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Get the Aero Snap feature for almost any version of Windows

Greg Shultz introduces you to AquaSnap and shows you how you can use it to bring the new Aero features to Windows XP and Vista.

Several weeks ago, I presented a short tip entitled Disable Snap in Windows 7. As you probably know, Snap is a new windows management feature in Microsoft Windows 7 that allows you to arrange open windows, including maximizing and resizing, just by dragging and dropping a window to different edges of the screen. When a window is dragged to the correct position, a ripple effect will emanate from the cursor and you'll see an animated outline of the window instantly appear in its new position. As soon as you release the mouse button, the window will snap to that position.

While many of us think that Snap is an awesome feature (myself included), many others think that it is annoying, so I showed you how to quickly and easily disable Snap. In that article's Discussion area, the folks who disliked Snap applauded my tip. However, there were also many folks who chimed in that they really liked Snap and lauded its benefits.

In addition to hearing from Windows 7 users who liked Snap, I also heard from many Windows XP and Windows Vista users who have used Snap in Windows 7 and wished that there was a Snap feature for the older Windows operating systems.

Well, fortunately for all of us (XP, Vista, and 7 users), the folks at Nurgo Software have developed a very cool piece of software called AquaSnap that brings the new Aero Snap and Shake features from Windows 7 to Windows XP and Windows Vista for free. You can even use it in Windows 2000.

And, best of all, if you are using Windows 7 and wish you had more control over the Snap feature, you'll be glad to know that you can install and use AquaSnap to fine-tune the new Aero features in Windows 7!

In this edition of the Windows Desktop Report, I'll introduce you to AquaSnap and show you how you can use it to bring the new Aero features to Windows XP and Windows Vista. As I do, I'll explain how you can use the controls in AquaSnap to fine-tune Snap in Windows 7.

This blog post is also available as a TechRepublic Gallery and TechRepublic download.

Getting AquaSnap

You can download AquaSnap from the Nurgo Software site or directly from the TechRepublic Software Library. Once you download AquaSnap, which comes as a MSI (Windows Installer Package) file, installation is a snap using the Setup Wizard, shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Once you double-click on the MSI file, you'll immediately see the Setup Wizard.
After the installation is complete, you'll find the AquaSnap icon in the Notification area. To get started, just right-click on that icon and select the Settings command, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Click the Settings command to get started.

Configuring AquaSnap

When you first launch AquaSnap, you'll see the General tab, shown in Figure C, which allows you to choose how you want to access the tool. By default, AquaSnap is configured to start with Windows and display an icon in the Notification area. I found these settings make it easy to work with AquaSnap.

Figure C

By default, AquaSnap is configured to start with Windows and display an icon in the Notification area.
When you access the AquaSnap tab, you'll see that the default Snapping Mode setting is at the AquaSnap (advanced) level, as shown in Figure D, which is a step above and beyond Windows 7's default of a three-position Snap. As you may know, in Windows 7, you can maximize a window by clicking and dragging its title bar to the top of the screen. To position a window on half of the screen, just click and drag the title bar toward the left or right side of the screen.

Figure D

The AquaSnap (advanced) level is a step above and beyond Windows 7's default three-position Snap.

As you can see in the preview monitor, the AquaSnap (advanced) level provides you an eight-position Snap. You can drag a window's title bar to any of the four corners to resize the window to a quarter of the screen, and in addition to positioning a window on either the left or right half of the screen, you can also drag a window to the top or bottom and get a horizontal-sized window.

If you drop down to the AquaSnap (simple) level, you get four-position Snap (top, bottom, left, and right). You can also choose AeroSnap to get Windows 7's default of a three-position Snap, or you can select the Disabled option to completely eliminate Snap altogether. Of course, with the Custom option, you get to choose how you want AquaSnap to work.

On the AquaStretch tab, shown in Figure E, you can configure how you want to be able to stretch a window. The default AquaStretch allows you to stretch a window simply by double-clicking the edge of a window.

Figure E

The default AquaStretch allows you to stretch a window simply by double-clicking the edge of a window.
On the AquaShake tab, shown in Figure F, you can configure how Shake feature works. The AquaShake setting makes the window you shake always stay on top, like Windows Task Manager, which some may like, but I prefer the standard AeroShake setting. Just click the title bar of the window you want to work with and while holding the mouse button down, shake the window back and forth quickly to minimize all the open windows except the one that you are shaking.

