What's new with the Windows desktop?

New features on the Windows desktop make it easier to organize and manage multiple windows. You can switch easily between open windows so that you can focus on important programs and files. Other new features help you add a personal touch to your desktop.

Snap

You can use Snap to arrange and resize windows on the desktop with a simple mouse movement. Using Snap, you can quickly align windows at the side of the desktop, expand them vertically to the entire height of the screen, or maximize them to completely fill the desktop. Snap can be especially helpful when comparing two documents, copying or moving files between two windows, maximizing the window you’re currently working on, or expanding long documents so they’re easier to read and require less scrolling.

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 use Snap, drag the title bar of an open window to either side of the desktop to align it there, or drag it to the top of the desktop to maximize the window. To expand a window vertically using Snap, drag the top edge of the window to the top of the desktop. For more information, search for "Snap" in Help and Support.

Shake

Using Shake, you can quickly minimize all open windows on the desktop except the one you want to focus on. Just click the title bar of the window you want to keep open and drag (or shake) the window back and forth quickly, and the other open windows are minimized.

Picture of the Shake effect to minimize windows
Shake a window to minimize all other windows

To restore the minimized windows, shake the open window again. For more information, see Minimize windows on the desktop using Shake.

Peek

You can use Peek features to quickly preview the desktop without minimizing all your windows, or preview an open window by pointing at its button on the taskbar.

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Peek at the desktop

The Show desktop button has been moved the opposite end of the taskbar from the Start button, making it easier to click or point to the button without accidentally opening the Start menu.

In addition to clicking the Show desktop button to get to the desktop, you can temporarily view or peek at the desktop by just pointing to the Show desktop button. When you point to the Show desktop button at the end of the taskbar, any open windows fade from view, revealing the desktop. To make the windows reappear, move the mouse away from the Show desktop button.

Picture of desktop windows temporarily minimized
Quickly view your desktop using Peek

This can be useful for quickly viewing desktop gadgets, or when you don’t want to minimize all open windows and then have to restore them. For more information, see Temporarily preview the desktop using Peek.

Peek at an open file on the desktop

You can also use Peek to take a quick look at other open windows without clicking away from the window you're currently working on.

Picture of the desktop with a single open window emphasized
Peek at open windows using thumbnails on the taskbar

Point to a program button on the taskbar that has open files. Thumbnail previews of any open files associated with that program appear above the taskbar. You can point to a thumbnail to preview that window’s contents, and all the other open windows on the desktop fade away to reveal just the window you’re previewing. To open the window you're previewing, click the thumbnail. For more information, see Preview an open window on the desktop using Peek.

Gadgets

Windows Sidebar isn't included in this version of Windows. Instead, you can display gadgets anywhere on your desktop and use the Peek features to temporarily view your desktop gadgets without minimizing or closing the windows you’re working with.

Picture of gadgets on the desktop
Gadgets on the desktop

For more information about using gadgets on your desktop, search for "gadgets" in Help and Support.

Desktop background

Your desktop background doesn't have to be a single picture anymore. With Windows 7, you can display a slide show of pictures, instead. Some Windows themes include a slide show, or you can create your own slide show from your personal collection of pictures. For more information about setting up a slide show background, see Create a desktop background slide show.

Notes

  • Not all new desktop features are available in all editions of Windows 7. For example, Peek, Shake, and background slide shows are not included in Windows 7 Home Basic or Windows 7 Starter. You can find out which edition of Windows 7 you have on your computer by opening System in Control Panel. To learn about other Aero effects and features supported in Windows 7 Enterprise, Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, and Windows 7 Ultimate, see What is the Aero desktop experience?

    Open System by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button, right-clicking Computer, and then clicking Properties.

  • The Start menu and the taskbar have also been redesigned to showcase some new features. For more information, see What's new with the Start menu? and What's new with the Windows 7 taskbar?