Whenever you open a program, file, or folder, it appears on your screen in a box or frame called a window (that's where the Windows operating system gets its name). Because windows are everywhere in Windows, it's important to understand how to move them, change their size, or just make them go away.

Parts of a window

Although the contents of every window are different, all windows share some things in common. For one thing, windows always appear on the desktop—the main work area of your screen. In addition, most windows have the same basic parts.

Picture of a Notepad window with different parts labeled
Parts of a typical window
  • Title bar. Displays the name of the document and program (or the folder name if you're working in a folder).

  • Minimize, Maximize, and Close buttons. These buttons hide the window, enlarge it to fill the whole screen, and close it, respectively (more details on these shortly).

  • Menu bar. Contains items that you can click to make choices in a program. See Using menus, buttons, bars, and boxes.

  • Scroll bar. Lets you scroll the contents of the window to see information that is currently out of view.

  • Borders and corners. You can drag these with your mouse pointer to change the size of the window.

Other windows might have additional buttons, boxes, or bars. But they'll usually have the basic parts, too.

Moving a window

To move a window, point to its title bar with the mouse pointer Picture of the mouse pointer . Then drag the window to the location that you want. (Dragging means pointing to an item, holding down the mouse button, moving the item with the pointer, and then releasing the mouse button.)

Changing the size of a window

  • To make a window fill the entire screen, click its Maximize button Picture of the Maximize button or double-click the window's title bar.
  • To return a maximized window to its former size, click its Restore button Picture of the Restore button (this appears in place of the Maximize button). Or, double-click the window's title bar.
  • To resize a window (make it smaller or bigger), point to any of the window's borders or corners. When the mouse pointer changes to a two-headed arrow (see picture below), drag the border or corner to shrink or enlarge the window.

    Picture of window borders with resize pointers
    Drag a window's border or corner to resize it

    A window that is maximized cannot be resized. You must restore it to its previous size first.

Note

  • Although most windows can be maximized and resized, there are some windows that are fixed in size, such as dialog boxes.

Hiding a window

Hiding a window is called minimizing it. If you want to get a window out of the way temporarily without closing it, minimize it.

To minimize a window, click its Minimize button Picture of the Minimize button. The window disappears from the desktop and is visible only as a button on the taskbar, the long horizontal bar at the bottom of your screen.
Picture of the taskbar button for Calculator
Taskbar button

To make a minimized window appear again on the desktop, click its taskbar button. The window appears exactly as it did before you minimized it. For more information about the taskbar, see The taskbar (overview).

Closing a window

Closing a window removes it from the desktop and taskbar. If you're done with a program or document and don't need to return to it right away, close it.

To close a window, click its Close button Picture of the Close button.

Note

  • If you close a document without saving any changes you made, a message appears that gives you the option to save your changes.

Switching between windows

If you open more than one program or document, your desktop can quickly become cluttered with windows. Keeping track of which windows you have open isn't always easy, because some windows might partially or completely cover others.

Using the taskbar. The taskbar provides a way to organize all of your windows. Each window has a corresponding button on the taskbar. To switch to another window, just click its taskbar button. The window appears in front of all other windows, becoming the active window—the one you're currently working in. For more information about taskbar buttons, see The taskbar (overview).

To easily identify a window, point to its taskbar button. When you point to a taskbar button, you'll see a thumbnail-sized preview of the window, whether the content of the window is a document, a photo, or even a running video. This preview is especially useful if you can't identify a window by its title alone.

Picture of a thumbnail preview on the taskbar
Pointing to a window's taskbar button displays a preview of the window

Note

Using Alt+Tab. You can switch to the previous window by pressing Alt+Tab, or cycle through all open windows and the desktop by holding down Alt and repeatedly pressing Tab. Release Alt to show the selected window.

Using Aero Flip 3D. Aero Flip 3D arranges your windows in a three-dimensional stack that you can quickly flip through. To use Flip 3D:

  1. Hold down the Windows logo key Picture of the Windows logo key and press Tab to open Flip 3D.
  2. While holding down the Windows logo key, press Tab repeatedly or rotate the mouse wheel to cycle through open windows. You can also press Right Arrow or Down Arrow to cycle forward one window, or press Left Arrow or Up Arrow to cycle backward one window.

  3. Release the Windows logo key to display the frontmost window in the stack. Or, click any part of any window in the stack to display that window.

    Picture of Aero Flip 3D
    Aero Flip 3D

Tip

  • Flip 3D is part of the Aero desktop experience. If your computer doesn't support Aero, you can view the open programs and windows on your computer by pressing Alt+Tab. To cycle through the open windows, you can press the Tab key, press the arrow keys, or use your mouse. To learn more about Aero, see What is the Aero desktop experience?

Arranging windows automatically

Now that you know how to move and resize windows, you can arrange them however you like on your desktop. You can also have Windows automatically arrange them in one of three ways: cascading, vertically stacked, or side by side.

Picture of windows arranged in a cascade, vertical stack, and side-by-side pattern
Arrange windows in a cascade (left), vertical stack (center), or side-by-side pattern (right)

To choose one of these options, open some windows on your desktop, then right-click an empty area of the taskbar and click Cascade windows, Show windows stacked, or Show windows side by side.

Arranging windows using Snap

Snap will automatically resize your windows when you move, or snap, them to the edge of the screen. You can use Snap to arrange windows side by side, expand windows vertically, or maximize a window.

To arrange windows side by side

  1. Drag the title bar of a window to the left or right side of the screen until an outline of the expanded window appears.

  2. Release the mouse to expand the window.

  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 with another window to arrange the windows side by side.

Picture of a window snapped to half of the desktop
Drag a window to the side of the desktop to expand it to half of the screen

To expand a window vertically

  1. Point to the top or bottom edge of an open window until the pointer changes into a double-headed arrow Picture of a vertical arrow that indicates the window height is ready to be resized.
  2. Drag the edge of the window to the top or bottom of the screen to expand the window to the entire height of the desktop. The width of the window doesn't change.

Picture of a window snapped to the full height of the desktop
Drag the top or bottom of a window to expand it vertically

To maximize a window

  1. Drag the title bar of the window to the top of the screen. The window's outline expands to fill the screen.

  2. Release the window to expand it to fill the entire desktop.

Picture of a window snapped to the top of the desktop
Drag a window to the top of the desktop to fully expand it

Dialog boxes

A dialog box is a special type of window that asks you a question, allows you to select options to perform a task, or provides you with information. You'll often see dialog boxes when a program or Windows needs a response from you before it can continue.

Picture of a Paint dialog box
A dialog box appears if you exit a program without saving your work

Unlike regular windows, most dialog boxes can't be maximized, minimized, or resized. They can, however, be moved.



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