Windows 11 Feature Focus: Snap Groups

Posted on July 10, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 11 with 11 Comments

Like Snap Layouts, Snap Groups is a new Windows 11 feature that builds on the Snap capability we’ve been using in Windows for years.

If you haven’t read it yet, you might want to check out my previous article in this series, Windows 11 Feature Focus: Snap Layouts, which, among other things, provides a brief history of Snap and how this functionality has evolved over the years. But the addition of Snap Layouts and Snap Groups in Windows 11 collectively represent what is arguably the biggest changes to Snap since Windows 8.1.

Snap Layouts provides a flyout that displays possible Snap window layouts when you mouse over the Maximize window button of any window. The layouts you see will vary based on the physical properties of your display(s); for example, ultra-wide displays will provide more layout possibilities than more traditional displays.

When you choose a layout by selecting the area that the current app will occupy, a feature called Snap Assist kicks in, letting you select which app will appear in the next Snap area. You continue selecting apps until each area is filled (or, you can hit Esc to exit Snap Assist).

From here, you just continue working normally. You can use Snap Layouts (and Snap Assist) on a single display or, in a docked scenario, across however many displays you have attached to your PC. If you do use multiple displays, Windows 11 handles the transition between docked states more seamlessly than before. When you undock the PC, any windows that are snapped on a secondary display will move to the primary display and, new to Windows 11 (I believe), they will retain their snapped on-screen positions. When you redock the PC, all the windows move back to their previous locations (snapped or otherwise). (Well, in theory. During the preview, I’m getting about an 80 percent success rate getting windows back to their original positions.)

So. What’s a Snap Group?

Like Snap Layouts, Snap Groups is what I call “lightly discoverable,” in that most people are likely to stumble upon this feature in the course of mousing around. Windows 11 promises to remember the layouts used when multiple windows have been snapped together into a group using Snap Layouts. And it exposes the UI for returning to those layouts when you mouse over something, in this case, the taskbar icon for one of the snapped apps.

For example, I previously snapped Excel, Notepad, and PowerPoint into whatever layout. And now, when I mouse over one of these apps, I see a Snap Group thumbnail next to the traditional application thumbnail. To return each of the apps in that group to the Snap Layout depicted in the thumbnail, you just need to select the Snap Group thumbnail.

As noted, this feature isn’t fully baked at the time of this writing, but it should improve to the point where it remembers Snap Layouts and provides Snap Groups shortcuts after reboots and regardless of whether the system is docked.

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Comments (11)

11 responses to “Windows 11 Feature Focus: Snap Groups”

  1. oasis

    Is it possible to use this feature to open 4 instances of the same app, say Wordpad in 4 different windows?

  2. hrlngrv

    Interesting that the outlines seem to be based on 3:2 screens.

    I don't use tiled application windows myself, but I can appreciate this is useful for those who do. I did use tiled document windows in Excel and Access through Office 2010. Then MSFT decreed that all Office programs should be SDI.

  3. uk user

    Ah, I see it now, Windows 10 will be supported for a few years but Windows 11 will get all the goodies, and for those of us not able to buy yet more new hardware to include this security chip will just have to like it or lump it as we say in the UK.

  4. adamstaiwan

    It will be interesting how it works between work and home. At work my notebook has an an extra horizontal monitor above and a vertical monitor on the left. At home I have a vertical monitor on the right.

  5. behindmyscreen

    The ability to select an app's snap group by hovering over the app is amazing! Good feature.

  6. lvthunder

    So if I have Outlook, Excel, and Word in a snap group and I close Word. Can I click on the snap group and Word will open or do I need to reopen Word for the group to show up again?

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