How To Keep a Window Always On Top in Windows 10
Windows 10 is widely regarded as the best consumer version of Windows ever released. While some prior releases of Microsoft’s desktop operating system have been received with fair amounts of criticism, Windows 10 is a well-built OS that receives both security patches and major updates on a regular basis, helping to keep the “final” version of Windows stronger than ever, just four years after its launch.
One of the things driving this popularity is the productivity features that Windows 10 makes available. Features like Timeline help to keep your productivity always flowing, from the ability to view recently-opened documents to syncing files between your computer and your smartphone. Snap has been available since Windows Vista, allowing you to easily split-screen the apps on your computer, or to resize them quickly in any shape you want. Action Center helps you to stay focused on whatever you might be working on at any given moment, giving you updates on emails, security installations, and much more. Meanwhile, Cortana allows you to launch your actions quickly and succinctly with just your voice, while also providing answers to every query you could ever dream of, and more.
No operating system has every feature, however, and there’s one feature missing from Windows 10: the ability to lock windows into being the “top layer” of your desktop, displayed over everything else. This is useful in a plethora of ways, from copying information manually between windows, to keeping content open when you need it on your screen. You can watch a movie in the background of your computer while working on other projects, or you can simply keep your file browser on top of your web browser or word processor to always have access to your content. However you want to work, being able to keep your programs on the front of your computer is a massively important tool in your arsenal of computing assistants. Unfortunately, that ability isn’t in Windows 10 proper, but you can easily add it to your PC with third-party software. Let’s take a look at three of our favorites.
Always On Top: The Best, Easiest Option
Our favorite way to access this functionality is to use Always On Top, a small third-party tool that automatically configures your desktop to keep a single window on top of the program. It uses a dead-simple script to allow you to configure what window you want prioritized, and allows you to change or remove this prioritization with the press of a button. It’s lightweight, easy to use, and portable, since the file is completely self-contained in a zipped folder. Let’s take a look at this must-have utility for windows.
To grab Always On Top, you’ll want to head over to this site to download the zipped folder. Once the file is unzipped, you’ll see the application and a ReadMe file that will tell 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 computer.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll find that Always On top is now running in your hidden icons tray, which you can preview by clicking on the small arrow to the right of your taskbar. The icon is marked with “DI,” using white text on a black backdrop; it’s easy to find. This means the program is properly running on your computer, and you can use the app as you wish. The ReadMe file has the instructions on how to designate a specific application as the one you want to use Always On Top. With that application running, simply select the window you want to be pinned to the top of the page, and select Ctrl+ [Space] to keep it pinned to your computer. That’s it—there’s no designation or anything that appears on the window, no noises to announce something’s been pinned. But, if you click off into another window or application, you’ll find the app you had selected on your desktop doesn’t fade behind your new window, instead staying open unless purposefully minimized.
And really, that’s all there is to it. The script is automatically run in the background, and that quick keyboard shortcut is easy to use to improve your productivity in just a moment. The app is lightweight and runs well in the background, and can be closed completely with just a touch of a button right from with your desktop at the bottom of the taskbar. Always On Top is one of our favorite utilities on Windows, and well recommended for anyone who wants a simple tool for a simple job.
No piece of software is without its fair share of flaws, and some users may find that they need more or less options depending on what they like in a hardware platform. If you tried out Always On Top and it didn’t work well for you, or of you’re just looking for something a little different, here are two additional options you might want to check out.
AutoHotkey is, essentially, a free program that allows you to write your own scripts, or to plug in scripts from others, that helps you to create macros on your computer. It’s a program used and recommended widely on the internet, for uses ranging 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 manually create the script by writing code. It’s pretty easy to do, but if you’re looking for something that comes prewritten, we would suggest sticking to the easier Always On Top, which effectively comes as a pre-packaged AutoHotkey script. Regardless, here’s the steps on how to do it:
- Download and install AutoHotkey if you don’t have it already.
- Open the program and select File, Edit Script.
- Type or paste ‘^SPACE:: Winset, Alwaysontop, , A’ and click Save.
- Select File and Reload Script in AutoHotKey to run.
The script uses the same Ctrl + [Space] command as we saw with Always On Top to prioritize one window over the others on your desktop. You can, however, change it to something else by changing ‘^SPACE’. For example, change it to ‘#q’ to change the key to Windows key + Q. This does provide more customization than you’d otherwise get from Always On Top, but it’s also more work to use on your PC.
DeskPins has been around for years, since the days of Windows XP, and is still used to make it easy to place your pins on your computer. As a free and open source program, you can easily use DeskPins on any computer, and it works nearly identically to what we’ve come to expect from apps like Always On Top. To start, download and install Deskpins using the Windows 10-specific installer and run the program on your computer. With DeskPins, the utility actually works a little bit differently than the script versions of Always On Top and AutoHotkey. Click the icon in your taskbar and look for your mouse to turn int a small 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 pinned window at the top of the page. To unpin the window, simply click this icon to turn it off.
DeskPins’ is just as easy to use as you might imagine most other programs like this, but there’s two things you should be aware of. First, the need to install the program means it may not work properly on some work computers, especially those with limits on what can and can’t be run. Second, the visual indicator is nice, but for some, an easy keyboard shortcut is all they need to access this useful utility.
Ultimately, these three options represent the best in helping your productivity or entertainment on your Windows computer. Whether you’re looking to keep 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.