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How do I view a full-screen application in a window in Windows 8?

After the tiled start-up interface, the most common complaint I’ve heard so
far about Windows 8 is that applications started from a tile start up full

In fact, it’s a different full screen than in previous versions –
you might say that the applications are “fuller” screen, with no apparent way
to minimize, restore, or in some cases, even exit the application.

While that appears to be partly true for some applications, it’s fortunately
not the case for many more.


Starting an app from a tile

Let’s start with my tiled Start menu:

Leo's Windows 8 Start Menu

As you can see, I’ve already customized it quite a bit to remove most tiles that I don’t use and add a tile for Ask Leo!.

Let’s click on that:

Ask Leo! in Internet Explorer 10

The shortcut opens Internet Explorer 10 in a full-screen mode with no traditional window borders or control, no menu, and just a minimal address bar with a couple of controls at the bottom of the screen.

It’s actually not a bad interface for browsing the web as almost all of the UI clutter is removed.

But what if that’s not what you want? What if you really do want to view your browser and something else at the same time?

Moving an app to the desktop

Click on the wrench icon at the bottom of the window:

View On Desktop option

Click View on the desktop.

Internet Explorer as a more traditional window

The result? Your more traditional desktop view of your computer, with Internet Explorer looking a lot more like the Internet Explorer we recognize from before.

Now, you might think that the previous full-screen view that we started with is the same as “maximized” view. Apparently not.

Click on the maximize icon and Internet Explorer dutifully maximizes:

Internet Explorer maximized on the desktop

But it maximizes on the desktop, meaning that the task bar is still there, as is the Internet Explorer title bar and other traditional controls. Not like what we started with at all. Even F11, IE’s “full screen” view doesn’t return to the same look as starting it from the tiled start menu.

But at least we can restore, minimize, resize, and such like we used to do in previous versions of Windows.

Unfortunately, not all applications can be displayed on the desktop.

Apps that work only one way

I’ll use the Bing tile as my example. Click on it and you’ll get the Bing home page, displayed full screen:

Bing application in Windows 8

I’ve found no way to move this application to the desktop. It’s simply a full-screen tiled app, period.

The good news, though, is that when you perform a search and then click on one of the results, the Bing application fires up Internet Explorer.

Which, as we’ve seen above, you can move to the desktop.

My belief is simply that some applications – or more correctly “apps” or “applets” – meaning smaller applications – have been written to specifically and only work full-screen, in the tiled-like mode. Those can’t be resized or moved aside or displayed along side another.

But even though they don’t appear to have a Close button, they can be closed.

Closing without a Close button

Here’s an example of search results given by the Bing application:

Bing application search results in Windows 8

As you can see, there’s plenty to click on to go to any of the results, but there doesn’t seem to be a Close button, or a File > Exit menu or anything that would make it clear on how to actually exit the program.

So, we go old school, and reach for the keyboard.

Hold down ALT and press F4. That’s the standard Windows keyboard interface to close a program.

And it still works.

Why no close?

There’s been a trend in portable devices to remove the concept of “closing” an application. The idea is that you use what you use, stop using what you’re done with, and let the system worry about what’s running or not. If the system needs more resources, then an application you haven’t used for a while might be “really” closed without your having to think about it.

When you click on an application’s shortcut to start or return to it, it’ll either return – if it was never “really” closed – or restart, if at some point the system actually did cause the application to stop running.

The theory is that this is all transparent to the user.

Now, Windows applications in general have never used this model, and as such, simply don’t meet the requirements for an application that can be transparently closed by the system. The application has to do a near-perfect job of saving its state so that if re-opened, it looks like it was never closed. I don’t know of any serious Windows application that actually works that way.

However, new applications written for Windows 8, particularly the smaller ones like the Bing application (that might not even have any state to save) can certainly work in this manner.

Or appear to work in this manner.

Hence, there’s theoretically no need to close them.

I don’t know about you, but I’m still of a mind that when I’m done with an application, I want to close it.

Thus, ALT+F4 makes me much more comfortable.

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22 comments on “How do I view a full-screen application in a window in Windows 8?”

  1. New “Metro” apps can only run full-screen, or “snapped” to one edge of the screen. They simply cannot be run in a “traditional” window.

