Windows has always been a great environment for multitasking, with the ability to run multiple applications at once and to switch between them with relative ease. Starting with Windows 7, Microsoft added a new way to manage your windows to make multitasking even more efficient. Called “Aero Snap,” the feature automatically sizes windows to take up half the screen when you drag them to the left or right side of the desktop.
Windows 10 tightened up the Aero Snap feature and expanded its functionality. Today, Windows 10 offers a number of ways to split your screen into multiple windows and get real work done, with better support for higher resolution displays and multiple monitors.
Here’s how to get started.
One of Windows 10’s most important contributions to split screen multitasking is Snap Assist, which makes it easier to select an open application window when you are choosing which applications to arrange on your screen. Snap Assist is automatic — it just shows up whenever you use one of the various methods to snap an application — and it displays all of your open applications that are available to fill in the open space on the split screen.
To use Snap Assist, just use one of the methods below for snapping an application, and then select the next application that you want to use. Snap Assist will fill in the appropriate space and save you the trouble of hunting around for a different application to start up and manually snap into the open space.
The simplest way to set up a split screen display in Windows 10 is to use Side-by-Side Snap. In this method, you can use your mouse, keyboard, or touchscreen to snap an application to the left or right edge of the screen to make it fill that half of the display. Snap Assist will then offer another window that you can select to fill the other half of the screen, or you can open a new application and place it there manually.
Once you’ve placed your windows, you can easily resize them by dragging the divider. There’s a limit to how thin a window can be, to help you avoid creating windows that are so small that they’re useless.
There are three ways to use Side-by-Side Snap. Check out the steps below.
Desktop mode – mouse
Grab the desired application window with your mouse and drag it to the left or right side of the screen until Windows 10 gives you a visual representation of where the window will populate. Let go of the mouse, and then select the desired application window from Snap Assist to fill the other side. You can also use your touchscreen in the same fashion.
Desktop mode – keyboard
You can also use keyboard shortcuts to snap a window to the left or right side of the screen. Use Windows + Left Arrow to snap a window to the left side of the display, and Windows + Right Arrow to snap a window to the right side. Snap Assist will pop up your window options as usual.
Tablet mode – touch
If you’re on a PC with a touchscreen and are running in tablet mode, then the process is similar. Just tap and hold the application and then drag it to the left or right side. Windows 10 will snap the window in place and then Snap Assist will offer another application to fill in the other half of the screen.
Tap on the application that you want to fill in the other side, and Snap Assist will do the work for you. Note that the tablet mode interface is a little different in split screen mode, with a divider that’s easier to grab and resize with touch.
A more flexible method for using Windows 10 Snap is to snap applications into the corners of the screen to split the display into more than just two windows. Called Corner Snap, this works better on higher resolution displays, and depending on how Windows 10 scaling is configured, and the physical size of the display, can make for a very nice workflow indeed.
Here is a 4K UHD (3,840 x 2,160) resolution display running at 250 percent scaling with four windows snapped.
Here is the same 4K UHD (3,480 x 2,160) resolution screen running at 100 percent scaling. Note that each snapped window is running at Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) resolution. This gets small on even a 15.6-inch notebook display, but on a larger desktop monitor would provide for tons of comfortable multitasking space.
Desktop mode – mouse
Snapping windows to the corners with a mouse or touch display is very similar to snapping side-by-side. The biggest difference is that you drag the first window into the desired corner of the display rather than to the side. Windows 10 will again give you a visual indication of how the window will be placed.
Note that Snap Assist will not show up in Corner Snap until you have placed at least two windows.
When you select your third window, it will fill the entire space to the right in this example. You can keep your split screen setup this way if it makes sense for your workflow.
Or, you can drag the third window into the corner and then select another application from Snap Assist to complete your four-window setup.
Desktop mode – keyboard
Using Corner Snap with the keyboard takes just an additional step over using Side-by-Side Snap. Specifically, once you’ve used the Windows key combination to snap a window to one side or another, then you use Windows + Up Arrow or Windows + Down Arrow to move the window into the corner. Snap Assist will work as if you’re using your mouse or touch display, and the process is exactly the same from there.
Tablet mode – touch
Unfortunately, Windows 10 tablet mode only supports side-by-side split screen mode. If you really need to use more than two windows, then you can switch to desktop mode and follow the steps above.
Note that if you are using multiple monitors, then the windows from all of your displays will show up in Snap Assist and each display can utilize Windows 10 Snap. That makes it even easier to work with a large number of application windows and arrange them in multiple configurations for the best productivity. This as adjustable in Windows 10 settings.
Turning off Snap Assist and adjusting settings
If Snap Assist is getting in your way, then you can turn it off easily enough. Simply open the Windows Settings app by typing it into Cortana search or accessing it from the Action Center. Then, go to System, then select Multitasking.
You can toggle a few settings here, including turning off Snap Assist by toggling “When I snap a window, show what I can snap next to it.” Other settings that you can adjust include turning Windows 10 Snap off completely, deciding whether windows should automatically adjust to fill the available space, and whether adjacent windows are resized when you resize a snapped window.