How do I put a window at the edge of the screen without triggering the automatic positioning behavior?

Last time, we saw that Windows 7 lets you position windows to fill the left or right half of the screen by just dragging the window to the appropriate edge. (This also works for the top and bottom half of the screen.) But what if you just want a window near the edge without the automatic positioning?

Just grab the window from the far edge.

The auto-positioning behavior is triggered by the mouse position, not the window position. (This is hinted at in the animation that accompanies the docking: The ripple effect is centered on the mouse, not the window. Here are more details on Aero Snap design.) If you don't want auto-positioning to kick in, just keep the mouse away from the edge of the screen. For example, suppose you want to place a window against the left edge of the screen, but you don't want the automatic positioning to kick in. Just grab the caption bar by the area near the minimize/maximize/close buttons, then drag the window to the left edge of the screen. Since you grabbed it from the right-hand part of the caption, you can position the window freely without the mouse getting anywhere near the edge of the screen.

Similarly, if you want to position a window near the right edge, grab it near the left hand part of the caption bar (near the caption icon).

If this feature offends you so much that you would rather have it permanently disabled, you can do so from Control Panel | Ease of Access Center | Make the mouse easier to use | Prevent windows from being automatically arranged when moved to the edge of the screen. (Note that this is a dreaded negative checkbox. It should have been phrased Arrange windows automatically when moved to the edge of the screen.) As a shortcut for those first three steps, you can hit the Windows key and then type better mouse into the Start menu search box, then click Change how your mouse works.

Comments (18)
  1. Danny says:

    How about the case I want to have it near top? And I don’t want this feature to be disabled from Control panel? And, mind this, I wanna do it with the mouse, not the keyboard! :D

  2. asf says:

    Most docking things allow you to use Ctrl or Alt to disable the snapping, why does windows not do this? (I’m assuming, not tested 7, XP 4eva!)

  3. AndyC says:

    @Danny You just move it near the top without actually letting the mouse pointer hit the edge of the screen. Given that you’d typically grab the title bar from roughly center it’s not particularly hard to do.

  4. Pierre B. says:

    If you read the Aero Snap description, you can see that you have both a mouse feedback and a preview feedback. I have not the latest Windows 7 installed yet, but I would think it easy to back off from the top when the feedback triggers.

    Still, when doing it rapidly, I would guess that it can happen from times to times to have it trigger by accident.

    The solution is of course, to put the menu bar at the top of the screen and prevent windows from overlapping it, but still triggering the snap fetaure at the screen edge. The additional overshoot area given by the menu would help avoid accidental triggering.

    Which OS puts its menu bar at the top of the screen is left as an exercise to the reader. :)

  5. Gabest says:

    As asf says, ctrl has been the key to avoid docking in almost every docking toolbar implementation I know of. Including Visual Studio. Has the folks who coded this feature never used Visual Studio before?

    [I find it oddly ironic that people are suggesting adding a non-intuitive keyboard shortcut, after complaining that the system it replaced required a non-intuitive keyvoard shortcut. -Raymond]
  6. "ALT-space, M, up-arrow" works remarkably well for moving a window to the top without triggering the snap behavior. You can keep pressing up-arrow repeatedly, or press CTRL-up-arrow for fine positioning. If you prefer to place the window with the mouse, you can press an arrow key once and then use the mouse to position the window. Snap isn’t triggered in that scenario.

    I’ve found Snap to be useful when I need it, and annoying the rest of the time.


  7. Erzengel says:

    …this is being turned off IMMEDIATELY. Just like all those other "usability features" that get in the way, like hiding file extensions, the favorites links in windows explorer, grouping task bar items, the list goes on, and on, and on…

    I swear, windows keeps adding "usability" features that I find a major hinderance and get turned off really quickly. I just looked at a "preview" of the windows 7’s "new taskbar" and I was cringing the whole way through it. That’s being turned off right quick.

    And yet, the feature I really want is never implemented: Rearranging the taskbar. Moving programs that I opened earlier into a position after a program I opened later. I have to use a third party extension to do that, and I’m not sure how much I trust it not to crash.

    And for the record, I’m not a linux fanboy. I don’t use linux. I develop on Windows, I use Windows at home, and I develop for Windows, X-Box 360, and PS3. I like Windows, but looking at the previews for 7…. I might just stick with Vista. I know, shock, given Vista’s reputation. I’ll wait and see what it’s like when 7 is on the test computers before deciding on it for personal use. I just hope the new features aren’t as in-the-way as they appear to be, or I’ll see no reason to upgrade.

