Sometimes you want to keep an app window on top of all other apps to view it all the time. For example, you may want to check the sports score from your favorite app and want to keep it on top till the game ends. Similarly, you may want to type on a Word document while a YouTube video is playing in Edge browser in the background. In this article, we will explain how you can keep a single or multiple apps always on top in Windows 11 computer.
Picture in Picture, Sticky Notes and Always on Top
Before we proceed, it is better you understand these stuffs.
- There is a free Sticky Notes app comes with Windows which you can use for taking notes. However, this does not even allow to keep the note on top of other apps. You can simply create notes and use like any other app.
- Picture in picture (PiP) mode allows to keep an app or video in a small window on top of other apps. PiP is a display only mode which means you can only view the content and clicking on the pinned item/app will expand it to open like a normal app. It works well with video streaming websites like YouTube. You can keep the video on top of display and work on any other app while the video is playing.
- Always on top means, you can keep a single or multiple apps top of the visible screen layout. The top app will continue to float even when you use Alt + Tab to switch apps. The difference between always on top and PiP is that you can work with an app while using always on top which is not possible with PiP mode. For example, you can pin a Notepad window on top of all other apps and type on it.
Keep Apps Always on Top in Windows 11
Since Windows does not offer any default functions, you need to rely on third-party apps to achieve this. Here we will explain two different apps to keep any window on top of other applications.
- Microsoft PowerToys for using always on top feature.
- WindowTop app for using both picture in picture mode as well as always on top features.
1. Microsoft PowerToys Always On Top
PowerToys is a completely free and official app from Microsoft to power up your computer. It comes with packaged tools and Always On Top is one of its modules that you can enable on demand.
- Click Microsoft Store icon in your taskbar, otherwise use Windows Search and open the Store app.
- Search for “powertoys” and install Microsoft PowerToys apps on your computer.
- After successful installation, you can find “PowerToys (Preview)” app in the Start menu app list. Or use the search again to open PowerToys app.
- Go to “Always On Top” option from the sidebar and turn on the switch against “Enable Always On Top” option.
Using Always On Top
Select any app window and press the default keyboard shortcut keys “Win + Control + T” to activate always on top function. The selected app will be pinned to top of the screen. Selecting apps from taskbar or switch using “Win/Alt + Tab” keys will not have any impact on pinned app. However, you can resize or move the pinned app to adjust the visibility on the screen. It is possible to pin multiple apps using Always On Top feature. Simply select each app and press the keyboard shortcut to activate always on top.
When you want to deactivate always on top, select the app and press the same “Win + Control + T” shortcut keys. Alternatively, you can close the top app to view all other windows behind.
Customizing Always On Top Settings
You can customize the Always On Top settings in the PowerToys app.
- Activation shortcut – if you do not like to use the default keyboard shortcut keys, click on the pencil icon showing next to the keys. This will open a pop-up where you can assign a new shortcut to activate always on top function. Though you can use any alphanumeric keys in the shortcut combination, it must start with Windows, Control, Alt or Shift key. You can also disable the always on top feature when gaming mode is on so that you can play games without pinned apps.
- Appearance & behavior – under this section, you can enable the border and set its thickness to show around the pinned apps. The border will be applied using Windows default color mode which is generally in blue color. You can change this to custom color mode and select your favorite color for the border using a color picker. You can also add rounded corners to the borders and play a sound when enabling/disabling always on top.
- Excluded apps – if you do not want to use always on top for a specific app, add the app name in the exclusion list. For example, when you add Outlook in the text box, the keyboard shortcuts to activate always on top will not work when you use Outlook app.
2. Using WindowTop App
Though PowerToys Always On Top is a brilliant feature, it does not offer picture in picture mode. If you want to have both options, then you can rely on WindowTop app. This is a free app with limited features which is sufficient to use always on top and PiP mode. The premium app will cost you $14.99 to get additional features like anchors, shrink and applying transparency with glass mode. You can also use the 30 days trial period to test the premium features if you intend to purchase the app. Go to Microsoft Store and install the WindowTop app.
When you open the app for the first time, you will see an activation warning and the permissions setup. When asked, select “No” to disable the app launching with Windows startup. This means, you need to manually open the app whenever needed.
The app will take you through a setup assistant to choose the shortcut keys and customize the settings. You can change the highlighting color, border width, hot keys, enable/disable toolbar and set opacity level. Unfortunately, you will see too many screens, so we recommend you simply clicking on “Close” button to quit the assistant.
The app will add the icon in taskbar system tray, click on it and customize the settings if required. This will be easier than going through the annoying setup assistant screens.
Using Always on Top and PiP Mode
Click on the taskbar icon and go to “Settings > Configure HotKeys” menu. Here you can view all the keyboard shortcuts for the app and change them if required. The two important hot keys are:
- Alt + Z – set/unset window on top
- Alt + Q – enable/disable PiP mode
Select any window that you want to keep on float and press “Alt + Z” shortcut keys. This will instantly pin the window on top and highlight it with red color border. You can pin multiple windows by selecting and pressing the hot keys. Press the same hot keys to deactivate the floating app or simply close the app.
For activating PiP mode, select a window and press “Alt + Q” shortcut keys. As mentioned, PiP mode will not have any interaction with the pinned app. Clicking on the pinned app will open it and deactivate the floating.
If you are not convenient in using the hot keys, WindowTop app offers a toolbar option also. By default, the toolbar will show as a small green arrow at the center of the title bar on apps when you hover the mouse over. If you are not seeing the toolbar, click the app icon in taskbar and uncheck “Disable toolbar menu” option under “Settings” menu. You can click on the small green arrow and select PiP, set top or adjust the opacity.
In our opinion, PowerToys Always On Top is the best option to keep apps always on top in Windows 11 computer. This is a completely free app and works seamlessly as it is from official Microsoft team. However, PowerToys does not offer picture in picture mode for apps. If you want to use both always on top and picture in picture mode, then WindowTop is the app for you.
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