How to Use Snap Assist and 2×2 Snap on Windows 10

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The extremely useful Snap feature — introduced as “Aero Snap” in Windows 7 — is much-improved in Windows 10. Snap Assist, 2×2 snapping, and vertical snap features help make you more productive on the desktop.

On the Windows 10 Technical Preview, “universal apps” run in windows on the desktop. Windows 8’s touch-optimized “Snap” feature is gone for now and is being merged with the desktop Snap feature so the Windows interface is more consistent.

Snap Assist

To snap a desktop window, left-click its window title bar, hold your mouse down, and then drag it to either the left or right edges of your screen. You’ll see a transparent overlay appear, showing you where the window will be placed. Release your mouse button to snap the window there.

You don’t actually have to wait — you can just quickly drag-and-drop a window’s title bar to either edge of your screen to snap it. This part of the process also works on Windows 7 and 8.

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When you snap an app with the mouse on Windows 10, the new “Snap Assist” feature will pop up. Windows will display a thumbnail list of your open windows and let you click one of them. Click one and it will be snapped to the left or right side of the screen. It’s much faster, simpler, and more intuitive than the Snap feature on Windows 7 and 8. If you Snap a window on Windows 7 or 8, Windows will just display the empty space there and wait for you to snap a second app.

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You can also press Windows Key + Left arrow or Windows Key + Right arrow to snap an app to the left or right halves of your screen. For some reason, the Snap Assist feature doesn’t appear when you do this. You have to use the mouse to get that dialog.

Because those new “universal apps” can now run in desktop windows, snapping them now works the same way — this is a change to how Snap worked in Windows 8.

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Vertical Snap

Windows 10 also adds support for vertical window-snapping. Press Windows Key + Up or Windows Key + Down to snap the current app to the top or bottom halves on the screen. Pressing Windows Key + Up a second time will maximize the window, while pressing Windows Key +Down a second time will minimize it.

Note that you can’t do this with the mouse — you need to use the keyboard shortcuts. Dragging a window’s title bar to the top of your screen will just maximize it, while dragging it to the bottom of your screen won’t do anything.

Some universal apps can’t resize very far vertically, so they may not behave well with vertical or 2×2 snapping..

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2×2 Snap

Snap has now been extended to allow up to four windows snapped at a time in a 2×2 grid. Microsoft is slowly reinventing tiling window managers.

To snap a window in a 2×2 grid with the mouse, drag and drop it into one of the four corners of the screen instead. Drag-and-drop several windows in this way to get your 2×2 grid of open windows.

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You can also use keyboard shortcuts. The Windows Key + Left / Right / Up / Down keyboard shortcuts can be combined to snap a window into a quadrant of your screen. For example, press Windows Key + Left to snap a window into the left half of your screen, then press Windows Key + Up to snap it into the top-left quadrant.

Note that you don’t have to use 2×2 snap — you could use any layout up to 2×2. In other words, you could have one tall window on the left and two short ones on the right. Or, you could have one wide window on top and two narrow ones on the bottom. That’s up to you.

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The Windows 10 Technical Preview is focused on the desktop, so this is the same way you’d snap apps on a tablet or another device with a touch screen — just use your finger to touch the title bar and drag it onto an edge or corner of your screen. Microsoft will focus more on the touch interface as they continue developing Windows 10, so the touch interface in particular may change.

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+.