Figure F

On the AquaShake tab, you can configure how the Shake feature works.
The AquaGlass setting allows you to make any window that you are dragging become transparent so that you can easily see any windows underneath. As you can see in Figure G, you can set to opacity using a slider bar.

Figure G

The AquaGlass setting allows you to make any window that you are dragging become transparent.
On the Appearance tab, you can configure how you want AquaSnap's visual cues to work, as shown in Figure H.

Figure H

The Appearance tab allows you to configure how you want AquaSnap's visual cues to work.
When you drag a window to a Snap point, a snap indicator will appear and let you know the location in which the window will snap. By enabling and configuring the preview rectangle, you can further determine the location in which the window will snap by configuring what is essentially a shadow. You can see AquaSnap's visual cues on a Windows 7 system in Figure I.

Figure I

AquaSnap's visual cues can include both the Snap indicator and the preview rectangle.

What's your take?

Have you wished for a Snap feature in Windows XP or Windows Vista? Have you wished that you had more control over Snap in Windows 7? Do you think that AquaSnap will take care of your needs? As always, if you have comments or information to share about this topic, please take a moment to drop by the TechRepublic Community Forums and let us hear from you.

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About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

33 comments
Gis Bun
Gis Bun

Let's see. Add a bit wore to use resources eaten up already by Windows and everything else that has already been installed. No thanks.

gueibor
gueibor

I'm still on XP and I typically need at least 3 windows open, so this is a real time saver for me. Verry goot indeet!

oliviathefirst
oliviathefirst

I was just wishing, today, that I had it on my big screen Win XP pc. Thanks. I'll try it right now.

bblackmoor
bblackmoor

As anyone who has used any Linux desktop can tell you (Linux has had a "snap to edge" feature for a very long time), the implementation in Windows 7 is woefully inadequate, and wrong-headed in its implementation. A much better implementation of "snap to edge" is available with the free software, allSnap. http://ivanheckman.com/allsnap/ allSnap works with win9x, NT, 2000, XP, Vista, and Windows 7.

IndianaTux
IndianaTux

One question before I try it - how is the multiple-monitor\extended desktop support? The only problem I have with AeroSnap in Win7 is it doesn't work on the "soft" edge of an extended desktop. On my desk I have my external monitor on the left and my laptop on the right, configured with extended desktop and external as primary. I mainly work on the external and keep Outlook open on the laptop screen. I can snap things to the left side of the external, but not the right, because naturally, windows wants to let me drag the item to the laptop screen. Assuming AquaSnap would behave the same. Would be very useful when working on documents and/or writing code if I could, say, CTRL-drag to the right of my external and snap to the right side.

geo
geo

When I tried it with Vista all it would do is stretch the window from where it was to the edge of the screen regardless of settings. It was a bear to uninstall,first having to shut down all programs, then a reboot required. Not for me!

awgiedawgie
awgiedawgie

I haven't previewed Windows 7 yet, but from everything I've read, I think I'll be quite pleased. As for the Snap, I had a video card back in the Windows 98 era that had a feature I really liked where you could "throw" a window toward the edge of the screen with the mouse, and it would automatically attach itself to that edge. It looks like Snap is the all-grown-up version of that concept, with more features and options.

seanferd
seanferd

I'll have to see if it really suits any need I have. Something different, which I do rather like, is Win32WM, which provides some X-style window management options.

dalefogden
dalefogden

What I'd like is a feature that ZDNet's Button Boogie had. Position windows based on the application so that it always opens where I want it to open, not where Windoze thinks it should open. It works with XP but not with Vidta on Win7

Slayer_
Slayer_

Sadly it only snaps when your mouse reaches the end of the screen, not the window, so that is not as helpful. But, the move transparency, sounds like a great idea, but it seems to be broken. After I move a window, it doesn't always remove the transparency. It is possible that in conflicts with Dexpot.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Do you use the Windows 7 Snap feature? Would you like to have the Snap feature available in Windows XP? Will you try AquaSnap?

bblackmoor
bblackmoor

"Snap" is only annoying because Windows does it wrong. Having a window abruptly maximize or tile just because you happen to be near an edge of the screen is ridiculously poor user interface design. Linux (for the better part of a decade) and allSnap for Windows do what "snap" is *supposed* to do: edge of windows stick to edges of windows.

cunnind
cunnind

Sounds good but how much power does it take out of the OS's resources?

DaveLissa
DaveLissa

Allsnap works, and I like the fact that it will stop part of a window from going off the screen, but it doesn't expand like Aero and Aquasnap do.

