Best Free Setting On-Top Windows

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Introduction

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.

In most Linux systems, right-clicking an open window allows you to select and place it on top of other windows, but Microsoft seems to have forgotten this simple feature after developing Windows for years. Nonetheless we have free tools that can enhance Windows features and help keep an open window on top of other windows to ease our daily computing tasks.

 

Rated Products

TurboTop  

Set on-top windows from a context menu by clicking the app icon on the taskbar.


Our Rating: 
4.5
License: Free
Easily select and deselect open windows to be always on top from the app icon on the taskbar. Works with most types of windows.
Selecting from a list of open windows is less intuitive than right-clicking an open window itself.
Read full review...

DeskPins  

A small application to keep windows on top of others by setting pins on the windows.


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
Intuitive interface, easy to use with pin design, intelligent handling of various application types, works on skinned and DOS windows.
Does not work properly on some modern apps like Groove Music, etc.
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PowerMenu  

A right click on an open window shows you a menu item "Always On Top" to place the window on top of others.


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
Other than setting on top windows, it has other features such as setting transparency and minimizing windows.
Setting some skinned windows and modern app windows is not well supported.
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AutoSizer  

Auto detect and set on-top pre-defined windows besides drawing window sizes and positions.


Our Rating: 
4
License: Free
Auto detect and set on-top pre-defined windows, works on DOS, skinned and modern app windows, other useful features include resize, position, maximize or minimize.
Removing on-top setting does not immediately apply to the open windows.
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FileBox eXtender  

Adds a setting-on-top button directly to the window to make the task simple and intuitive.


Our Rating: 
3.5
License: Free (Open source)
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 or documents.
Setting some skinned windows, DOS and modern app windows on top is not supported.
Read full review...

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.

  • xNeat Windows Manager Lite, 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. It only supports Windows XP and Vista 32-bit.
  • 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.]

 

Related Products and Links

 

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Comments

I also use Deskpins.
To use in Windows 8, I needed to make it compatible.
How:
* 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.