Are full screen apps on Windows 10X a good idea?

Windows 10x Mock Laptop Office
Windows 10x Mock Laptop Office (Image credit: Daniel Rubino/Windows Central)

An interesting design choice that Microsoft is making with Windows 10X is one where all apps run in full-screen, just like Windows 8. If you've tried the public build released to developers, you'll know that you cannot make an app run in a normal window. The button to restore a window down has been outright removed from the title bar. It's just the close and minimize buttons on Windows 10X.

Microsoft's thinking behind this decision makes some sense, as many Windows 10X devices will have small screens. Surface Neo, for example, has two 9-inch displays. A 9-inch screen is arguably too small to make any real use of a windowed app experience; you're going to want to use them in full screen anyway at this screen size.

But on devices larger than 9-inches, such as the 13-inch Lenovo Foldable that will also run Windows 10X, windowed apps makes more sense. Perhaps not when in use as a tablet, but if you're utilizing that full 13-inch display with a keyboard and mouse, being able to activate a windowed mode would make a lot of sense.

The public build of Windows 10X doesn't appear to have a way to run apps in cascading windows, which has caused concern for quite a few people. Many are worried that Microsoft is going down the Windows 8 route of making apps run full screen only, but I don't think that's entirely the case here.

Full-screen for small devices

Surface Neo unveiling

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

I do think that Microsoft will force apps to run full screen on devices with small screens, but I hear that devices with screens larger than 13-inches will be able to manipulate apps in cascading windows, just like regular Windows 10. It's not enabled in the public build Microsoft has released to developers yet, but there are internal builds where this functionality does work.

Microsoft is building this support because Windows 10X is an operating system for more than just dual-screen PCs. It can run on any kind of PC, including traditional laptops and new foldable PCs with large displays. We come back to the foldable Lenovo ThinkPad, being a 13-inch foldable with Windows 10X. 13-inches is large enough to make real use of a windowed app environment.

Microsoft is adopting the Windows 8 method of full-screen apps, but only on devices where it makes sense.

But even then, devices that are smaller than 13-inches with Windows 10X can be docked to an external display, just like a regular PC. Docking a Surface Neo to a 24-inch display would warrant being able to run apps in cascading windows, so it's reasonable to assume that windowed app support will be there in some capacity even on Surface Neo. It just won't available to the user directly on the device if the screen is small enough.

So in some ways, yes, Microsoft is adopting the Windows 8 method of running apps in full screen. But equally, it's only applying this experience on devices where it makes sense. If your screen is large enough, users should have the option to run apps in windows instead, especially if you have a keyboard and mouse connected.

There's no conceivable reason to limit the Windows 10X experience to full-screen apps on displays that have enough real estate to accommodate them. Not being able to freely resize and move windows around a desktop on a large display is the exact opposite of productive, so I'd be shocked if this functionality doesn't end up shipping. But yes, on Surface Neo and other "small" Windows 10X PCs, apps will run full screen.

Zac Bowden
Senior Editor

Zac Bowden is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. Bringing you exclusive coverage into the world of Windows 10 on PCs, tablets, phones, and more. Also an avid collector of rare Microsoft prototype devices! Keep in touch on Twitter: @zacbowden.

