The standard interface between human and computer has become a computer screen partitioned into distinct “windows” of information. Most of us spend a large part of our day looking at these windows.
Unfortunately, they aren’t always well behaved and appear in unwanted sizes and locations. It’s annoying and confusing and sucks precious moments out of your day as you try to figure out what is where. But good news: Here’s everything you ever wanted to know (and probably more) about manipulating and arranging the windows on your desktop.
Switching Between Programs
Switching between open programs is one of the most frequent things we do as we work on our computers. For this task, most of us use a mouse to select a button on the taskbar. There is a much faster way.
Pressing Alt+Tab opens a pop-up window in the center of your screen, showing an icon for each program that is running on your computer.
To jump from one icon to the next, hold down the Alt key and repeatedly press Tab. To help you find the window you want, the title bar text of each window appears in a box at the bottom of the pop-up. Simply release both keys when you get to the window you want.
The icons in the pop-up appear—from left to right—in the order you last looked at their respective windows. This means that the last window you were in (previous to the current one) is just one Alt+Tab away. Sweet. It makes jumping back and forth between two programs a cinch.
Switching Between Documents
Sometimes you want to jump from one document to another within a single program. To do this, hold down the Ctrl key, and repeatedly hit F6 until you get to the document you want. This shortcut works on many but not all Windows programs.
Minimize, Maximize, Restore
On occasion you want to look at two or more windows at the same time, perhaps to compare text in different documents or paste parts of one document into another. So now we need to learn about moving and resizing windows. Let’s look at the Minimize, Maximize, Restore and Close caption buttons (and their equivalent keyboard shortcuts).
These buttons appear in the top-right corner of every window on your computer. If you don’t know which button is which, look at the list of icons in the “Tips Tear Out” on the next page.
To make a window completely disappear by closing it, click on the Close button, or press Alt+F4.
To make a window disappear from the screen by shrinking it to a button on the taskbar, click on the Minimize button. To open a minimized window to its previous size, simply click on its button on the taskbar.
The Maximize button expands a window to fill the entire desktop. To make a window appear in a size that is less than a full desktop, click on the Restore button.
The title bar is the bar across the top of every window. You can double-click on a window’s title bar to change it back and forth between maximized and restored sizes. Drag and drop a non-maximized Window’s title bar to move it around your desktop.
After selecting Restore, you have a window that fills only part of your screen. To change the height or width of the window, put your mouse pointer over one of the window’s edges and drag the border to make the window larger or smaller. To change the height and width simultaneously, drag any window corner in any direction.
Arranging All Open Windows
Let’s get fancy now and explore the ways you can simultaneously arrange multiple windows.
To simultaneously minimize all open windows and dialog boxes, click on the Show desktop button on the taskbar. It is only available when the Quick Launch bar is displayed. If the Quick Launch bar is not displayed, right-click on an empty area on the taskbar, point to Toolbars, and click on Quick Launch.
Pressing the Windows logo key and M will also minimize all windows. Pressing the Windows logo key +Shift+M will restore windows to their pre-minimized sizes.
You can also reduce all open windows to taskbar buttons by right-clicking on an empty area on the taskbar and selecting Minimize All Windows. To restore all the windows to their previous state, right-click on an empty area on the taskbar, and then click on Undo Minimize All.
Cascading and Tiling Windows
Now for the fanciest part. If you right-click on an empty area on the taskbar, you will be given three choices: Cascade Windows, Tile Windows Horizontally or Tile Windows Vertically. The Cascade option stacks all windows in a diagonally stacked pile so that the title bar for each window is visible. The Tile option automatically resizes all non-minimized widows so they appear like floor tiles.
When using the cascade and tile options, windows reduced to taskbar buttons will not be displayed. This makes it easy to cascade or tile just a few selected windows, rather than every window for every program open on the computer. To restore your windows to their previous state, right-click on an empty area on the taskbar, then click on Undo Cascade or Undo Tile.
Now, go wild and have some fun with your windows.
Dan Pinnington ( firstname.lastname@example.org) helps lawyers avoid malpractice claims and looks for good tech tips in Toronto, ON. He is a member of the ABA TECHSHOW Board and an editor of the Law Practice Today Webzine.