Toolbox for Windows 8: View multiple apps on the same screen

November 6, 2012 – 07:53 by in Tips Print Share No Comment

The Windows 8 Modern UI looks great at first, but start using it and you’ll soon notice a problem. No matter how large your display, there’s no longer any way to view and access more than two apps at any one time. The old ability to organise windows more or less as you like simply no longer applies in the app world.

If this feels like a step backwards to you, though, help is at hand in the shape of Toolbox for Windows 8, an interesting free app which provides 9 tools of its own, and allows you to arrange and use up to 6 of them on the screen at any one time.

The browser includes a browser, Facebook client and weather app. A Notifier tool warns you of upcoming events; Doodle is a very simple drawing app; there’s a voice notes applet and unit conversion tool, and you get a clock and calculator thrown in for good measure.

Forget task switching - Toolbox for Windows 8 lets you access up to 6 of its apps on the same screen

Some of these apps are, well, limited. To put it politely. But the real point here isn’t as much as the applications themselves, as the ability to have up to six of these running and displayed on the screen at any one time, arranged more or less as you like. And Toolbox can even save these layouts (which it calls “toolsets”) for easy reloading later.

The program comes with some sample layouts to help you get started. So loading “Brainstorming”, for instance, will launch and display the browser, voice notes and Doodle apps, ready for a research session. While “Meeting” runs and displays the Clock, Calculator, Doodle, Notifier, and Voice Notes apps, so again they’re all accessible on the same screen.

You’re not restricted to running only one instance of an app, though. The “World Travel” toolset, for example, opens three copies each of the Clock and Weather apps, each pair set to a different city (Seattle, Brooklyn and Berlin). While “In the News” opens four browser windows, each with their own custom news search (“US News”, “Local news” and so on).

And of course you’re free to customise every detail of these: the apps, their parameters (browser starting page, weather city and so on), the layouts themselves, and more.

There are also a few issues here. Some of the apps are a little too basic, and it really needs a text editor. Toolbox for Windows 8 does offer considerably more flexibility in your app layout than Microsoft have so far managed, though, and that alone will make it an essential download for many.

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