BetterSnapTool: Full-Featured Window Management

On my 13-inch MacBook Pro, screen real estate is at a premium, so I often have a hard time seeing all the windows I need to see at once. BetterSnapTool aims to help organize windows on your Mac for more efficient multitasking, or for working with multiple apps at once.

Since Windows 7 introduced Snap, several Mac apps have surfaced to mimic its window-resizing behavior, including Cinch, SizeUp, and Divvy.

BetterSnapTool is the new kid on the block — how does it compare?

Using BetterSnapTool

Getting started with BetterSnapTool is easy, there’s no necessary configuration and the app hides away nicely in the menu bar. To invoke BetterSnapTool, simply drag a window to either a corner or side of the screen and the window will re-size to half or one-quarter the size of your screen.

To bring the window back to its original size, simply drag it away from the ‘hot corner’ and it snaps back to normal (though I found this feature a little glitchy sometimes).

Things, Evernote and MarsEdit all at once!

Things, Evernote and MarsEdit all at once!

If you want more options than one-half and one-quarter screen, you can configure the settings for individual applications to take up a certain percentage of the screen.

For example, I don’t need a lot of space to be taking notes in TextEdit, but I’d like to see as much of the BetterSnapTool website in Firefox as possible. To do this, I click on the menu bar icon and select “Specific Settings for Current Application” and select a percentage of the screen for the application to occupy.

I’d like Firefox to take up 70% of the screen, and sit on the left. Now when I drag Firefox to the left-hand side of the screen, it snaps to 70%. For TextEdit, I do the same, except select 30% on the right slider.

App-specific settings

App-specific settings

Firefox and TextEdit in a 70/30 split

Firefox and TextEdit in a 70/30 split

If you have spaces configured to move a window to an adjacent space by dragging to the edge of the screen, you may find BetterSnapTool conflicts. I just deal with it but some people might find it pretty annoying.

Keyboard Shortcuts

BetterSnapTool allows you to configure keyboard shortcuts for resizing the window of a current app – they aren’t active by default, you must activate them under preferences.

You can set shortcuts for all the four-quarter positions, as well as for centering on the screen, or even moving a window to a secondary monitor. Since there are so many options, you may have a hard time finding keyboard shortcuts that aren’t already in use by other apps, so be careful!

Custom Keyboard Shortcuts

Custom Keyboard Shortcuts

Customization

BetterSnapTool allows you to easily customize the appearance of the application ‘guide boxes’ that give a preview of a window’s size. You can select color and opacity, as well as border-width, rounded corner radius, and animation length.

Pretty in Pink

Pretty in Pink

Limitations

As handy as BetterSnapTool is, you will no doubt be a little disappointed to find that some apps just don’t play nicely with being re-sized. Most apps have a minimum width below which they won’t collapse, and any app that uses a 3-column interface will likely not re-size much below 70% (iTunes is the surprising exception).

The popular applications that I found uncooperative were the Mac App Store, all Adobe programs, Reeder, and Sparrow, but I’m sure there are more.

Reeder is uncooperative

Reeder is uncooperative

With these limitations in mind, there are still a lot of really useful applications of BetterSnapTool that work perfectly. I often have Word and Pages open side-by-side, for example. It’s also very useful for moving files between Finder windows, taking notes on websites or PDFs, or reading email and scheduling events, or any number of multi-app tasks.

Comparisons

I’ve had Cinch installed on my Mac for a couple months after getting it with a software bundle, and I did use it occasionally, and it works in much the same way as BetterSnapTool. However, Cinch is lacking the extensive customization options featured in BetterSnapTool, and is missing the added power of keyboard shortcuts.

SizeUp is a lot like Cinch, but uses all keyboard shortcuts instead of dragging.

Compared to these two options, BetterSnapTool comes out as the best of both worlds, with a much more palatable price tag ($1.99 compared to $6.99 for Cinch and $13 for SizeUp). I think BetterSnapTool is a clear winner in this category.

Conclusion

BetterSnapTool sets out to do what other applications have done before, but better. In this goal I think it certainly succeeds. Despite limitations imposed by other applications, BetterSnapTool is still powerful and very useful.

With the release of the 11-inch MacBook Air and the popularity of the 13-inch MacBook, I think a lot of users will find BetterSnapTool helps make the most of limited screen space for a very reasonable price.


Summary

BetterSnapTool enables simple window management by snapping applications into pre-defined positions when dragged to the sides of the screen.

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  • Guido Damian Guerrero Contreras

    I think its a cool app but it only suppports Window snaping, try Better touch tool it comes with mouse gestures trackpad etc and includes window snapping and its free!!!

  • http://www.timstringer.com Tim Stringer

    I’ve tried of few of these window arrangement utilities and keep coming back to MercuryMover. It’s not quite as flashy as the competition and it’s entirely keyboard based, but I find the convenience and functionality it offers suits me well.

    • http://sevenlayersdesign.com/ Andy Hutchins

      It looks interesting, but there is no way I can justify $20 on a window managing utility. Especially with the <$10 options out there.

  • Yaro

    Divvy ftw.

    Nice post anyways.

  • http://sevenlayersdesign.com/ Andy Hutchins

    This is what I currently use and it works well. There’s a new kid on the block called Moom that looks like it will blow them all out of the water though. It adds a UI on hover to the traffic light buttons on a window. It also has very robust keyboard features.

    http://manytricks.com/moom/

    I have not got it yet but I think I will soon.

    • http://web.me.com/blackbirdandrew Andrew Baker

      I just got Moom and it is fantastic. The menu bar that appears works really well because you can choose any spot from one place.

  • http://xandesigns.com Alex McCabe

    HyperDock does this, not to such great extent but it does give top/bottom/left/right and each of the corners. It also is a great way to manage your windows.

  • jeezus

    Ya… I just don’t want my menu bar to look like your menu bar. Dev’s need to stop with this menu bar icon craze! Just because it’s considered a utility doesn’t mean it needs to camp on my menu bar!

    • http://tessathornton.com Tessa Thornton

      my menu bar would be much happier without the adobe update icon and the VMware fusion icon, but they won’t go away :(

      • http://inspirationoverload.org/ Conor O’Driscoll

        The Adobe Updater was stuck on my menubar for ages, but you can click on the icon, hit “Open Updater” and deselect the option “Notify me of new updates in the menu bar”. It’ll clear at least a little clutter.

      • David Woodwater

        VMWare icons cans be removed.

        Go on the preferences of the virtual machine, NOT the preferences of VMware. Application section.

        Here’s a screenshot: http://cl.ly/020t083L1B3o0l0d2i1q

        Cheers!

  • whitewhim

    Sizewell does a fine job of reprogramming the green menu button, and I use BetterTouchTool for window snapping.

    http://www.sizewellplugin.com/

  • http://eularee.com Eularee Smith

    Just what I was looking for. Thanks for the great review.

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