How to use the free PowerToys FancyZones in Windows and why you should

How to use the free PowerToys FancyZones in Windows and why you should

Use predefined templates to easily position multiple windows on the screen

FancyZones in use on my laptop.

Lance Whitney

As I work with different apps in Windows, I often need to open and view several windows at the same time. The problem is that positioning and arranging multiple windows to appear on the screen together can be challenging. You may want to position a certain number of windows in a certain layout, but Windows itself won’t let you easily do that, not even with the built-in Snap feature. One utility I’ve found handy for this purpose is FancyZones, one of many tools that come with Microsoft’s free PowerToys.

What is FancyZones?

Designed for Windows 10 and 11, FancyZones lets you apply and create layouts with a set arrangement of rows, columns, or overlapping windows. You can trigger a predefined layout and then precisely move each window into a specific zone, so all the windows coexist peacefully.

FancyZones lets you define the number of zones for each layout along with the padding and spacing so you can fully control how and where they appear on the screen. You can also create your own customized layouts. FancyZones works the same in Windows 10 and 11. Here’s how.

Enable FancyZones

  1. If you don’t already have the latest version of PowerToys, download and install the PowerToysSetup.exe file from the program’s GitHub page.
  2. Open the PowerToys Settings window by double-clicking its System Tray icon.
  3. Select the entry for FancyZones and make sure its switch is turned on (Figure 1).
Access FancyZones from the PowerToys Settings screen

Set up FancyZones

In the Editor section, click the entry for Shortcut activation if you wish to define a different shortcut to trigger the tool; otherwise, leave this as is. The next entry for Launch editor on the display determines where the layout editor appears when you launch it. Click its dropdown box if you wish to change the location (Figure 2).

Configure FancyZones

Now let’s dive into the layout editor.

  1. Click the entry for Launch layout editor or simply press the defined shortcut. The layout editor appears with the built-in templates on display. Each layout is designed for a specific number of windows and a specific format, such as rows or columns (Figure 3).
Launch the layout editor

2. Reduce the size of the layout editor and then click each of the templates. Each template you select is displayed behind the layout editor, so you get a visual sense of how and where your open windows would appear. Notice that most of the layouts position each zone next to each other horizontally or vertically. The exception is the Focus layout, which applies overlapping windows (Figure 4).

Preview each layout

Use FancyZones

  1. To activate a specific template, double-click on it. For example, let’s pick one of the templates with three zones.
  2. Close or minimize the PowerToys Settings window if it’s visible.
  3. Open or move to a window you wish to add to the layout.
  4. Press the Shift key and drag the window by its title bar. You’ll then see the layout you selected.
  5. Drag the window into one of the zones, and it will fit into place.
  6. Do the same for a second window and again for a third window. You’ll now see all three windows snapped into each of the three zones (Figure 5).
Drag a window into each zone

You can manually reposition a specific window by dragging and dropping it by the title bar. But if you want to snap a window into a specific zone, remember to hold down the Shift key and then drag it to the right spot. Naturally, you can also minimize, maximize, or resize any window in a zone.

Also: How to snap your windows on MacOS and Windows

Tweak a layout

You can tweak the different default layouts.

  1. Press the defined shortcut to open the layout editor.
  2. Click the pencil icon for a layout you want to modify.
  3. First, you can increase or decrease the number of zones. You’re adding or subtracting the number of rows for a row layout. You’re adding or subtracting the number of columns for a column or grid layout. Click the field for Number of zones and either click the up or down arrow or type a specific number.
  4. To increase or decrease the space, or padding, around each zone, click in the field for Space around zones and click the up or down arrow or type a specific number. Turn off the switch completely to eliminate the spacing.
  5. Next, the setting for Highlight distance determine the amount of space between two zones until they snap or merge together. Again, click in the field and adjust the number by clicking the up or down arrow or typing a specific number.
  6. When done, click Save to save the changes to the template (Figure 6).
Edit the layout

Create a new layout

  1. If you’d like to create a new layout from scratch, click the button for Create new layout.
  2. Type a name for your layout.
  3. Choose Grid for stacked zones. Choose Canvas for overlapping zones.
  4. Click Create (Figure 7).
Create a new layout

5. The next screen is where you define the format of the new layout. By default, the layout starts with three columns.

6. As you move your mouse along the layout, notice the horizontal blue bar that appears. If you click on the spot where that bar is positioned, you’ll split the current zone into two separate zones. Hold down the Shift key, and the bar shifts from horizontal to vertical (Figure 8).

Create new zones

7. If you wish to remove a zone, essentially merging it with a zone next to it, hold down your mouse button and select the two zones you wish to merge. After the two zones are highlighted in blue, click the Go zones button (Figure 9).

Go zones

8. Next, drag and drop the border between any two zones to resize them.

9. When done, click Save & apply (Figure 10).

Go zones

Adjust FancyZones settings

Beyond editing and creating templates, you can adjust certain settings for FancyZones.

Return to the FancyZones screen in the PowerToys Settings window. Different sections organize the settings.

The section for Zones determines whether zones are activated when you hold the Shift key while dragging them and how the zones work across multiple monitors. The section for Windows controls how windows look and behave when you’re using FancyZones. The section for Layouts allows you to use layout-specific shortcuts in the editor.

Finally, the section for Excluded apps lets you add any apps that you don’t wish to include in FancyZones (Figure 11).

Adjust FancyZones settings

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.