Getting Your Desktop Windows in Order

Q. When moving back and forth between laptop and external monitors and generally just having a ton of stuff open, I can’t find certain windows quickly in the clutter, or have trouble resizing them because I can’t reach the bottom corner with the mouse. Is there a quick way to snap these windows in line?

A. Both the Windows and Mac operating systems include several shortcuts for moving, resizing or organizing open windows that have drifted off the screen — or are buried under other open files, folders and programs. Some windows may get even harder to find if you switch your monitor resolution or use a dual display.

On a Windows PC with a bunch of open windows, right-click on the title bar and select the Maximize command. Then click the task bar and choose Cascade Windows from the menu. The open windows on the screen will form a neat, overlapping stack with visible title bars you can browse.

In Windows 7 and later, you can use the system’s Snap feature to drag a window to the side of the screen to anchor it. The Windows 10 Snap Assist tool now shows other open windows as thumbnails on the screen after you have snapped the first window.

For resizing and moving, you can expand a window by clicking the square Maximize icon on the far-right side of a window’s title bar. When you right-click a Windows title bar, or press the Alt key and the space bar, you also get Move and Size options in the menu.

When you select Move and then slide the cursor to the center of the screen, you can use the arrow keys on the keyboard to nudge the window over; press the Enter key when you have it where you want it. Selecting the Size option lets you use the keyboard arrow keys to resize the window.

On a Mac, you have a few ways to reel in wandering windows. If you are not sure what you have open, go to the Mac’s Mission Control view to see miniature versions of all the open windows at once — and select the one you need. Just press the Mission Control key (often F3 on an Apple keyboard) or the Control and up-arrow keys; you can also get into Mission Control by clicking its icon in the desktop dock, using the Control Strip on compatible MacBooks or swiping up with three fingers on a trackpad.

To move and resize windows even if the desktop Dock is in the way, hold down the Option key and click the green dot in the window’s upper-left corner to resize the window to fit the screen. Clicking the green dot by itself expands the window to the full-screen size.

You can drag any of the four sides of a window to change the size, and holding down the Shift and Option keys while you drag an edge resizes the whole window proportionally. If you can click on part of a visible window, you can also go to the Window menu in the Mac’s tool bar and choose Zoom to resize the window to fit the screen.

If you eventually get down to just two open windows, Apple’s Split View feature (available in OS X El Capitan and later) allows you to position both of them evenly on each half of the screen. Just hold down the green button in the first window and drag it to one side. Then let go of the green button and repeat the steps with the other window on the other side of the screen.

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