Skip to main content

Using Windows 8 and the Metro Interface

Using Metro and desktop apps side by side

When you run desktop and Metro apps at the same time, you can see one Metro app and either the desktop, or one maximized desktop, app side by side – one in a full-size window and one in a snap window.

When you put desktop and Metro apps side by side, the main difference you see is that the Metro apps don’t have the Windows desktop around them, so you get more space on screen for the app itself. That’s not jarring any more than having an Office 2010 application with the ribbon interface, side by side with Chrome’s minimal interface or Photoshop’s palettes and toolbars on screen at once.

With Aero Snap and Metro Snap you can see three windows easily.

With Aero Snap and Metro Snap you can see three windows easily.

If you put the desktop in the larger window, it’s like having a 4:3 ratio screen – like an old monitor rather than a widescreen. Most Windows programs were written for those squarer screens so toolbars and menus still fit. And you can get three programs neatly on screen together using Aero Snap to fit two desktop apps side by side, next to a Metro app.

When you put the desktop in the thinner ‘snap’ window, even if there’s only one program running, you don’t get just that application in the window. Instead you see thumbnails for all the desktop apps that are running. This is very useful on a tablet because you can tap a thumbnail to open that application and make the window larger. Opening apps the same way on a PC with a mouse is still moderately useful but it would be nice to have the choice of this showing a single application instead.

When the desktop is the snap window you get these thumbnails.

When the desktop is the snap window you get these thumbnails.

No matter how many of them you have running, desktop apps carry on running in the background as normal. At this point that means everything works the way you expect. When the new Connected Standby PCs are on sale, desktop apps don’t get to stay updated during standby the way Metro apps can, but that’s just like hibernating your PC today.