Best Free Setting On-Top Windows



When a maximized window is focused, the system will minimize other windows automatically. However, there are times we want a small window to be placed on top of other windows for cross reference even when we click (focus) on a maximized window.

Such applications as Calculator, Notepad, or DOS Command, etc., usually take up only a small part of the desktop area. It is definitely more convenient for cross reference if they are always placed on-top, instead of being minimized to the taskbar. Also, we need to maximize them again, the moment we need to refer to them.

The following are free programs which enhance the features of the system and help keep the applications on top of other windows.


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DeskPinsDeskPins is my favorite. It is a small application to keep windows on top of others by setting pins on the windows. The user interface is intuitive, just click the DeskPins icon in the system tray, and drop the pin on any window you like to set on-top of other windows. To remove the pin, click it again.

DeskPins features intelligent handling of various application types. It works on normal windows, skinned windows (such as Windows Media Player in skin mode), or a DOS command window.

It also provides an option to enable autopins, change pin colors and other settings. If you just need the setting on-top feature, DeskPins is definitely the best choice among all candidates.


AutoSizerAutoSizer is a good alternative if you need a program to auto detect and set pre-defined windows on top of others.

This program allows you to easily define which are the windows you need to consistently set them on top of other windows. It works well on DOS command window and skinned windows.

As the name of the program implies, it also allows you to set the size and position of the windows you need to open, or to maximize or minimize the programs when they are run.


FileBox eXtenderFileBox eXtender adds a setting on-top button directly to the window. This makes the task more intuitive and simpler; click and unclick on the added pin serves the purpose. You do not need to drop the pin like Deskpins.

It comes with a drawback though. FileBox eXtender's pin cannot attach to some skinned or DOS command windows.

In addition to setting on-top, it has other features such as roll-up windows, easy access to favourite and recent folders/documents with a click on Windows Explorer or a file open/save dialogue box. These features can be disabled if you do not need them.


PowerMenuIf you are looking for more features for controlling windows, PowerMenu is a good choice. After installing this program, a right click on an open window will show up a menu item Always On Top for placing the window on top. Other features available in the menu include setting transparency of windows and minimizing windows to tray.

A drawback of the program is that it does not support some skinned windows, including XP's DOS command window.


xNeat Windows ManagerAnother alternative is to use xNeat Windows Manager Lite (free lite version). With this program, a right click on the top of an open window allows you to choose Make On Top, together with other available functions such as Hide Window, Send To Tray and Transparency. Moreover, a right click on the taskbar will show up which are the selected On Top Windows, as well as Hidden Windows, Trayed Windows, Hidden Tray Icons, and setting taskbar appearance.

However, the program in the version under this review is found to have an issue when running on Vista. Upon shutting down Vista, you will encounter that TaskEng (Task Scheduler Engine Process) is still running and you need to select Shut down now or Cancel. Strangely, whichever option you choose, Vista will proceed to shut down.


To be reviewed:

TurboTop, a small program that sits in your System Tray and lets you set any window to be "Always on Top!". It works in Windows 10.


Other Free Apps for Setting On-top Windows

These are a number of other free applications for setting on-top windows. Some were brought up in comments here or noted from other sources. As they are not rated in this review, I am listing them here with brief descriptions and links to their sites for ease of reference.

  • Stay On Top developed by J. Eric Vaughan is a small program which allows you to set on-top windows, including skinned and DOS command windows, but it is less intuitive than DeskPins user interface.
  • Direct Folders with its main feature for direct access to favorite and recent folders, also supports setting on-top windows by right-clicking on the Windows standard close button. Some skinned or DOS command windows are not supported.
  • Dexpot which is a virtual desktop manager also supports setting on-top windows, in addition to its main feature of creating several virtual desktops and other secondary features such as minimizing to system tray, setting transparency, and rolling-up windows. It does not allow setting a DOS command window or other skinned windows on top of other windows. Its installer is bundled with adware OpenCandy (See Gizmo's Freeware Policy on OpenCandy).
  • RegToy's Window Manager is a powerful tool to control windows. Besides setting on-top, it offers many other features such as apply opacity, minimise to tray, roll-up, hide windows, take snapshots and comes with a package with many other utilities that you might not need. For setting on-top windows, RegToy's Window Manager does not support DOS windows and skinned windows.[Site is currently unavailable.]


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Quick Selection Guide


Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Intuitive interface, easy to use with pin design, intelligent handling of various application types, works on skinned and DOS windows.
96 KB
Unrestricted freeware
v1.30 released 17 June, 2005 View the changelog here
Windows 95 to Windows 7


Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Auto detect and set on-top pre-defined windows, works on DOS and skinned windows, other useful features include resize, position, maximize or minimize.
Removing on-top setting does not immediately apply to the open windows.
280 KB
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
Windows 98 to Windows 7

FileBox eXtender

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Click and unclick directly on the pin to the windows, easy to use among other features such as roll-up, access to favorite and recent folders/documents.
Setting some skinned and DOS windows on top is not supported.
1.6 MB
32 and 64 bit versions available
Unrestricted freeware
There is no portable version of this product available.
v2.01.00 released 23 February, 2011 View the changelog here
Windows 95 to Vista


Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Other than setting on top, it has other features such as setting transparency and minimizing windows.
Setting some skinned and DOS windows on top is not supported.
110 KB
Unrestricted freeware
Windows 95 to Vista

xNeat Windows Manager Lite

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Other than setting on top, it has other features such as hide windows, send to tray and set transparency windows.
Conflict with TaskEng when running on Vista.
372 KB
Feature limited freeware
Windows XP to Vista


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I also use Deskpins.
To use in Windows 8, I needed to make it compatible.
* Right-click on the Deskpins shortcut in the Start Menu
* Left-click "Properties" at the bottom of the list
* Go to the "Compatibility" tab
* Put a checkmark in the box "Run this program in compatibility mode for:"
* Left-click the down arrow under that box, and choose "Windows XP (Service Pack 3)
* Left-click "OK"

I use deskpins because of its intuitiveness.
AND I also use topmost toggle because it can also toggle splash screens and other windows M$ thinks should be always on top without my control.
I wonder why most of the "stay on top" tools don't address this point.