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Tiling Windows – Get a Windows 7 Snap on Windows XP and Vista, OS X, and Linux

Tiling windows can be really useful, allowing you to quickly and easily move and resize windows on your desktop into useful combinations. For example, if you wanted to read a webpage while typing in a document, you could resize the web browser to the left half of the screen and the document to the right. This way, you can just look from one to another instead of switching back and forth. This is particularly useful on widescreen monitors, where there’s a lot of screen space going to waste. Yet on many operating systems, like Windows XP, Windows Vista and Mac OS X this behavior isn’t available out of the box.  On Kubuntu Linux there is a tiling window mode but it tends to be overly complicated, and there are no useful shortcuts set up as on Windows 7. Let’s learn how to make things better.First, choose your operating system. If your operating system isn’t listed, then feel free to leave a comment and I’ll add it to the guide.

Windows XP and Vista

As Windows XP and Vista don’t feature key commands for tiling windows, you’re going to have to download the free WinSplit Revolution program. After you’ve got it downloaded and installed, let’s look at the system tray in the lower right hand corner. You’ll see a little monitor icon — right click it, and choose ‘Hotkey settings’. Now, you’re confronted with a window like this:

I find the standard settings a bit overwhelming, particularly when resizing a screen into a quarter of your screen is rarely useful and the key combination is awkward. Let’s make a few changes to allow for easier tiling.

First, change Left (i.e. set the current window to fit in the left half of the screen) to Windows+Left and Right to Windows+Right. Minimize can be set to Windows+Down and Maximize to Windows+Up. This seems pretty logical, and indeed is how things work on Windows 7, which features this functionality by default. For the rest of the settings, just leave them at their defaults, or disable by clicking on each one and pressing Disable.

When you’re finished, your screen should look like this:

Now give it a go! Try opening two windows, and pressing Win+Left in one and Win+Right in the other. If everything has gone according to plan, each window should occupy half of the screen! If you like how it works, you can go into the settings for WinSplit Revolution and ask it to be launched on startup, ensuring you’ll always have this useful functionality.

Back to the top! | Onwards to the end!

Mac OS X

When I first switched to OS X, one of the things I missed most from Windows 7 was window tiling! Luckily, I soon found a free program called BetterTouchTool which allows you to add this functionality to OS X. Download and install it in the normal way, then launch it! You’ll see a window with loads of options. Stay in the first tab, Gestures, and click on Keyboard just below the tabs. Now, click on Add new shortcut just below the (empty) list of shortcuts, then click inside the Keyboard Shortcut box. Press the key combination you’d like (I chose Win+Left), then choose the corresponding action (Maximize Window Left). Do the same for Maximize Window Right, and Maximize Window. When you’re done, the window should look like this (click the picture to see the full detail):

Now just close the program and try out your new tiling action! To keep this when you restart, just re-open BetterTouchTool and choose Launch BetterTouchTool on startup under General Settings.

Kubuntu Linux 10.10

KDE 4.5, which comes by default in the latest version of Kubuntu, features tiling windows. You can see it in action by dragging a window to the left or right side of the screen — an outline of where the window will form will appear, and if you let go it’ll be resized. If you have two monitors though, you’ll notice that you can’t hit the edge between the monitors, meaning you can only resize windows into the far left and far right. This is pretty lame, so let’s fix it by adding a keyboard shortcut!

Just go into the System Settings, found in the Kickoff Menu (that blue K in the lower left).  Next, go into Shortcuts and Gestures. Then go into Global Keyboard Shortcuts. At the top, there’ll be a dropdown menu called KDE component. Choose KWin, then scroll down until you find Quick Tile Window to the Left. Click on it, then click on where it says None with a wrench. Now press your desired key combination — I’ve chosen Win (called Meta in Linux) + Left. Do the same for Quick Tile Window to the Right. Here’s what it should look like when you’re done:

Hit Apply, and then try it out! If everything has gone the way it should, the current window should occupy the left or right half of the screen when you press the corresponding keys.

The End

I hope that you’re now happily tiling your windows! If something went wrong, or you’d like instructions for a different operating system, feel free to leave a comment below. Of course, if everything went right, I’d also love to hear from you! Thanks for reading and I hope things went well! You should follow me at Twitter here if you’d get more top tips for Windows, Linux, and OS X or game reviews and strategy guides!

Posted in Linux, Mac OS X, Windows and tagged , .
  • Oh. Good. GNOME has it inbuilt. So I guess KDE doesn’t. Not the full thing, but when I used Ubuntu, I had the part where you could restore and maximize windows by dragging. And it would wobble in a great way.

    Used it?

    • William Judd

      Actually, from what I could tell getting it enabled in Gnome also requires some doing, specifically downloading the compiz-fusion-plugins-extras package and then setting up appropriate shorcuts. There’s also a hackier version that was popular a while ago, which had written code which got the size of the screen and then took each half. I was going to write further on the topic, but I had some other pressing concerns to take care of.

  • meme

    Why do you not use the default tiling support for Kubuntu? Snapping the windows to left and right is a nice extra, but not really the tiling provided out of the box.
    See for instance: http://cdn.ghacks.net/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/enable_tiling.png

    Maybe you were not aware that KDE provides tiling, which would explain: “Yet on many operating systems, like Windows XP and Windows Vista, Mac OS X, and Kubuntu Linux, this behavior isn’t available out of the box. “.

    Maybe you need to correct the article. Or maybe i missed something here.

    • William Judd

      Yeah, I’m familiar with that kind of tiling, but it isn’t really comparable to the Windows 7 style of snapping that I am attempting to achieve. It is sometimes useful when dealing with a large number of windows, but personally I find that half of a 16:9 or 16:10 screen is about the most useful size I can make something; anything smaller tends not to be useful.

      Still, it bears mentioning. I’ll add a small reference in the Kubuntu section. Thanks for your feedback.

  • In Unity in Ubuntu 11.04 it works default similar to WinSplit Revolution. I am mean shortcuts Alt+Ctrl+Num Pad 0..9. Thats cool stuff.

    Btw. Can anyone write shortcuts for gnome2/3 how to do this?

  • In Unity in Ubuntu 11.04 it works default similar to WinSplit Revolution. I am mean shortcuts Alt+Ctrl+Num Pad 0..9. Thats cool stuff.nnBtw. Can anyone write shortcuts for gnome2/3 how to do this?