How do I quickly position two windows side by side?

Commenter n/a posted a laundry list of feature requests. I'm not going to address all of them here (though I inadvertently addressed one of them a while ago). But today I'm going to address request number two, "A simple switch to create two windows, one alongside the other, vertically split."

That feature has been around since Windows 95, possibly even before that but I haven't bothered to check.

In the taskbar, click the button for the first window you want to position, then hold the Ctrl key and right-click the button for the second window. Select Tile Vertically. Bingo, the two windows are positioned side by side.

(If you pick Tile Horizontally then they appear one above the other.)

Of course, the upcoming Windows 7 makes this operation much easier with a set of window-positioning features that collectively are known as Snap. Just drag one window to the left edge of the screen, and drag the other to the right edge of the screen. But what if you don't want the windows to auto-dock? We'll pick that up next time.

Bonus chatter: In case you missed it, the Engineering Windows 7 team blog the history of window arrangement in Windows in a multi-part series: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3: Aero Snap.

Comments (31)
  1. steven says:

    That is so useful I can’t believe I never knew that. I used to minimise every window except the ones I wanted tiled then then chose tile from the taskbar’s context menu.

  2. Bill says:

    It does seem to mess with all the other windows I have open…

  3. Someone You Know says:


    Yeah, in XP at least it seems to restore down all windows that are maximized, even those that are not among the taskbar buttons you’ve selected.

  4. porter says:

    Since Windows 95?

    With Windows 1.0, tiled windows were all you got! ( apart from dialogs, icons and popups ).

  5. rtm242 says:

    On Win7:

    WIN+LEFT ARROW/WIN+RIGHT ARROW is easier for me than trying to drag with the mouse. (also works across multiple monitors!)

    Sadly, Win7 no longer seems to have capability for "Tile Horizontally"

  6. Olivier says:

    @rtm242 : I’ve just tried on Win7 RC and you can still tile horizontaly the same way as you do on Windows XP.

  7. Andrew R says:

    Its a pity that for some applications this doesn’t work… e.g. Hyper-V Virtual Machine Connection.

    What window attribute is required to make this work?

  8. porter says:

    > What window attribute is required to make this work?

    A programmer that abides by the user interface guidelines.

  9. DWalker says:

    I usually minimize all of the windows I don’t want involved, then just right-click in the task bar and select "Tile Windows Vertically" (or Horizontally).  That will tile all of the non-minimized windows.

    No messing around with clicking the taskbar icons, or remembering the ctrl-right click.

  10. jon says:

    The Windows 7 feature doesn’t work so well as soon as you have two monitors. Instead of two windows side-by-side you end up with one taking up the left half of one monitor, and one taking up the right half of the other monitor. Doesn’t anyone at Microsoft actually use dual monitors?

    [There are hotkeys for multiple monitors too. Multiple monitors are actually quite popular at Microsoft. -Raymond]
  11. anonymous says:

    cool to know learn about the keyboard option.  Snap does not work well with multiple monitors.

  12. MadQ1 says:

    Hmm, I can’t seem to submit comments. IE just goes back to the main page instead of thanking me for sending my comments. My apologies if a shitton of exactly the same comments from me appear all of a sudden.

  13. MadQ says:

    Maybe I just can’t follow instructions, but I just tried clicking one button, then while holding down the CTRL key, right clicking a second button in Windows 7 RC. No dice. The first button becomes unselected. In fact, I couldn’t figure out any way to select multiple buttons.

  14. MadQ says:

    On the bright side, I just discovered that holding down shift while left clicking a task bar button, or middle clicking a button without shift starts a new instance of the application. Again, sorry for the comment spam.

  15. Mark says:

    Snap in windows 7 doesnt work if you have 2 monitors (i.e. it works on the left of left one and right of right one but not on the right of left or left of right) which makes it a  bit useless

  16. Doug says:

    I use this feature a lot, but it’s never worked for me with MS Money as one of the windows.

  17. Tim! says:

    Does not work well with taskbar grouping. (in XP at least)  You cannot select an individual window from a group; the tiling context menu options are only available on the top-level taskbar buttons.

  18. dsmtoday says:

    This doesn’t work in WinXP if you have the "Group similar taskbar buttons" option set.

  19. jabelli says:

    I use Sizer by Brian Apps to control window sizes. He has a new beta version for Vista/7 up at .