    My guess is that there are really two “Internet Explorer” programs — one “Metro” and one “Traditional”. However, my IE runs on the desktop, and I haven’t discovered anything to turn it into Metro style, so I can’t test this theory.

  2. (FYI – Just to clarify my previous post.)

    Visual Studio includes a Windows 8 simulator (to help debug Windows 8 apps), which runs in a window. So, technically, you can run a Metro app full-screen, *within* the window that the simulator is running. I don’t know how much overhead is involved, and I don’t consider this a real solution, but it can be done.

  3. You can also reveal the Windows 8 multitasking menu by going to the top-left of any monitor and moving your mouse down a bit along the edge of the screen. Then right-click on an app and select Close.

  4. Doesn’t anyone, especially Microsoft, realize that the typical user is going to be totally lost in this piece of crap OS? It should be pulled from the market and unfortunate buyers given a refund. Real computers are not smart phones and should not be driven by designs that were invented to work on the tiny screens of handheld devices.

  5. Just ordered a new Lenovo Y580, nice laptop for sure, but it has Windows 8. I’m using Macrium Reflect to make an image of the disk, then reinstalling with Windows 7.

    It arrived yesterday. I haven’t even turned on the laptop yet, it will be turned on the first time with a Win7 install disk in the DVD drive …

  6. Windows 8 is a very irritating OS to use for most users. It is improperly and stupidly designed for all current users who use keyboards and mouse. Microsoft should have designed 2 completely separate versions of Windows 8, one for the above mentioned users and the second for touch users.
    By combining the 2 users Microsoft failed big time and angered and alienated most current Windows users. I hope Microsoft learned a very expensive lesson and will design the new upcoming Windows 9 properly. Otherwise I will never buy and use Windows again and will jump to Linux. I hate and abhor Apple, so that is never an option for me.

  7. So, what happens to those tablet-bound app runners who don’t have a keyboard plugged in to their smartphone… will that touch-upper-left, stroke-down-the-margin thing (in lieu of a mouse) work to get the multitasking manager window too? If not… just another reason for me to think of a non-Windows device the next time I buy.

  8. I’d like to know how you pinned your “Ask-Leo” web site to the windows 8 start menu. I haven’t been able to do that and I would like to have a tile like that on my start menu.

  9. Hi, I am the very happy new owner of a HP Envy with touch screen using Windows 8 and I am thrilled with it. To close a program I just swipe down my screen and presto! Gone! To use multiple windows I can minimise and place them around the screen and for those that won’t do this I can swipe it and it will squish into either end.
    I think we need to watch some movies where they “use” technology that seems futuristic and get it into our heads that things are moving fast. I’m not that young but my kids are and what I don’t know they teach me or I look it up.
    If you can’t get a grip on apps then you are going to become very frustrated as technology moves forward. Think of an app as a program that you can open from one big screen rather than go searching through lists via a start menu. You need to embrace it with excitement not fear and enjoy the readiness of it all. Think of your start page as an easier way to access your programs.
    Come on, get with it. I can remember my grandmother feared electricital appliances in her house but she bravely went where she had not been before, learned how to use them and ended up loving them. Surely we can do the same. Advances in technology take us to infinity and beyond! Enjoy the journey fellow travellers!

  10. I will be installing Win 7 on my customers PCs for a long time yet. I have finally accepted that XP is now history but it looks like Win 7 won’t disappear for a while either. Problem with the methods shown above is that they both require EXTRA keystrokes to accomplish the same functions as in Win 7.

  11. If you move the mouse to the lower left corner, you will get a pop-up for the start screen. Click on that.

    Then move the mouse to the upper left screen and you will get a pop-up of the most recently opened app. Move the mouse down along the left side of the screen, and get pop-ups of all open apps. Right click on any one, and you get the option to “Close.”

    This works on all apps I’ve used so far. Yes, it is more work than just clicking on an “X” in the upper right corner, but it works.

    I like seeing Leo has modified his start screen to make it into a modified start button. Check the “Help” to see how to add, remove and modify items on the start screen. It really isn’t that hard – even for those of us over 70.

    I agree with you. Things are going to change and we need to take a positive attitude toward the changes. Most of the things we take for granted today – and even consider essential – met a lot of opposition when they were first introduced. The biggest obstacle is not fear, but not willing to learn something new.