  • An option for cascading windows. The caption buttons shouldn't be on the screen otherwise. The taskbar should be a dock and should be off-screen unless using a swiping gesture. Agree? Disagree?
  • Gesture for cascading windows +1
    Taskbar/dock (both same to me in functionality) should indeed autohide + swipe up gesture.
    Rmb on app for jumplist + pinned items of the app (/same as W10).
    Option for widgets (/weather, agenda, notes etc) or whatever in empty space of home/start screen.
    Also would like their decision for fullscreen at default, since on a small screen usable area (by hiding window title bars) is more important than non-snap window support.
  • No please. Let Windows be Windows.
  • Yeah, I can't tolerate apps that are not in full screen, so I don't mind forcing it, like Windows RT did.
  • I wouldn't imagine you are in the majority here. While I use my Surface Go in tablet mode, thereby forcing full screen apps, I don't use my desktop that way, and would be a bit put out if apps could only open full screen on my 34" wide monitor.
  • Bad idea to force full screen. Every user has their own unique workflow and therefor should have the option to set apps to run full or windowed. This was a huge complaint back in the Windows 8 day. I'm surprised they're trying it again.
  • 10X is for small screens though, not sure who would want to micro windows on a 2 ~9-10 inch screens when snapping would be much easier and allow for multitasking of 2 to 4 apps already. Maybe I understood it wrong though, if they want to remove windowed support by snapping too than I agree.
  • Actually, there is talk about putting W10X on Surface Hub. That is not a small screen.
  • Interesting, I guess multiple window support will be there than (at least for big screens).
  • That would likely be fine. On a presentation system, you don't often have multiple apps in floating windows up. You are usually focusing on one thing, Powerpoint, spreadsheet, etc. You can change apps, just like you can on a tablet.
  • It depends on Microsoft's plans for the operating system. If they are trying to make a productivity platform for use on legacy form factors, then they will need free form Windows. If it just a consumption tool on smaller touch screens, then full screen or maybe split screen will be fine. Microsoft's goal for this new platform is unknown.
  • the question should be will iOS become a PC faster than windows becomes a tablet... Just noting that iOS is adding native support for a mouse in the next iOS release... now, the only thing missing from iOS is support for printing... I don't know what took them so long.. I thiink iOS as a desktop replacement is more compelling then buying a chrome book... or a new windows neo..
  • iPadOS is getting mouse support, not iOS. Not much need for a mouse on a phone. Support for printing is missing? What are you talking about? I have always printed from my iPhones and iPads. We have an HP ink jet printer here. Install the HP printer drivers (just like on any other computer) from the App Store. Done.
  • But windows neo is not a desktop/laptop replacement, that is a Pro or Pro X etc arguably. This is more like a digital molebook (drawing, reading, browsing, emailing/Teams, notes etc) first and possibly some other things second.
  • Why on earth take away the choice? It if makes sense to run an app full screen then trust users to do that. But even on the Neo you might want to have a couple of mini apps (eg ToDo) running in windows on one screen while you looked at something else on the other screen. Why take away the choice? It's the same senseless idiocy that limited the choice of Office themes to four frankly horrible options. Why?
  • If you want all that, why aren't you using Windows 10? What is the point of 10X if it acts just like 10 Pro?
  • Completely agree with you. If it's not an engineering/performance limitation, why not just leave the choice? Frankly, that's even easier. Users that want full screen know how to click or tap on the maximize button. Users that want their resizable windows can keep them. Everyone is happy, a simple solution really!
  • Not everyone is happy because the title/window bar takes up valuable space in such a small screen (unless it auto-hides).
  • It's very easy to implement true full screen mode even in windows apps of today. Hitting F11 in many apps will activate true full screen mode, without any title bars.
  • That is not possible on the Neo when its used as a digital molebook / dual-screen tablet (only access to f11 is through the onscreen keyboard which makes that clumsy). Maybe they could make it fullscreen at default and than for people with a keyboard they can press f11 to deactivate it.
  • I use windowed mode for some apps on a 12 Inch tablet, I also used windowed mode on a 10 and 11 inch tablet, it all depends on the software I'm using. Why arbitrarily limit basic functionality?
  • It was only a bad idea in windows 8 because it looked really primitive at the time... Kind made me wonder if they were regressing back to MSDOS... I suppose microsoft has Learnt their lesson that maybe it looks kind of stupid if You run every app full screen if your screen is too big for it...
  • Why would anyone in their right mind still be using ANY Microcrap product. Spend $10 and get Total Commander. Faster. Easier. Smarter.
  • I think you may be in the wrong article, buddy.
  • It didn't work on Windows 8... not sure why they'd do it again.
  • They didn't take it away. Windows 10 in tablet mode is all full-screen. Windows on a small screen doesn't make sense, neither does forcing them on all screens (Windows 8).
  • If there is a mouse and keyboard connected, then resizing windows should be allowed...period...regardless of screen size. I often put two apps side-by-side on my 10" Surface Go when using the keyboard. Also, when using the keyboard, small apps like Calculator, and apps that can run with minimal UI like Groove, is best to run windowed.
  • iPad Pro 12.9" is full-screen only. It may make sense to limit this on devices which are touch only.
  • Just make it an option, I really see no reason to 'enforce' this mode. It should hardly be an issue. It's not like maximizing windows into full screen is such an onerous task.
  • Yes I think full screen apps on any windows 10 is a good idea. But I also think snappable apps as supported in Windows 8 and 10 is also good. For the majority of real world normal use I notice that a maximum of two apps side by side or one atop the other, snapped works least distracting and is most productive when multitasking. The current support on Windows 8 and 10 is just fine, despite what telemetry may say on adoption rates.
    I think it should ultimately be democratic, not curated. Offer both choices. Curation has only left end users with frustration and limiting degrees of freedom in exploring their individual work flows that work. It is after run on pc's.... "personal" computers. Or should we start calling future devices with Windows 10 X FCC's? (functional curated computers)?
    Telemetry does not necessarily always tell the whole story of Windows and pc's.