Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Fixing off-screen XP windows in the big display world

This is an ancient tip, probably well known to many, but I’ve had to rediscover it a few times.

Big monitors break the display model used by XP apps. I presume this was fixed in Windows 7 and I don’t think it was ever broken in OS X, but I run into it quite a bit. The usual symptom is that I’ve moved my laptop between displays, especially big displays like my 27” i5 iMac (used with my Dell laptop as a display), and app windows are partly off-screen. In particular, the control surfaces (top bar, bottom bar) may be inaccessible, so I can’t resize or move the window.

All kinds of apps are prone to this, including Office 2007.

I’m sure there’s a utility to fix this [1], but there are two things that usually work for me:

  • If the app supports multiple windows (Office 2007), then open another window. Then, right click the app name the Taskbar and choose “tile”. This brings all the windows into view. (Note that you need more than one app window before you can tile.)
  • Change the display resolution transiently to 1024x768. The open windows usually move back into the screen. Resize them, then change back.

[1] Long ago there were many sources for good XP utilities like this. Now those sources seem to have been swamped by spam sites, and the security risks are very high. These utility distribution sites never had much of a business model unfortunately. It’s interesting to compare this to the Apple App Store distribution model.

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