In a blog post, the lead project manager expects the operating system successor to nearly seven-year-old Windows 10 to be widely available by the middle of 2022. I’ll admit, the “geek” in me couldn’t resist the siren call of a shiny new object. So, I spent less than half an hour downloading the 5.1 gigabyte file and an equivalent amount of time creating a virtual machine environment (running under Hyper-V) on a test Windows Server.

The installation was speedy compared to previous versions of Windows, even though the source file was on a USB drive. The initial phase after installation, commonly referred to as the “out-of-box experience” (OOBE, pronounced “oo-bee”), was pleasant and easy. No muss and no fuss getting to the initial Windows 11 desktop.

Here is a brief overview of some of the new features in the latest iteration of the Windows operating system.

First and foremost is that the Windows Taskbar is now in the center of the screen. I’ll call this blatant effect mimicry (or stealing) of Apple’s Dock, found in all Mac devices since 2001. This change may not be creative, but it is certainly different. This is especially apparent when for more than two dozen years, ever since Windows 95, Windows users have been accustomed to moving their cursor to the lower, left-hand corner to access the Start menu. Now it is in the “home” position – meaning the left-most spot – on the Taskbar. Now when you click it, the Start menu opens in an entire window in the center of your screen instead of sliding up an extensive menu. According to Microsoft, this sleeker, more straightforward screen gives you a better overview of the available features and programs to make it easier to accomplish your work (or play). Over time, the apps you use most frequently will take their place in the Recommended section.

New to Windows 11 is the confluence of several individual components that Microsoft thought would be useful to consumers. This item is Widgets, which includes news headlines, weather, stock information, and sports. Each item displays current information based on your location. You can change the size of each widget and customize it by clicking the three-dot menu icon in the upper right corner. You can add more widgets based on your preferences to the display. The privacy implications of all the Widget telemetry exchanged between you and Microsoft is a discussion for another newsletter. Also, I don’t know the corporate equivalent of this feature, nor if Group Policy can eliminate it.

Another change is what Microsoft is calling Snap Layouts and Snap Groups. In Windows 7, you could snap one window on each side of the screen by clicking on the window’s Title bar and rapidly moving it to the right or left. Windows 10 maintains this capability, and Microsoft expanded the concept with the Task View (described in the August 2019 edition). The purpose of this new functionality is to let you design how many open windows you want at one time, what they should contain, and where you want them to be positioned. For instance, you might wish to have an Excel spreadsheet open on the right-hand side of the screen, and your email client and an internet browser open, stacked one above the other, on the left-hand side. You can then save this layout to a named group and call it up when you want all three apps to open at once. Windows 11 gives you the ability to resume where you were working when you click on the link to the layout.

As you might have guessed, having all these apps open simultaneously (never mind saving their condition to restore them quickly) is going to require more memory than ever before. Most of you have been very comfortable working with 8 GB of RAM (memory). In some cases, I have given “power users” 16 GB of RAM. If you plan to use this feature extensively, I may have to double the amount of memory in your computer. Only time – and practical usage – will let me know if this will be a problem in search of a hardware solution.

The last element of this first peek at Windows 11 is Microsoft Teams integration. Teams is Microsoft’s equivalent of Zoom or WebEx. Working from home – or from anywhere, really – will continue to be part of our culture for the foreseeable future. Microsoft fully believes that a dispersed workforce is inevitable, so it placed this icon in a prominent position. After all, what could be easier than clicking on an icon to launch a discussion with co-workers or colleagues? I expect that as time goes by, probably with the first annual Feature Update, Microsoft will provide more integration with the corporate version of Microsoft 365 and Teams.

Over the next two years, I’ll be giving you more information about this new operating system. But, as I’m sure you realize, it is still Windows. Most of you use the operating system for probably opening a browser to get your mail and see what’s going on with your friends, family, and organizations on Facebook. All the bells and whistles don’t mean much to you – I get it. It’s just that Microsoft doesn’t feel the same way.