How to View Side-by-Side Apps in Windows 8

David Pogue
April 17, 2014

On Windows 8, there are no overlapping windows in TileWorld, the newly-designed, “Metro” side of Windows. So, the headache of trying to find one window in a haystack is over.

You can, however, display apps side by side—up to four, if you have a high-resolution screen. You can display a TileWorld app and a desktop program side by side, too.

That’s handy when you want to keep playing some video in one window while you’re crunching numbers in another, for example.

All of this is much more flexible and usable in Windows 8.1.

Note: Windows 8.1 doesn’t let you split the screen unless your monitor resolution is at least 1024 x 768 pixels; anything less wouldn’t give you enough room for two apps. If your screen has at least 1600 x 1200 pixels, you can see three apps side by side; 2560 x 1440 pixels or more, you can see four apps at once.

And if you have a second monitor, multiply all those numbers by two.

Side-by-Side Apps

There are two different ways to split the screen:

Drag from the top edge.  Use this method if you want to split the screen with an app you haven’t opened yet. The picture above shows the steps.

Tip: If you have a keyboard, you can press Windows + < or Windows + >. (That’s the comma or the period, but < and > are easier to remember.) The current app’s window is now shoved to the left or right side. When you open a second app (from the Start screen or the app switcher), it fills the newly opened space.

Once you’ve split the screen, you can press those keyboard shortcuts a second time to swap the positions of the two open apps.

Drag from the left edge. Use this method if you want to split the screen with an app you’ve used recently. The image below shows the steps.

Once the screen is split, you can drag the vertical divider bar horizontally, with a finger or a mouse, to adjust the relative space between the two windows. In Windows 8.1, it’s usually a free choice—you can split 50/50, or 60/40, or whatever floats your boat.

To turn off the screen-splitting effect, drag the divider bar all the way off one side of the screen or the other.

Note: Here and there, you’ll discover that Windows opens a split screen automatically. When you summon Help in an app, for example, the right half of the screen might be an Internet Explorer window showing a Help Web page; if you try to open a photo attachment in an email message, it opens in a pane of its own.

When that happens to you, just remember that you can adjust the pane widths, or close them, just as you could as if you’d opened them yourself.

Excerpted with permission from David Pogue’s “Windows 8.1: The Missing Manual” from O’Reilly Media.