    Highlights: new system menu or right-click on max button/border to access a customizable list of window sizes and/or positions; tooltip shows window size as it is being sized.

    This little utility is essential for seeing how your web page or sizable dialog will look at different screen sizes.

  20. anonymous says:

    Of course I’m talking about the situation when taskbar buttons are ungrouped in Windows 7 and like in all previous Windows versions. So the idea is to force users to prefer the grouping option as it gives more options like "Close group" which you don’t get by ungrouping. Well done MS!

  21. Worf says:

    Hrm.. I dislike grouping because I like my window buttons to have spatial sense – e.g., the leftmost button is Outlook, followed by two terminal programs (one for each serial port, with the left one being the window on the left, the right one on the right), followed by three ssh sessions into my Linux box…

  22. dsmtoday says:

    Ugh, smoked by one minute.

    If you have any RDP sessions open, executing this tiling feature on *other* windows will cause *all* RDP sessions windows to get swept up and made small in the upper-left corner of your main window.  Bizarre!

  23. Neil says:

    Ctrl+Clicking doesn’t work on vanilla 95. Perhaps it needs the Windows Desktop Update? (Sorry but I don’t have 98 handy to compare.)

  24. anonymous says:

    The ability to *select* taskbar window buttons using Ctrl+left click and right click on the last as Raymond Chen describes is removed from Windows 7. See Steven Sinofsky confirm this to me in an email giving a silly unjustified reason that it was removed because the common menu that appears after selecting taskbar buttons "wouldn’t apply to jump lists"!!! (WTH?)

  25. Brian Tkatch says:

    Thanx Raymond!

    I didn’t know this little trick. And i thought i knew it all. ha!

  26. -dan says:

    Kind of cool, but to me this comes under the heading of, What good is a feature if no one knows how & where to find it.

    Which is a pretty common problem with a lot of software.

    [Ctrl+Click is a standard shortcut for “discontiguous multi-select.” Besides, my observations tell me that people looooove secret features. -Raymond]
  27. anonymous says:

    I join the crowd of those who didn’t know about this feature before. It works well.

    Now what makes you think that dragging two windows to relatively precise locations could possibly be easier? What makes you think that dragging is ever easier than hitting keys?

  28. alexx says:

    Is there a way to do this trick without using mouse? Ctrl+spacebar doesn’t work as it does in explorer.

  29. VRAndy says:

    Excellent! It even handles multi-monitors properly!  Thank you.

    Now if I could only figure out a way to break MDI windows out of their parent (Esp. Visual Studio) and onto the other screen, I’d be in multi-monitor heaven.

  30. rtm242 says:

    @July 28, 2009 4:59 PM by Olivier:

    As anon subsequently pointed out, I was referring to the exact feature Raymond describes using the CTRL+CLICK.

    The ability to CTRL+Click on a taskbar button is gone, even if you turn off button grouping.

    Yes, "Show windows stacked" option exists on the taskbar itself (not when clicking a button), and it only works for all visible windows not the specific windows you want stacked.

    Aero Snap works for two windows pretty easily once you get the hang of the hotkeys, but of course the ability to quickly position THREE windows side by side is gone (previously, you would CTRL+Click all three, right-click->show windows side by side / stacked), and also the "Undo show windows side by side" does not exist in the Aero Snap case.

    A big problem here is that many people’s language reads left to right, or right to left. If I’m referencing a document while typing I like to position the reference below the window I am typing in so that my eyes can skip down and then immediately back to the spot where I was typing.

    Doing this work with "show windows side by side", it is quite annoying to have to move my eyes past text I have written to find the other window, and then turn my eye movement 90 degrees (up or down… coin flip) to find the information of interest, only to realize I need to look the opposite direction, or even worse… be required to scroll the window horizontally! Ugh.

    In contrast with the window stacked, I can quickly scan down the page absorbing the entire width of the line peripherally and find what I want. No horizontal scrolling, no changing scan direction, etc.

    (and no, I’m not this crazy about my eye movements in practice, I’m just trying to express in detail why Aero Snap side by side doesn’t solve the scenario which stacked solved and why this change causes some small pains in managing my window positions.)

    If WIN+UP/WIN+DOWN would be changed to support an Aero Snap version of stacked, that would be a BIG usability win IMHO.

  31. Huppie says:

    It’s quite a nice feature and I found myself using it quite often… until I found WinSplit Revolution, which give me a bit more control and keyboard shortcuts.

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