How to Use the Keyboard to Move or Resize a Window that is Too Big for the Screen

Did you ever suddenly find yourself with a window that is so large that part of it, including the title bar, is off the screen? For example, maybe somebody sent you an oversized picture taken with one of those many-megapixel cameras. With no title bar visible, you can’t move the window with the mouse. But there is an old trick that goes all the way back to Windows 3. It allows you to use the keyboard and a menu called the system or control menu to move or resize a window.

System menuNormally, this little-used menu can be opened by clicking on the icon in the upper left corner of a window but there is also a keyboard shortcut to open it. Enter the keyboard combination Alt+Space Bar. An example of the menu that opens is shown in the figure on the right. The menu  is used by entering the underlined letter for an action. 

How to move a window using only the keyboard

  1. Enter the keyboard combination Alt+Space Bar to open the system menu.
  2. Type the letter “m”.
  3. A double-headed pointer will appear.
  4. Then use the arrow keys to move the window up, down, right, or left.
  5. Once the window is positioned, press “Enter”.

How to resize a window using only the keyboard

  1. Enter the keyboard combination Alt+Space Bar to open the system menu.
  2. Type the letter “s”
  3. A double-headed pointer will appear
  4. To make the window smaller, press the right arrow key to select the right edge of the window and then repeatedly press the left arrow to reduce the size
  5. Press “Enter”.

It’s an old trick but you will be glad you know it if you get one of those oversized windows.

Added later: If a window is maximized, the entries in the system menu for "Move" and "Size" will be greyed out. In that case, try the keyboard combination Alt+Space Bar followed by R. Then repeat Alt+Space Bar.

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This tips section is maintained by Vic Laurie. Vic runs several websites with Windows how-to's, guides, and tutorials, including a site for learning about Windows and the Internet and another with Windows 7 tips.

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Comments

by Jack B (not verified) on 15. August 2012 - 3:04  (97724)

Great tip ! Additionally, if you press the Ctrl key while pressing the arrow keys, the screen moves just a fraction of what it normally does, which allows fine positioning of the screen

by mmseng on 14. August 2012 - 18:50  (97712)

This is a great shortcut. I use it all the time, particularly because of the following circumstance:
- My main machine at home has dual monitors
- I leave windows open on the secondary monitor
- I go to work and remote desktop into my home machine, which, by default, only displays one monitor
- Many windows will resize/reposition to fit into the remote desktop view
- However some of the windows that were on the secondary monitor stay off screen, completely inaccessible.

In this scenario, the "Alt+Spacebar, M" shortcut is a lifesaver.

Another handy trick:

I keep my taskbar on the top of my monitors on all my machines (just feels more right, since most all applications have their toolbars up there). Many, MANY windows, when first opened, wrongfully, and very frustratingly ASSUME my taskbar is on the bottom and thus position themselves as high as possible, which puts their toolbar behind my taskbar. Rather than take the time to hide or reposition my taskbar just to take care of this problem, you can either use the tip in this article to move the window, OR, in some cases (for resizable windows only), a much faster and easier method is to move your mouse cursor over the window's borders (so it changes into the "resize crosshair") and click once (or resize it a bit). This will "pop" the window downwards and below/out from underneath my taskbar, allowing me to manipulate it normally.

by jmjsquared on 14. August 2012 - 15:02  (97706)

Great tip! Thanks.

@Jojoyee - Take a peek at this little Windows utility with which you can "reserve" an area of the desktop from being covered up by maximized apps. http://kmtools.win-os.pl/omaxmax.php?lang=ang

by Jazz (not verified) on 14. August 2012 - 14:31  (97703)

Looks like Size and Move are greyed out in some windows when you press Alt+Space, but are visible in others. You should be able to close an open oversized window by simply pressing Alt+F4, if you want to just close it.

by v.laurie on 14. August 2012 - 22:35  (97714)

See the addition I have made to the tip. Thanks for pointing the problem out.

by Bob G (not verified) on 14. August 2012 - 13:53  (97702)

Odd that it works fine on my normal windows, but when I try in Windows Explorer, version 8 running XP, it freezes both the IE window and the small window which opens with alt-space. I get the hourglass and nothing ever happens. My only solution then is to run Task Manager to unlock the freeze, which closes IE. It works fine on other windows I have open, so I'm not sure what's so odd about my IE.

by Steeleye (not verified) on 15. August 2012 - 0:20  (97718)

Another reason to not use IE, i guess.

by Anonymo_us (not verified) on 14. August 2012 - 12:53  (97694)

Didn't work for me in a normal window. Both 's' and 'm' were grayed out. But they might work if I had a window that was too big.

by v.laurie on 14. August 2012 - 22:37  (97715)

See the addition I have made to the tip about the greying out. I apolgize for not mentioning it in the first place.

by v.laurie on 14. August 2012 - 13:41  (97699)

If you open the system menu with the mouse, the letters are not underlined. If you use the keyboard shortcut to open the menu, you should see the underlining.

by Switix (not verified) on 14. August 2012 - 12:43  (97693)

I have had that problem several times!
Thanks!

by Lowndes (not verified) on 14. August 2012 - 12:01  (97691)

THANK YOU!!

This problem has been driving me nuts for months. I tried everything I could think of, including the monitor controls. Reboot was my only option for a long time.

by AlanWade (not verified) on 14. August 2012 - 11:44  (97689)

Got a bit confused with the shortcuts - typing the letter 'M' minimsed the window.
Then I realised the obvious - Its not an English installation of Windows!
Great long forgotton tip, just need to check your windows language.

by rusty (not verified) on 14. August 2012 - 11:19  (97688)

Fantastic tip! I have my task bar along the top and some [non-resizable] windows don't play nicely with this - they open at a top/left position UNDER the task bar, leaving their title bars inaccessible. I would have to temporarily hide my task bar, move the window, then show the task bar. I stumbled across the menu somehow and clicked on "move", but was wondering why the mouse wouldn't drag the window. I didn't think to use the arrow keys. Thanks for this gem.

by Fritz Pinguin (not verified) on 14. August 2012 - 9:25  (97686)

Using KDE under Linux you just hold the Alt-Key and grab anywhere in the oversized window to drag it to another location. There is a free utility around called "AltDrag" which does the same for Windows.

by Jojo Yee on 13. August 2012 - 16:13  (97655)

A good tip Vic. This is also particularly useful when I run a certain program, such as Portable Start Menu, which opens up a small window on top of the main window in normal cases.

But when the main window is set to be 'always on top', this small window then goes behind the main window. I can't interact with this hidden but active small window using a mouse; the only way is to use a keyboard shortcut Alt+Space Bar.

Alt+Space Bar also works with Linux systems such as Ubuntu and Mint. Got to remember this useful shortcut.

by v.laurie on 13. August 2012 - 16:44  (97656)

Thanks for the additional information, Jojo. Those are useful things to know.

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