Slayer_
Slayer_

If you do just have your desktop on a duel view, it works fine. If you have your desktop on Span, it does not.

dogknees
dogknees

In what those options are having never used X. Could you list a few? Thanks

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

I discovered an update to the program I believe that you are referring to called Button Boogie 2 on the PC Mag Download page http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,1901633,00.asp It is listed as version: 2.1.1 and updated on September 21, 2007 and supporting Windows 2000, XP, and Vista. In addition to proviing all sorts of Taskbar manament features, it lists window management "In the latest version you can also enter specific coordinates for the window position, dimensions for the width and height, and the window state." I haven't downloaded this program, so can't speak to its compatility or stability in Windows 7, but it's there if you are interested. Please let us know about your experience, if you do decide to use it.

seanferd
seanferd

that the "Remember window size and position" function of Explorer doesn't cover that. But I never really played with 'Snap in the win 7 beta, so I don't know whether 'Snap is covered by this configuration choice or not. Note: If you are wiping the window size and position cache with something like CCleaner, it will never work.

BrianScattergood
BrianScattergood

I just had problems downloading the AquaSnap software via TechRepublic's links. I went to http://www.nurgo-software.com/products/aquasnap and managed to download it from there. I haven't tried it yet, so I don't know if I've wasted my time, given the blogs titles that I've seen regarding this software. Much love!

Just J-22513639993676671791495310609907
Just J-22513639993676671791495310609907

I tried Aquasnap and found it 'alright'. Great that it brought the snap feature to Vista (and other OS's, but Vista in my case). I actually prefer AeroSnap though. Why? AquaSnap is far far more customisable than my personal choice, but....and it's a big but: I've noticed (Unless it's been fixed since I tried it) that it doesn't always snap the window back to it's original size when you un-snap it. Sometimes, it just drags back out to the desktop the same size as the snapped version. It snaps-in perfectly well, and snaps-out perfectly well too....when it wants to. When it doesn't want to, it's a major annoyance. AeroSnap it is then! Not as customisable, but perfect snapping every time. (Even the beta options seem stable!)

bblackmoor
bblackmoor

"Expanding" is unnecessary -- that's the "wrong-headed" part of the Aero Snap implementation. Edges of windows should stick to edges of windows: no more, and no less. If you want to tile windows side by side, there is already a command to do that. If you want to stack windows vertically, there is already a command to do that. Having a window abruptly change its size just because you moved it near an edge of the screen is absurd and horrendous. Beyond useless.

DaveLissa
DaveLissa

..not that great if the monitors are of different sizes, and as someone said, if you maximize and then try to return to previous size, it has Amnesia :-(

seanferd
seanferd

Alt-drag: Drag the window by alt+left clicking anywhere on the window. No need to grab the title bar. Especially useful against the odd program which produces a modal dialog box that extends above and below the screen edges. Alt-background: Send window to background with alt+middle click. Even windows you have set to be always on top. I use Snap occasionally. The rest are resizing, maximize, and minimize functions. Uses about 3.6 Mb in memory. http://virtuawin.sourceforge.net/modules.php It is actually a standalone application, but it is listed as a module for a virtual desktop manager. The most recent code is from 2002, and I've never tried it on Vista or 7.

awgiedawgie
awgiedawgie

Unfortunately, that download is available only to subscribers to PCMag's library, or by paying $7.97 for a single download. The program looks nice enough, but frankly, I'm not interested enough to pay that much just to see if I'll like it.

dogknees
dogknees

There are a few apps that just won't behave under this setting. Several MS apps and tools are that way. Also useful when you open multiple copies of the same app. You can't get it to remember that the first time I open IE I want it at the laft, and the second one goes to the right. Now that would be really useful. Being able to setup rules that determine where to open based on what is already open and where it is. This is the sort of richness I've been waiting for 20 years from operating systems. The ability to make them behave in a complex way that can be optimized to suit the individuals patterns of use.

scooter
scooter

I couldn't get anywhere on either site. THANKS!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

They ignored any 'remember windows size and position' settings or options. There may be a reliable way to predict the size and position IE opens, or to get it to open maximized, but danged if I've figured it out yet. Hey, MS, is it too much to ask that your own apps play by your rules? Silly me...

seanferd
seanferd

Instead, we get Shake. Oh well.

ederkley
ederkley

Click on the "AquaSnap 1.3 (Windows)" link just seems to change the ad for various whitepapers that appears above it :P Using IE8, javascript enabled...