Screen Management

A guide to screen management and why it matters

For those who are a little geeky and want to learn more about how can you use your screens to improve your everyday work.

As we see more screens attached to our PCs and those screens getting ever larger or wider, the traditional tools for managing applications within those screens fall a little short. For instance, a widescreen monitor's shape aligns well with 2 pieces of vertically aligned paper. With ultra-widescreen monitors, it is closer to 3 or 4. However, in either case users still tend to open applications up full screen.

"The alternative is fiddling with the resizing, then cursing every time you drag a window too close to the edge of the screen, and some "unexpected resizing shenanigans" kick in." Are you feeling this problem? Then keep reading…

Why would you split your screen into useful layouts?

Each screen attached to your PC will have its own usage pattern. These usage patterns will have optimal arrangements dependent upon content you use to support the tasks you are currently working on. These will depend upon your eyesight, seating position, the needs of content itself as well as the size, shape, orientation, and your distance to each screen. When working with larger screens, to make most effective use in your purchase, you are looking to break up the screen into smaller rectangles suited for your content and applications. This is what we mean by splitting your screen into useful layouts.

How to use Microsoft Windows built-in functionality to manage content on your screens

Windows, like any modern operating system, has various tools to let you drag and drop applications around your screens, minimize them and make them full screen. Since the 80’s we have been blessed with GUIs and mice to let this work. So, it seems even stranger that most of these features have only recently evolved in any meaningful way; driven by touch requirements, more pixels and competition from Apple.

People who can master the help modern versions of Windows provide can get a good value out of their larger screens. Still, many of us tend not to take advantage of all those lovely pixels.

Microsoft has recognized the issue with the newer versions of Microsoft Windows providing some out-of-the-box functionality to manage simple side-by-side layouts of two applications by dragging content to the screen edge. This dragging to screen edge is often counter-intuitive and annoying and many users work around it or simply turn off the behavior. It becomes even harder to use when you have multiple displays as screen edges are inconsistent as some are real and stop the mouse and some lead to other displays. The implementation in Windows 10 and earlier is a half-baked and you are best switching them off in the Windows settings (these are called “snap windows” and you can find them in the “multi-tasking” settings). Don’t worry! Microsoft has gifted us a far better set of tools, but you just need to install them first... see the next section.

Thankfully, Microsoft has realized the error of their ways and fixed many of the ideas with the newer Snap Windows features of Windows 11. It was in fact one of the initial selling points of the newer OS and is a half-decent reason to upgrade if you can. These features have been better thought through and allow you to customize the layouts to a certain extent by letting each screen to be broken into more sophisticated structures with more content zones rather than the default two. These will only work if enabled, and there is a learning curve involved that may put off some users. The maximize/minimize icon gets added features to let you pop the application into a particular screen zone and there are a few layouts you can select and use. However, they do need enabling and many users do not even know they exist. But if you have multiple displays, particularly large displays or ultra-wide displays, these are worth utilizing to provide productivity gains that justify the cost of the technology you have invested in.

In short, if you have Windows 11 and some good screen real estate, we recommend enabling these features in the settings and exploring their use more fully.

Adding additional screen layout capability to Microsoft Windows for free

In Windows 10 (and Windows 11), Microsoft started experimenting with more advanced features advertised for POWER USERS! Obviously, Microsoft must think “power users” defines anyone with more than once screen or an ultra-wide display as these features are essential to get the most out of them. They are called FancyZones and form part of the PowerToys suite and you have to install them yourself from here:

Microsoft don’t really make a big thing out of PowerToys but they should do as they offer a whole host of great little features like being able to mute your camera and microphone on VC call simultaneously, extracting text from anything on screen – even graphics, adding useful functionality to the File Explorer and keeping a window in top as well as giving us FancyZones.

PowerToys is well worth installing even if you have Windows 11, as FancyZones extend and expand upon what is available out-of-the-box.

FancyZones lets you have more flexible layouts; easily defined and customized as needed. Every screen can have a different layout suited to your needs. Applications can be snapped into the selected layout visually; typically, by holding SHIFT while dragging a window on the screen. This approach does require the user to adopt a new habit (holding SHIFT) but does make the process more controllable, practical and useful. No weird, unexpected window behaviors and only a single shortcut to remember!

These new features allow a lot of flexibility. They can support genuine use cases you encounter daily while working on your PC.

More business value with better use of displays

If you have any ultrawide displays or multiple displays connected to your PC and some better screen management options you can start using your displays differently.

IT teams spend lots of time and money integrating applications and creating dashboards when the best integration engine is free; your brain and the relevant data sets side by side on the screen. We call this visual integration. Large immersive displays provide the capability to show many pieces of data, and screen management allows you to place the information required in a way that makes sense to you.

All the solutions outlined above would help here; However, the out-of-the-box functionality even in Windows 11 is not ideal for complex display environments. Installing the FancyZones features from PowerToys can help fully deliver this value.

How can Enify by Epsis help?

The features of FancyZones have been a part of our software since its inception over a decade ago and Enify takes the concept further and makes it easier to use. You can break up your screens in the same way as FancyZones and drag and drop applications between them using the SHIFT key as well. But Enify brings some more tools to the game...

Enify provides a different level of customization that can be centrally managed to remove some of the user's responsibility to set up and understand layouts. Each display can be broken up into an arbitrary number of panes, saved as practical layouts with a suitable descriptive name, and made available for every user. A user just uses Enify to select a layout suited to the task at hand, and at any time they can swap to other ones as needed by the work with a simple click in our interface.

The real “that is powerful” moment with Enify comes when you save which applications were in each part of the layout and can recall them with a single click. Setting up screens full of information is a breeze and quickly task switching when your workload changes becomes easy. You can even share them with colleagues to help with their work. These are called boards and are not really the scope of this blog.

Our clients have been using two, three, ten, or even thirty screens attached to a PC within their Operating Center environments. This has brought us valuable experience on how we could improve basic screen management features for decades. We are somewhat ahead of the game here, but if you don't have access to Epsis Enify, try the options provided by Microsoft above as a starter. If you feel it would be beneficial to save and recall particular screen layouts full of applications, then any edition of Enify can help.

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