Windows 10 Technical Preview 2: Snap

Posted on March 20, 2015 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 10 with 0

The more you use Windows 10, the more obvious it is that Microsoft has gotten just about everything right. Case in point: Snap, a feature that barely worked in Windows 8, was improved for modern apps in Windows 8.1, and now works extremely well in Windows 10. And not just for all app types, but across both desktop and Tablet modes too.

This is no small achievement. Getting the Windows 10 UI right is key because this OS will run across such a wide range of device types and form factors. And on the face of things, it doesn’t seem possible that coming up with an intuitive, logical and truly usable user interface is even possible for such a wide variety of devices. But that’s why Windows 10 is so special. Microsoft is actually make it work.

Snap is a good example.

Microsoft actually introduced something called Aero Snap in Windows 7. This feature—which persists in more recent Windows versions, lets you dock windows to the sides of the screen so you can use them side-by-side. You can do so with keyboard shortcuts (WINKEY + LEFT ARROW, WINKEY + RIGHT ARROW and so on) or by dragging and dropping windows.


In Windows 8, Microsoft created an alternative feature called Snap that was aimed at the modern environment only. (Confusingly Aero Snap still worked on the desktop, but the desktop as a whole was treated as a single modern app in many ways, including with Snap.) In that first Windows 8 release, Snap supported exactly one display mode: You could have a main app in a large area of the screen and a secondary app that was “snapped” to the side in a thin area. The only customization you could make was to decide which side of the screen contained the snapped area.


In Windows 8.1, Snap was improved to allow modern apps to snap in more granular ways. You could snap two apps side-by-side with both occupying 50 percent of the space. Or you could move the snap gutter and resize both apps accordingly. On higher resolution, high-DPI screens, you could even snap 3 or more apps side-by-side. (Some built-in Windows 8.1 apps, like Mail, also supported their own snap functionality as well.)


Windows 10 takes all of those ideas and mashes them into a single, usable feature called Snap. It can do so because the modern environment is gone: now, all apps run on the desktop again. Universal apps, modern apps, desktop apps, web apps, whatever, can all be snapped equally. And each can in turn be snapped in the normal desktop display mode or while the PC is in Tablet Mode. It’s just a single consistent model. And there’s even a convenient UI for choosing which app to snap when you enter Snap mode.


Consider the following.

I’ve got two apps running, Xbox (a universal app) and MSN Money (currently a modern app with its legacy app bar-based UIs). In desktop mode, these apps can run in floating windows, or you can maximize them to take up all the non-taskbar areas of the screen.


Using Snap, I can stack those two apps side-by-side as before, using keyboard shortcuts or drag-and-drop. (The difference: Now, when you snap one app, Windows asks you which app you’d like to snap on the other side.)


And when you enter Tablet Mode, Snap looks and works much like it did in Windows 8, with a visible gutter than can be used to resize each app display area.


This system just works. It works on normal PCs. It works on hybrid PCs. It works on tablets. That it has come out of the mess of the past is what makes it so satisfying. This is a small example of something broken that has been given new life in Windows 10.But it makes a big difference.