    For those who think Windows 9 (or whatever it will be called) will be more traditional-computer friendly, don’t count on it. Unless Microsoft puts out a bunch of “patches” in that direction, the next Windows will be even more touch-oriented. That’s where the most money is at this time.

  12. Duane,

    Open IE to the page you want. Make sure “Command Bar” is checked to display. Then click on “Page.” The second item on the list should be “Add site to Start Screen.” Click on that, and the site will be added to the start screen. You may wish to drag it to the position where you want it displayed.

    Hope this helps.

  13. Windows 7 is for me and XP can still do the job, but Win8 seems to try and get you downing apps that can cost money .
    I think microsoft have seen people downloading apps for their mobile phone and said “We want a piece of the action” and just tacked on the Metro so people might just take the bait.
    I don’t want a microsoft account or log on as a “local” user its about getting you to spend more money.
    I will be staying with a Win 7 machine.

  14. Ken B:

    You can do a Settings search for “Choose how you open links” and click the option which says just that. It should allow you to choose what version of Internet Explorer you want to open whenever you launch IE or click a link. (though it seems IE needs to be the default browser for this option to work.)

  15. I don’t know what version of Windows 8 Brian Boyko was using, but he was so full of digested food that I could not watch the entire video.

    Granted, for the standard desktop Windows 8’s UI is like the working end of a vacuum hose. It seems awkward and requires more un-learning than learning. Right now it is somewhat piece-meal. Some programs still use the Windows 7 interface, while others use the new apps interface. This will smooth out as more programs are changed into apps for mobile use – not just by Microsoft. Of course, there are some programs that are totally impractical for mobile devices. Can you imagine a bus driver trying to use CAD while driving?

    Just look at the ads for new computer items. What do they show? Is it people doing computer intensive work? No! They show how easy it is to change covers, flip through social network sites, use a translator to seduce a foreign dog, sling pictures all over the place, etc. The closest I’ve seen is a child using Paint to express creativeness. Most of these are ads by hardware manufacturers, not the software companies. Non-productivity is the current trend. Emphasis is on staying in touch and looking “cool.”

    Windows 8 isn’t for everyone. Even some desktop, productive, power-house, users like it and have grown comfortable with it – I’m still learning. Others absolutely hate it. That’s a personal thing. Not everyone drives the same make and model car, uses the same brand/size microwave – some won’t even have one – or the same anything. Some people refuse to learn to drive a car with an automatic transmission; others won’t even try to drive a stick-shift. But I don’t see the product bashing in these areas as I do with Windows 8 – or saw with XP, Vista, Windows 7.

    Please don’t bad-mouth something just because you don’t like it. Just say what it is that you don’t like – even if it’s the whole thing – and leave it at that. Something you don’t like may be just the thing some one else does. You won’t find any posts here bad-mouthing those who don’t like Windows 8, so please show them the same courtesy.


    Please forgive me if I’m stepping out of bounds. I just get tired of single-minded people trying to force their way of thinking onto everyone else. I think more people need to read your article about accepting change.

    Not at all. Very well put, thank you.

  16. You can also close metro apps by moving your cursor to the top so it turns into a hand and then dragging to the bottom. I would guess on a touch or mobile it would be swiping from top to bottom. You can also move your mouse to the top left and see all the open apps and close them by right clicking.

  17. Very useful.
    Congratulations ‘Old Man’ on a great comment. I happen to love Windows 8 and can also be frustrated by some items but if you wish to embrace change then be prepared to change.
    Nice one ‘hokai’, I like that dragging to the bottom.

  18. Hi Leo:
    Each time I open Outlook in Windows 8 to check for incoming mail, the page is just a compressed ‘bar’ at the top of the window. I have to place the cursor on the bottom frame and drag it down to the bottom to make it full again. I’ve tried finding a way to stop it ‘shrinking’ every time I close Outlook, but can’t figure it out at all. I’m sure you can tell I’m not at all computer-savvy and apologise if my query seems a bit naïve, but I guess all ‘problems’ are relative to the user, whether we know little or much. Your help is very much appreciated. Thanks.

  19. Not really on the topic of the article, but: @barbh (and anyone else with non-full-screen windows opening in an inconvenient size or position on the desktop). First get the Window size and position where you want it. Then hold down the Ctrl key and click the X in the upper right corner to close. This makes Windows remember the current size and position as default.


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