Windows 11 Feature Focus: New Docking/Undocking Experience

Posted on September 23, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 11 with 9 Comments

Those who use a PC with one or more multiple displays will appreciate a major change to how the docking and undocking experience works in Windows 11. And it’s as simple to describe as it is wonderful to experience.

If you’re familiar with how multiple displays work in Windows 10, you know that any windows you have open on an external display will move to the primary display (as on a laptop) when you undock or unplug the external display. That makes sense. But when you re-dock or re-attach the external display, nothing happens. It’s up to you to reposition the windows you want on the external display.

With Windows 11, it’s that latter scenario that changes. Now, Windows remembers the positions of windows on external displays. So when you re-dock or re-attach the external display, any open windows that were previously on that display return to that display automatically.

Better still, those windows remember their position and size. Maximized windows remain maximized, for example, and floating windows will still float at the same size, and in the same place, as before.

Microsoft also helps us understand this shift between states with a subtle animation. When you re-dock or re-attach an external display, the primary display appears to throb and contract. And as the windows return to the external display, the image on the external display appears to throb and then expand as they reappear.

When you think about it, the new docking/undocking experience in Windows 11 is very similar to Snap Layouts in that it’s all about remembering window layouts. With Snap Layouts, Windows 11 remembers the onscreen positions of windows you’ve arranged with Snap Groups, and it lets you easily reassemble those groups. With the new docking/undocking experience, Windows 11 likewise remembers the layouts of individual windows across multiple displays, and over time.

Here’s a quick series of shots that highlights how this works.

Initial layout across two displays

The external display is undocked

The external display is re-docked and the primary display throbs and contracts

And then the original layout is restored

Magic!

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Comments (9)

9 responses to “Windows 11 Feature Focus: New Docking/Undocking Experience”

  1. stevem

    Brilliant! Thanks go to the developers/testers who implemented this.

  2. SvenJ

    Have to say, what took so long? This is wonderful, but people have been docking and undocking laptops for a long time. Surface even had bespoke docks made just so you could grab your Surface quickly and head to that meeting. When you got back to your office though....

  3. dmclaurin

    I have a laptop and 2 external monitors for my workflow. I simply can't have this feature to work :(

    Tried many tricks...I have enabled this feature of course! But it just does not work for me. I was looking forward to this functionality.

  4. brandonmills

    Ok, this is great, but the *default* for Windows power management, when docked, needs to be that closing the lid doesn't put you into sleep mode. Mac does this already, but someone at Microsoft has somehow missed the memo about how people work these days.

  5. ebraiter

    So why can't remembering the position and size be available for any window. For example, close an application and re-open it to the same position and size?

    There are some applications that ignore the "Maximize" option in a shortcut - even some Microsoft apps.

  6. matsan

    will this work with multiple setups, like one for work and one at home? Different resolutions and sizes. I hate the Alt-Space arrow down move dance you need to do when the window is moved off-screen.

    • bluvg

      You can get around the alt+space thing by right-clicking on the Taskbar button for the window and selecting Move from there--unless it's a dialog/window without a button (can this be banned from Windows?). And the need to press an arrow key (any random one will do 🤨) before allowing the mouse to move the window is just a bizarre, inexplicable quirk of Windows.

  7. wright_is

    What about docked windows? Do they redock to the side of the screen they were on, or do they return to their original size and position? (This latter happens in Windows 10, when swapping displays.)

  8. bluvg

    This is great, but... will Outlook (for example) remember it's internal arrangement of width, etc. for different panes/sections? Seems like the applications need to catch up with this as well.


    And can the random window-taking-focus-while-typing-in-another-window thing just be banned? I get it's complicated since there are times when a window should take focus, but this is one of my biggest pet peeves with Windows (now that pop-behind modal dialog boxes seem to have disappeared).

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