Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Where's my window?

I don't often boot my laptop into Windows, preferring to run Linux pretty much all of the time. These days, I only boot Windows when I watch a "webinar" that requires Microsoft's Silverlight plugin. And that's rare enough, thankfully. But on the few occasions that I boot Windows, I always make sure to check for updates.

Last week, I booted into Windows while sitting in our conference room. And I immediately fired up Chrome, Firefox, Adobe Reader, etc to check for updates.

(Yes, it's a problem that these common third-party applications aren't included in some kind of system-wide update process, like they are in Linux. But I'll leave that for another time.)

My problem was when I clicked on the system tray icon for my anti-virus program. The program window didn't appear. So I clicked it again, nothing happened. I clicked the icon a third time, and paid very close attention.

You know how Windows (and Linux, by the way) will show the outline of the window as a program is launched, or reduced to the task bar? I could see the outline of my anti-virus program window as it moved off my screen.

I usually keep my laptop docked, with a second display. The last time I'd booted into Windows, I must have moved the anti-virus window onto the second display - probably to keep it out of the way while I did something else, but where I could keep an eye on it. And I guess Windows remembered that. I mean, really remembered it.

Normally I'd say that automatically remembering your last-used preferences would be a good thing. Except for the obvious exception when I don't have the second display plugged in. I wasn't docked! I wasn't even in my office - I was on another floor, in a conference room. My only display was my laptop screen. So I couldn't use the program, because I couldn't see it.

Why Windows does this, I have no idea. Eventually, I booted into Windows when the laptop was connected my second display, and updated the anti-virus program then.

In Linux, windows and multiple displays make much more sense. When I boot without the second display, Linux doesn't try to launch my windows in a non-existent display. Program windows appear in the only display that I have - my laptop display.


  1. Not to defend Windows, but at least on Windows XP there is a solution:
    1. right-click on the item in the taskbar which belongs to the window on your non-existant monitor
    2. select "move"
    3. use your arrow-keys to move the window. it should ideally just pop-up on your screen

    Don't know if this would work on Windows 7 though.

    But I am with you on this. Windows should do this automatically!

  2. Have you tried Moonlight for Linux?

  3. "1. right-click on the item in the taskbar which belongs to the window on your non-existant monitor"
    Or, in the case of some applications that don't bother to register themselves like that in the task bar, Alt+Space opens the window control menu.


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