Microsoft

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.

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