Windows 8 has several annoyances, but perhaps one of the most notable is its requirement to run apps full screen, or in an ugly 2/3, 1/3 mode. When you’re used to being able to position and arrange application windows just as you like, this seems like a significant backward step: we have far less choice then we did before.
But ModernMix, the latest release from Stardock, changes all that. Because this simple $4.99 program allows you to run Windows 8 apps in a resizable window on your desktop, just like anything else.
Getting hold of the beta build is a little awkward right now, as you have to provide your email address and wait to be sent a link. But with that out of the way, the program downloads and installs quickly, before presenting you with a basic settings dialog. Just clear that for the moment (the default settings are fine), and you’re ready to go.
Now launch an app from the Start Screen, and it’ll appear in a window on the desktop, where you can use it as normal. The window can be freely resized and positioned to suit your needs, and has a regular Close button in the top right corner, so you can shut the app down like any other program.
The app also has a button on the taskbar, of course, and clicking there will bring it to the foreground. Right-click, though, and you’ll find an option to pin your favourite apps to the taskbar, so avoiding the need to switch to the Start screen at all. (And if you do launch an app that way, it’ll relaunch with whatever window size and position it had last time, so you only need set it up once.)
While this all worked very smoothly for us, it’s possible that some apps might not work so well in a window. Or perhaps you’ll just want to switch back to the Start screen for some other reason. Either way, pressing F10 while running an app will switch you from a desktop window to the start screen, and back again. Or, if you prefer to use the mouse, ModernMix adds a tiny overlay to the top right corner of the app which allows you to do the same thing.
And if you’re unhappy with any of this, a settings box makes it easy to change. You can turn off the window overlay, say; disable or change the F10 hotkey; or maybe set things up so that apps run full screen when launched from the Start screen, but in a window when launched from the desktop.
Despite being a beta, all this worked very well for us, with no noticeable problems or issues at all. And so, if you spend more time on the desktop than the Start screen, ModernMix comes highly recommended: it’s the best Windows 8 extension we’ve seen to date, and at $4.99 is an absolute bargain.