Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Where did my Window go? The XP dual monitor lost window bug and workarounds

I use a corporate Dell laptop at work and at home. In both cases I use an external monitor, so it usually runs in a dual monitor configuration. The external monitors are somewhat different resolution, but most importantly they're physically configured differently.

At work the external monitor is to laptop left, at home it's to laptop right.

Ok, so now the answer to an old problem of mine is obvious to you.

For months I've had the experience of some application windows being inaccessible. I can only access them by right clicking on the app's taskbar icon and zooming it to full screen.

Very annoying.

Today it occurred to me to change the monitor settings by moving the icon representing my home display to the same side as my work display.

Window found. I dragged it back to my laptop monitor and then returned to my usual configuration.

XP Dual Monitor support inherits some very old designs that never considered the possibility of very high resolution displays; it's also very buggy at several levels.

There are apps that are supposed to help find lost windows. This review of one such app lists a technique that I will start using (emphases mine) ...
Recover Hidden & Off-screen Windows with this Simple Tip and Freeware Program ForceWindowVisible | Pro Reviewer (My Free Review)

... Sometimes Windows just disappear off of your computer monitor. There are several reasons why this may occur:

* Changing Screen Resolution
* Using a Single Monitor after using a Dual Monitor Display
* Corruption of Registry or “ini” file data
* Programming Errors
* Program Conflicts

... Sometimes you will see the “lost” window in the Taskbar and right clicking will allow you to carry out the normal windows functions. What has happened is that the coordinates the system has for the window (for whatever reason) make the system think the window should be displayed somewhere off of your actual monitor screen.

This standard Move function tip is available from many sites offering advice, hints and tips – this is what you need to do:

Right Clicking on the Taskbar Icon [for your app then] ... Click on Move and the move cursor will be displayed in the middle of the title bar for the window (although obviously you can’t see it on an offscreen window).

The important thing now is to press one of the cursor (up/down/right/left arrow) keys on the keyboard to attach the window to the mouse. If you don’t do this you can move the Move cursor onto the visible screen and click with the mouse but nothing happens ...

When you click on any one of the arrow keys it attaches the Window to the mouse cursor and you can drag it back to the visible area. Of course if you don’t know where it is and it is a long way off your actual screen this can be a bit of a hit and miss process.

Actually when you hit the arrow key it also moves the window in the direction of the arrow so you can use the arrows to get the window back but this can be even more long winded and frustrating if you don’t know where the window is in relation to your screen.

Using ForceWindowsVisible

This is a very simple, very small portable executable file which will list all the windows currently created on your PC by the operating system and the programs you are running....
I'm not going to install the ForceWindowsVisible app (corporate XP desktops are very unstable these days, I don't like to add new things), but it's good to know I'm not alone.

I hope Windows 7 will do better. OS X, of course, manages this stuff very well.

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