How To Keep a Window Always On Top in Windows 10
No operating system has every feature, but there’s one essential feature missing from Windows 10: the ability to lock windows in the “top layer” of your desktop, displayed over everything else.
This feature is useful in many ways, from copying information manually between windows, to keeping content open when you need it on your screen, or keeping your video chat open while working on a project. You can watch a movie in the background of your computer while working on other projects, or you can keep your file browser on top of your web browser or word processor to always have access to your content.
No matter how you want to work, keeping windows on top is essential to boosting productivity. Unfortunately, Windows 10 excludes that feature, but you can easily add it to your PC using third-party software. For Mac users, see how to keep a window on top in MacOS.
How Do I Force a Window to Stay On Top in Windows 10?
Option #1: Use The Always on Top App
Always On Top is a small, third-party tool that automatically configures your desktop to keep a single-window on top of others. If you want to pin a Window to the top layer of your screen so that you can focus on that window, then this app is a great choice.
Always on Top uses a straightforward script that configures and prioritizes any window you want, and it allows you to change or remove this prioritization with the press of a button.
The app is lightweight, easy to use, and portable since the file is entirely self-contained within a zipped folder. To grab Always On Top, you’ll want to head over to this site to download the AlwaysOnTop.ahk script file.
Once the file gets unzipped, you’ll see the application and a ReadMe file that tells you everything you need to know about the program.
As we mentioned, Always On Top is a portable application, which means nothing needs to be installed or programmed on your computer.
Just unzip the file and run the application to open it on your PC.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll find that Always On Top is running in your hidden icons tray, which you can preview by clicking on the small caret icon (inverted V) to the right of your taskbar.
This active icon means the program is officially running on your computer, and you can use the app as you wish. The ReadMe file has instructions on how to designate a specific application to always show on top.
With Always on Top running, select the window that you want “pinned” to the top layer of your PC’s screen, and then press ‘Ctrl+ [Space]’ to keep it pinned to the top.
That’s it—there’s no designation or anything that appears on the window, no noises to announce something got pinned. If you click off into another window or application, you’ll find the app you selected on your desktop doesn’t fade behind your new window, unless you minimize it.
The app is lightweight and runs well in the background and is entirely closeable with just the touch of a button.
If you tried the Always On Top application and it didn’t work well for you, or if you’re looking for something a little different, here are two additional options you might want to check out.
Option #2: Use AutoHotKey with Custom Scripting
AutoHotkey is a free, open-source (GNU GPLv2) program that allows you to write custom scripts or use plugin scripts from other people to help you create macros on your computer.
The app is widely used and highly recommended, and its uses range from gaming to changing the direction of your mouse scroll.
If you’re looking to pin windows to your desktop, you can do so easily with AutoHotkey, although it’s worth noting that you’ll have to create the script by writing code manually. If you’re looking for something that comes prewritten, we would suggest sticking to the Always On Top application, which effectively comes as a pre-packaged AutoHotkey script. Some more technically inclined Windows users might prefer the customized scripting options available with AutoHotkey.
Here are the steps on how to get going with AutoHotkey:
Download and install AutoHotkey if you don’t have it already.
Place the script in a folder on your PC’s hard drive (choose one that won’t be moved or deleted).
Right-click to select File -> Edit Script.
Type or paste the following: “^SPACE:: Winset, Alwaysontop, A” without the quotes and exactly as shown.
The “^” character represents the Ctrl key, and “SPACE” represents the space bar, creating a Ctrl + [Space] hotkey. You can also use “#” to represent the Windows key if preferred. Click Save.
Right-click and select ‘File -> Reload Script‘ to run.
Auto Hotkey does provide more customization than you’d otherwise get from Always On Top, but it’s also more work to use on your PC.
Option #3: Use DeskPins
DeskPins has been around for years, since the days of Windows XP, and it still gets used today to place window pins on the PC. As a Free or Open Source Software (FOSS) program, you can easily use DeskPins on any computer. Here’s how to use it.
- Download and install Deskpins using the Windows 10-specific installer
- Double-click or right-click and select ‘Open‘ to run the program on your computer.
- Deskpins works a little bit differently than the script versions of Always On Top and AutoHotkey. Click the icon in your taskbar, and the mouse icon turns into a small, red pin.
- Instead of using a keyboard shortcut, you’ll need to pin your program by clicking on the top portion of a desktop window.
- A small red pin icon will appear in the title bar of the pinned window to show its status.
- To unpin the window, click the pin icon to turn the option off.
- Optional: You can still minimize and maximize the window when desired without losing the window’s “always-on-top” status.
DeskPins is just as easy to use as you might imagine, but there are two things you should be aware of when using it.
First, the program may not function on computers under administrative control, such as work or school PCs. Talk to your employer’s or school’s help desk or IT department for assistance on this matter, as they may have policies on what is permitted and whether or not they install it or let you handle it.
Second, the visual indicator is helpful, but for some, a keyboard shortcut is all they need to access this useful utility.
Ultimately, these three options represent the best methods for helping productivity and efficiency by pinning a window to the foreground in Windows 10.
Whether you’re looking to keep a video playing in the background, or you need to watch a file transfer while editing a photo in Photoshop, it’s super easy to use these programs to help you keep track of your content on the app.