The much anticipated Windows 8.1 Preview officially hit the web after Microsoft unveiled it to the world during its Build Conference 2013. We are in the process of covering many of the new features, most of which were showcased at the conference. This post is entirely dedicated to one of the best from the lot: multitasking in a single- and multiple-monitor setup using the improved Snap feature. Read on for further details.
Not only can Windows 8’s Snap feature allow simultaneous usage of multiple Modern UI apps, it also lets you work with Desktop and Modern UI environments side by side. However, it only offers room for two apps at a time in a 20:80 screen area ratio.
Windows 8.1 Preview has effectively eliminated this limitation, restricting the maximum number of apps that can be snapped side by side only by the size of the display. Not just that; you can now snap Windows Store apps across multiple monitors, where Windows 8 only allowed the Modern UI environment to run on one display at a time. So if you have multiple screens hooked up to your PC – pretty much a norm among professionals and gamers now – you’re going to love this improvement even more.
Now, depending on the current resolution of your display, you can squeeze in more apps and resize them as needed. For instance, if you’ve snapped two windows side by side on 1366×768 resolution, you can arrange them in 50:50, 40:60 and 30:70 ratios as well as other slight variations in between. There is no singular fixed ratio like before. The number of split view variations in arrangement also comes down to how many pixels are at your disposal. That is, the larger the resolution, the more apps and variations of arrangement you’ll get. For instance, on a screen with 1920×1080 resolution, you can accommodate as much as three apps. It seems the number of apps your display can hold is its width divided by 500px.
Now imagine the much larger resolution displays available in the market such as those with 2560 x 1440 or 2560 x 1600 native resolutions placed together in a multi-monitor setup. Like I said before, the more screen real estate you have, the more apps you can snap on your display.
Controlling the size each app occupies on the screen works the same way it did in Windows 8, but with much more flexibility, as must have been apparent from what we’ve discussed above. Simply hold and drag the separator between apps to a position of choice. In Windows 8.1, you can even use the desktop in a thin, snapped mode. Unlike before, the desktop doesn’t reduce to a panel with thumbnail previews of opened desktop apps and windows.
Another interesting addition to multitasking in Windows 8.1 is that if you have two or more apps snapped side by side, any apps that you open from the Start screen (and the same display) after that will appear wedged between two apps (the first two from the left if there are more than two apps snapped together) and will remain floating over the separator until you move your mouse over one of the snapped app and click or tap to replace it. Alternatively, if your display can hold more apps, you can hold the floating app over the separator, wait for it to make room for itself, then let go.
During our test run, we felt that this feature, despite its obvious improvement, still wasn’t as convenient as it can be, and could prove to be a challenge for novice users. It could do with some clearer on-screen queues or guides.
This wraps up our closer look into the new Snap feature of Windows 8.1 Preview. Don’t forget to check out other features that we’ve covered so far and stay tuned for further coverage.