New in 22H2: Snap

Posted on June 9, 2022 by Paul Thurrott in Windows 11 with 13 Comments

As I noted in my original Windows 11 review, the best improvements that Microsoft made in that release are all tied to basic productivity and multitasking. Key among them are the advances the firm made with Snap: Snap Layouts and Snap Groups.

Snap Layouts is a preview pane that appears when you mouse over (or, on a touch-based system, press and hold on) the Maximize/Restore window button that indicates which Snap layouts are available, based on your screen size, pixel density, and aspect ratio.

And Snap Groups brings a sense of permanence to Snap Layouts by remembering previous layouts you’ve created and presenting them as an option when you mouse over the Taskbar icon of an app that was previously snapped: when you do, a Snap Group thumbnail will appear next to the normal Taskbar thumbnail for that app so that you can rearrange the windows in the previous layout.

The Snap feature debuted back in Windows 7 as Aero Snap, and it took on new importance in the Windows 8.x era because of that system’s initial reliance on full-screen apps that could be snapped but not viewed in floating windows. But Snap has always suffered from an obvious problem: it’s never been particularly discoverable. Microsoft has tried to help users with various innovations along the way, like Snap Assist, which provides a visual hint that an app window can be snapped when you move it around. But this feature only kicks in when you drag the window near a screen edge.

With Windows 11 22H2, Microsoft may have finally solved the discoverability issue. And it has done so in ways that will please those who rely on a mouse/touchpad, touch, or even the keyboard for multitasking.

The first improvement impacts mouse/touchpad and touch users: now, when you move an application window in any way, a new Snap Layouts pane descends from the top of the screen.

The appearance of this pane hints that you can do something with it, and so if you drag the window you’re dragging to the pane, it will expand and display the available Snap Layouts.

Obviously, you can choose a layout by mousing over to it. But this new Snap Layouts interface is even smarter than that: as you mouse into a layout, the available screen areas will light up in turn, indicating that you can choose exactly where you want to put that window, complete with a Snap Assist preview.

Those who prefer keyboard shortcuts can now type WINKEY + Z to display the Snap Layouts pane for the active application window. And when this interface is triggered by the keyboard, each layout choice will have a number overlay, which lets you select a layout with the keyboard.

For example, if you type WINKEY + Z and then “1” to select the first layout, Snap Layouts will display numbered choices for each screen position in that layout. In other words, you can complete the layout using just the keyboard now.

Snap was already an incredibly full-featured and useful multitasking feature. But in Windows 11 22H2, it has gotten even better. This new functionality is truly impressive and useful.

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Comments (13)

13 responses to “New in 22H2: Snap”

  1. dallasnorth40

    We shouldn't minimize just how useful this new functionality is. If your daily workflow involves juggling multiple programs, this is a game changer.

  2. brothernod

    I want to believe and be excited (and i really appreciate thorough articles on productivity improvements like this) BUT

    they still haven't fixed windows going to the wrong display when a monitor is connected and that was promised as a fix in base Windows 11.... it's still super annoying.

    • jchampeau

      Completely agree. I have a Wacom One tablet that isn't even turned on 95% of the time, and for whatever reason, Windows will occasionally move stuff over to it. [email protected]#&$%!

      • robinwilson16

        They also haven't solved the issue where USB-c monitors will not reconnect when the computer has been in standby mode and the only option is to restart the computer. Happens with every single device. Unplugging and replugging is not enough and restarting is the only option so I waste lots of time each day restarting and having to close and reopen everything I was working on.

  3. ekim

    Is this the same functionality as the PowerToys utility FancyZones?

    • paradyne

      Snap layouts are screen filling, but FancyZones lets you define many places you can snap windows, even overlapping and different on each monitor. FancyZones is perhaps more useful on larger screens but they can definitely complement each other. It really depends on your setup and your apps and your preferences.

  4. dftf

    Useful and all sure... but do most people really use any-other Snap layouts than either two windows side-by-side (on lower-res screens) or four windows, each snapped to a corner (on high-res screens)?

    • brothernod

      Depending on what I’m working on I’m really partially to one full with window on the top half and 2 quarter windows on the bottom. So yeah, they’re useful. With a billion users you’ll always have someone that uses a feature and appreciates it.

  5. sadsteve

    And I'll be disabling snap(ish) features like I've been doing ever since Win 7.

  6. nbplopes

    This is useful for people with large displays 27” upwards. The others … odd by side and that is mostly it.

  7. sscywong

    Snap group is a great idea, but again, seems Apple's Stage Manager gets the execution done better... It's never easy to get back to different Snap groups with Windows.... or even remember that that's a snap group in place... While Stage Manager reduced the usable screen estate it's much obvious for users to switch back to previous group

  8. JerryH

    I've never understood the appeal of snap. I use a LOT of overlapping, floating windows and just cannot figure out why I would want to have non-overlapping windows, all sized to some non-optimal size just to fit them into a snap layout. But I guess that is the great thing about software - you have options and can use, or not use features like this. I'm just glad MS didn't go down the route of getting rid of overlapping freely sizeable windows.

    • nine54

      That's a good point about non-optimal size. That's kind of the issue with tiling window managers, which are all the rage among the Linux enthusiasts. It's nice that resizes things automatically, but if I have nothing else open, I don't need my filing manager window to take up the whole or even half of the screen...

      With Windows, I basically only snap only 2 windows or even just 1 window to let me access desktop or some other app "behind" the one in focus that I need to see but not interact with. And then, I snap only to the left or right of the screen, never to the top or bottom. I suspect most people don't snap more than 2 windows very often, but who knows.

      What's funny is on Mac, I don't don't do any snapping and have lots of overlapping windows. Mac OS's built-in snapping implementation is less than ideal, so I just use Mission Control or the dock to switch focus between apps. There are third-party tools that "fix" snapping on Mac OS, but I stopped using them (I think a Mac OS update broke them or something and then I just never bothered again once it was fixed).

      Basically, unless it's seriously annoying, I tend to just adjust my workflow the system in question. :)

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