    Sorry for the tangent, this started somewhat on topic…

  8. jon says:

    Windows 7 does let you rearrange the taskbar.

  9. Erzengel says:

    does it have a classic mode that returns to icon + text (doesn’t use whale-sized tile icons with no text) with a single tab per window (no program groupings), and still allows you to rearrange the taskbar? Because that would be awesome.

  10. configurator says:

    Erengel: Yes it does. The biggest difference is that you can pin programs to the taskbar, and they stay there as icons when closed. When you open them – if you chose not to group and to show the texts – the icon expands into the full button with the text.

  11. Leo Davidson says:

    Pierre B: Amiga OS puts the menu bar at the top of the screen. That’s the OS you meant, right? :)

    There’s nothing stopping you putting a docked toolbar or the taskbar at the top of the screen in Windows if you like.

    (I don’t know if the snap feature triggers at the top of the monitor or at the top of the work area, though. Still on Vista for now.)

  12. configurator says:

    Leo: It snaps wherever on both the taskbar and the edge of the screen. If you make the taskbar as big as half a monitor, that’s a huge snap range for you so you can’t miss it.

  13. Eric TF Bat says:

    "(Note that this is a dreaded negative checkbox. It should have been phrased Arrange windows automatically when moved to the edge of the screen.)"

    Raymond, I’m curious to know: at what stage in the release cycle can something like that be corrected?  I know there are all sorts of code freezes and bug triaging processes so that, for example, you can fix a bug that causes the monitor to burst into flames much more expeditiously than you can fix one that has two spaces instead of one between a couple of words in a minor message dialog.  But is there a particular point at which the Master or Mistress Of Bug Fixes says "No more semantic pedantry; we want to release this thing"?

    I was always rather impressed with MS’s focus on just this sort of thing — making buttons and checkboxes follow common sense guidelines.  Ubuntu Linux could do with a bit of the same!  But Vista disappointed me in that respect — it lacked polish — and I’m hoping Win7 will pick up the dropped ball and score some goals.

  14. Kevin Dente says:

    It seems odd to me that snap doesn’t work on the “interior edge” on a multi-monitor setup (though the keyboard hotkey still works). Is there a rationale for that?

    [Total guess: Because the hotspot is only one pixel wide, and Fitts’s Law predicts that it would be impossibly difficult to hit. Heck, maybe it’s there and you just can’t find it? -Raymond]
  15. Pascal says:

    It would be nice having a key to press to disable the behavior dynamically (like SHIFT or CTRL).

    Also, on multi-mon system the snap feature is obviously broken on the edge between the two monitor region and it is not possible to arrange the window side-by-side easily (no pop-up menu on the taskbar anymore.)

  16. Angus says:

    Edge positioning would be turned *on* immediately for me. I really miss having this on Windows, my X Windows setup had the equivalent for years on Unix. I hate having to hunt around with the mouse or cursor to be able to use all of my screen real-estate effectively.

  17. Dean Harding says:

    I don’t think it’s "obviously broken" in a multi-monitor setup.

    If I’m dragging a window between monitors (much more common than wanting to use ‘snap’ I would say), the "flash" that would happen as I passed between monitors and it showed the ‘snap’ outline would be rather distracting. I guess you could only show the ‘snap’ outline if you hover in the middle for a couple of seconds, but then the hotspot is really narrow (1 or 2 pixels) and hovering the mouse in a 2-pixel wide column – and while the mouse button is down – requires rather a lot of dexterity.

    Besides, the whole idea of snap seems to be to be less useful on a multi-monitor setup anyway. If I need to view two things at once, I usually put one window on one monitor, and the other on the other monitor.

    The fact that the keyboard shortcuts are still there seems like a good compromise to me.

  18. rtm242 says:


    It snaps as Maximized on the top of the screen, and does not snap at the bottom of the screen (regardless of taskbar position/size)

    Not sure why they felt it necessary to add yet one more way to maximize a window (there is already a simple double-click on the title bar to do this for a very long time now… in addition to many other ways)

    Instead it would have been nice to snap top/bottom stacked and fix WIN+UP/DOWN shortcuts to match …

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