The 3 Best Ways to Make a Window Always-on-Top on Windows

By Chris Hoffman on September 27th, 2014

make-desktop-window-always-on-top-with-mouse-of-keyboard

Windows doesn’t offer a built-in way for users to make a window always-on-top. There are many third-party tools for this, but they’re often bloated and clunky. Some just don’t work well on the modern 64-bit version of Windows.

We tested a variety of tools and can recommend the best, most reliable ones. Whether you want to use a keyboard shortcut or a graphical menu these are the ideal ways to make a window always-on-top.

With a Keyboard Shortcut: AutoHotkey

Using the excellent and useful AutoHotkey program, it’s possible to make a one-line script that will make any window always-on-top when you press a certain key combination. The resulting script is lightweight and won’t use much resources or add unnecessary clutter to your system.

The original Always On Top premade script from Digital Inspiration no longer seems to be available for download, so you may want to make your own — it’s a great way to start learning AutoHotkey too. Don’t worry; it just takes a single line of code.

First, download and install AutoHotkey. Launch AutoHotkey, right-click the green H icon in your system tray, and click Open. Click File > Edit Script, paste the following line of code into the script file, and click Save:

^SPACE::  Winset, Alwaysontop, , A

Click File > Reload Script in AutoHotkey. You can now press Ctrl + Space while AutoHotkey is running in the background and the currently active window will become always-on-top. Press Ctrl+Space again and the window will no longer be always-on-top.

autohotkey-always-on-top-script

If you don’t like the Ctrl+Space combination, you can change the ^SPACE part of the script to set a new keyboard shortcut. Consult the Hotkeys documentation on AutoHotkey’s website for help.

Using a System Tray Menu: TurboTop

If you’re looking for a graphical tool that doesn’t require you use any keyboard shortcuts, use TurboTop. This isn’t the most popular or widely recommended graphical tool for making any window always-on-top, but it was our favorite of the ones we tested.

Unlike many other tools, it doesn’t attempt to add fancy features that no longer work well. Instead, it’s a small program that runs in your system tray. Click it once to view a list of open windows. Click a window’s name to make it always-on-top. Windows that are already always-on-top have a checkmark — click again to make them not always-on-top.

Because this tool is so basic and minimal, it works well even when other, fancier applications struggle. It’s impressive how a little utility that hasn’t been updated since 2004 can still work so well ten years later — it’s a testament to how cleanly this program does its work.

easily-make-a-window-always-on-top-on-windows

Without Installing Anything Extra: Built-in Application Options

Many applications have built-in options to become always-on-top. These options are usually found in media players, system utilities, and other tools that may need to become always-on-top. Programs with plug-ins may also have an always-on-top plugin you can install.

For example, here’s how to enable the built-in always-on-top option in some popular programs:

  • VLC: Click Video > Always on top.
  • iTunes: Click the menu button at the top-left corner of the iTunes window and select Preferences. Click the Advanced tab and enable the “Keep MiniPlayer on top of all other windows” option or the “Keep movie window on top of all other windows” option. Switch to the MiniPlayer window by clicking the menu button and selecting Switch to MiniPlayer.
  • Windows Media Player: Click Organize > Options. Select the Player tab and enable the “Keep Now Playing on top of other windows” checkbox.
  • Firefox: Install the Always on Top add-on. Once you have, press Alt and click View > Always on Top. You can also just press Ctrl+Alt+T to make the current Firefox window always-on-top.
  • Pidgin: Click Tools > Plugins in the Buddy List window. Enable the included Windows Pidgin Options plugin, click Configure Plugin, and set a “Keep Buddy List window on top” preference.
  • Process Explorer: Click Options > Always on Top.

You may or may not find the option in other programs — it’s probably better to get a tool that lets you set any application always-on-top.

make-itunes-window-always-on-top-on-windows


These aren’t the only tools we tested. DeskPins also works — it puts a pin icon in your system tray, and you can click the pin icon and place a pin on any window to make it always-on-top. Unfortunately, this also places a pin image on the window’s title bar, and that pin image looks like something that belongs on Windows XP. It’s distracting and just not ideal.

4t Tray Minimizer, another tool we tested, tries to add an additional “Always on top” button to each window’s title bar. Unfortunately, the button doesn’t work reliably. It doesn’t appear in some applications and stays still in one place on your screen when you move windows. Tools that attempt to be too fancy often break in this way — that’s why the barebones tools above are so ideal.

PowerMenu, a classic tool that we once loved, no longer works properly on 64-bit versions of Windows. The menu that’s supposed to appear in a window’s title bar just won’t appear when you right-click it. This tool hasn’t been updated to support 64-bit versions of Windows — even if it was, adding additional window title bar options to each application is a bit intrusive and could potentially cause issues or crashes with some applications.

Many other applications add this option along with many other options. But you probably aren’t looking for a bloated, heavy application full of options that will use more memory and potentially cause more compatibility issues — you just want a way to make a window always-on-top, and the above applications will do it.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 09/27/14
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