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Working with Running Apps

One of the ironies of Windows 8/8.1 “features” that we didn’t like was that, at least as far as the interface went, there no longer seemed to be any windows. After all, when you launched an app, it didn’t appear inside a box. Apps technically did appear in a window; it’s just that by default those windows took up the entire screen. Fortunately, that window weirdness is behind us now, and in Windows 10 all apps appear within bona fide, readily recognizable windows. You’ll see this for yourself over the next three sections as we take you through various techniques for manipulating running apps.

Snapping an App

One way you can take advantage of the “windowness” of apps (both Modern and Desktop) is to show more than one app onscreen at the same time. So, for example, you could display your Money app stock watch list while simultaneously surfing the Web, or watch what your Facebook friends are up to while also shopping in the Windows Store.

You do this by snapping the current app to the left or right side of the screen. This means that the app automatically resizes itself to half the screen width and parks itself on the left or right side of the screen, and then the next app takes up the rest of the screen. Figure 4.4 shows the Money app snapped to the left side of the screen, while Internet Explorer covers the rest.

Figure 4.4

Figure 4.4 You can display two apps at the same time by snapping an app to the left or right side of the screen.

To snap an app, use the mouse or your finger to drag the app’s title bar to the left or right side of the screen and then release.

That’s a pretty good trick, but Windows 10 goes one better by enabling you to snap four apps at once. You do so by snapping apps to the corners of the screen instead of to the sides. For example, if you drag an app window to the upper-left corner of the screen, Windows 10 snaps the app into that corner and automatically resizes it so that it takes up half the screen width and half the screen height.

Note, too, that you can mix these snap techniques. For example, you could snap two apps to the left side of the screen—one in the upper-left corner and one in the lower-left corner—and then snap a third app to the right edge to fill the remainder of the screen.

Switching Between Running Apps

If you have multiple apps going, Windows 10 does away with the convoluted Windows 8/8.1 techniques for switching between them. Now you can switch to any running app either by clicking a visible portion of its window or by clicking its taskbar button. If an app isn’t visible or you’re not sure which taskbar icon to click, here are two other techniques you can use:

  • Click the taskbar’s Task View button to display thumbnails of your running apps, as shown in Figure 4.5; then click the app you want to use. From the keyboard, press Windows Logo+Tab to activate Task View, use the arrow keys to select the app, and then press Enter.

    Figure 4.5

    Figure 4.5 Use Windows 10’s new Task View to view and switch between your running apps.

  • Hold down Alt and press Tab until the app you want is selected; then release Alt to switch to that app.

Pinning an App to the Taskbar

For our money, by far the easiest way to launch an app in Windows 10 is to pin your favorite programs to the taskbar, which puts the app just a click away.

You can pin a program to the taskbar either from the Start menu or from the desktop. First, here’s the Start menu method:

  1. Click Start and then locate the app you want to pin.

  2. Right-click the app.
  3. Click Pin to Taskbar. Windows 10 adds an icon for the program to the taskbar.

Here’s how to pin a running desktop program to the taskbar:

  1. Launch the program you want to pin.
  2. Right-click the running program’s taskbar icon.

  3. Click Pin This Program to Taskbar. Windows 10 adds an icon for the program to the taskbar.

Using Desktop Apps as the Defaults

It’s an unfortunate fact of Windows 10 life that many of the so-called Modern apps are actually extremely simple programs that offer only minimal feature sets. We don’t recommend using them, but Windows 10 often tries to force the issue by using many apps as the default programs for certain file types. For example, if you double-click a JPEG file in File Explorer, Windows 10 opens it in the Photos app. Similarly, double-click an MP3 file and Windows 10 plays the song using the Music app.

Fortunately, with a bit of work you can configure Windows 10 to open these and other file types using desktop programs. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. In the taskbar’s Search box, type set default.
  2. In the search results, click Default Programs. The Default Programs window appears.
  3. Click Set Your Default Programs. The Set Default Programs window appears.
  4. Click a desktop program that you want to use for opening one or more file types. For example, to change how Windows opens MP3 files, click Windows Media Player.
  5. Click Choose Defaults for This Program. The Set Program Associations window appears.
  6. Select the check box beside each file type that you want to associate with this program. For example, in Figure 4.6 you can see that we’re working with Windows Media Player and that we’ve selected the .mp3 check box.

    Figure 4.6

    Figure 4.6 Use the Set Program Associations window to associate file types with a desktop program.

  7. Click Save. Windows 10 associates the program with the file types you selected.
  8. Repeat steps 4–7 to set the defaults for your other desktop programs.
  9. Click OK.
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