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One of the best advantages of a desktop or laptop over a tablet is that you can easily multitask with multiple apps at once. You could have a browser, notes app, and spreadsheet—or any combination of apps—open together, and work between them all without having to constantly move windows. But that's seldom the case since it's most common to just run your programs at their largest size and switch between them as needed.
Whether you've got an insanely wide monitor like LG's new 34" 21:9 QHD widescreen or the standard widescreen on your MacBook, you're seldom using the best of your screen real-estate if you only have one app running full-screen. In this tutorial, I'll show you how to get the most out of your computer by filling your screen with multiple apps at once on your PC, Mac, Chromebook or Linux computer. You'll never have to rely on CMD-tab or Alt-tab again.
Making the Most of Your Screen
Sometimes, of course, all you need to work on is one app. If you're editing video or audio, or putting together a lengthy print document, it's nice to be able to use all of your application's tools at once. Or, if you're writing or editing a photo, sometimes it's best to push all the distractions away and just focus on what you're doing. That's where full-screen mode comes in handy. With pro apps, you can then fill the screen space with your tool pallets and get your work done faster—or you can hide all the toolbars and focus just on the one task at hand with nothing else on your screen.
But for the rest of the times, when you need multiple windows open, it's far more efficient to have as much on your screen at once as possible. That way, you'll never have to switch back and forth between apps just to see what was written in that reference document or spreadsheet. You could just resize your apps, but that takes time and is tricky to get right. Instead, here's the best tools for using multiple windows at one and making the most of your desktop on every platform.
Windows 7 and 8 both have a nice feature designed for using your apps side-by-side: Snap. All you have to do is drag your app to the right or left of your screen, and it'll automatically resize to fill the respective half of the screen. Alternately, you can press Win-right or left arrow to snap the windows to the respective side without using your mouse. Then, drag the window away, and it'll immediately return to its original size—or drag the window to the top of the screen to maximize it. That's the simplest way to get your programs working side-by-side.
In Windows 8, you can also get the new Modern apps inside the Windows 8 start-screen working side-by-side with each other, or with the any app in the desktop. Just press the Win-left or right arrow keyboard shortcut inside a Modern app, and it'll snap to fill half of the screen. You can then move the slider in the middle of the screen to resize it to as small as 1/3rd of your screen. Alternately, you can do the same thing by dragging a window from the app list on the left of the screen (when you swipe in from the left on a touchscreen, or hover over the left with your mouse), and position it in the place you want. That's a great way to get your notes or the news side-by-side with your work.
Just two apps at once, though, often isn't enough. That's where GridMove comes in. It's a free download that, by default, divides your screen into one larger section with two smaller sections on top of each other on the left. That makes it perfect to have a large app open, filling most of your screen with your work, and then to have two other apps on the left for notes and reference.
GridMove works just like the built-in Snap feature in Windows. Just run the app, then drag a window to the appropriate side and it'll snap into place and fill that section. The only difference is that when you drag the app back out, you'll have to manually resize the window as it won't automatically go back to its original size.
If you'd rather run more apps at once—or less, or in an different arrangement—just check the Templates menu in GridMove's taskbar icon. You can pick from a variety of built-in templates, or make your own. You can also set keyboard shortcuts for the window size settings you'd like in GridMove's options. It's the one app you'll want to make sure to have on your PC to simplify multitasking.
Your Mac includes a great full-screen tool that'll let your window fill your screen entirely, but doesn't have any built-in options to arrange your windows side-by-side. For that, you'll need a 3rd party app. There's many to choose from, but two of the best are Moom and Divvy. Moom gives you the features of Windows Snap and a bit more, while Divvy gives you the simplest controls to fill your screen with windows of any app.
Moom ($10) is the simplest way to resize your windows on your Mac. Just hover over the green zoom button on your app's window, and select the location you'd like your window. You can have a window fill your screen's top, bottom, left or right halfs with one click. Then, do the same to the window you want on the other side, and you'll have your screen filled with two apps, just like with Windows Snap.
If you need more power over how your windows are placed on your screen, and would like to run more than two apps at once, Divvy ($14) is the app for you. Click its app icon or press its keyboard shortcut, and you'll see a grid where you can select how much of the screen you want to fill up with that window. Repeat that for the other apps you want open, and quickly you'll have your screen filled with as many apps as you want. You can then set keyboard shortcuts to quickly rearrange your windows into the order you prefer.
The great thing is that both Moom and Divvy have free trials, so you can try them out and see which one works best for you before investing in either.
Before you can use either of them, though, you'll need to let the app work on your Mac. After you've installed the app of your choice, open your Mac's System Preferences, select Security & Privacy, click the Privacy tab and select Accessibility. You'll then need to unlock it by clicking the lock in the bottom of the window and entering your Mac's password, then click the check-mark beside the app you just installed to enable it.
Linux is by far the most configurable operating system—you can change almost anything in the system and make it work and look just like you want. Window management is no exception. By default, Ubuntu Linux has window snapping built-in just like in Windows 7 or 8. Just drag any app to the right or left side of your screen, and it'll snap to fill in the right or left half of your screen automatically.
You can then tweak the window snap settings and more with the CompizConfig Settings Manager—and if you're running another Linux distro, you could use this app to enable the snap settings. In Ubuntu, open the App Center, search for CompizConfig, and download the app. In other Linux distress, you can follow these steps to install it manually.
Once it's installed, launch CompizConfig and select Window Management in the left sidebar. You'll see all of the settings you'd expect, and can tweak the to get your windows managed the way you want, with scale, grid, snapping and more.
Then, if you're using a Chromebook—the browser-only laptops from Google—you can get these same features without installing anything else. Just like Windows 7 and 8, you can just drag your windows or browser tabs to the right or left edges of the screen, and they'll snap to fill half of your screen. You can also drag a window to the top or bottom of your screen for it to fill the top or bottom half of your screen, much like in Moom for Mac.
The Widest Monitor Yet
If all these tools for using getting your apps working together in one screen have you wishing for a larger monitor, our sponsor LG's new UM95 UltraWide monitor is the widest option you can buy today. Its 21:9 aspect ration and 3440X1440px resolution mean you can show 47 columns and 63 rows in Excel at the same time—or open all of Photoshop's palettes and still have plenty of room to view your full photo. You can see everything you're working on in pro apps or a handful of smaller apps without scrolling at all. And, it supports Thunderbolt 2, making it a great companion for your Mac Pro.
No matter what tools you use, a small monitor can still make it hard to see all of your apps on the screen at once. With a screen this wide, though, you can use as many programs at once as you need, and still have room for more. Be sure to check it out if you're ready to get the widest screen you've ever owned.
Widescreen monitors are more than just another size of screen. With the right tools and a bit of tweaking, you can turn your screen into the perfect productivity center where you can use all the app you need, together, without constantly switching back and forth. You shouldn't need to press CMD-Tab or Alt-Tab all day to get your work done.
Go try out the window placement tools for your computer, and let us know if you have any other favorite window management tools or tips in the comments below!