No operating system has every feature, but there’s one essential feature missing from Windows 10: the ability to lock windows in the “top layer” of your desktop, displayed over everything else.
This feature is useful in many ways, from copying information manually between windows to keeping content open when you need it on your screen or keeping your video chat open while working on a project. You can watch a movie in the background of your computer while working on other projects, or you can keep your file browser on top of your web browser or word processor to always have access to your content.
No matter how you want to work, keeping windows on top is essential to boosting productivity. Unfortunately, Windows 10 excludes that feature, but you can easily add it to your PC using third-party software. For Mac users, see how to keep a window on top in MacOS.
How Do I Force a Window to be Always on Top in Windows 10?
If you like a simple, ready-to-use application, DeskPins is your best option. However, AutoHotKey is the optimum way to keep windows always on top for advanced users who prefer to use scripts. If you have been researching this topic, you may have found articles that mentioned an app actually called Always on Top. It was in here too at one time. This app also had scripting functions, but currently, the download is unsecured and potentially risky.
Option #1: Use DeskPins
If you’re looking for something that comes prewritten, it is best to stick with a freeware app called DeskPins, which effectively pins windows to always be on top until you close them or unpin them. Some more technically inclined Windows users might prefer the customized scripting options available with AutoHotkey, which is you’ll find in the next section.
DeskPins has been around for years since the days of Windows XP, and it still gets used today to place window pins on the PC because it is simple, easy, and free. As a Free or Open Source Software (FOSS) program, you can easily use DeskPins on any Windows computer.
Here’s how to use DekskPins.
- Download and install Deskpins using the Windows 10-specific installer
- Double-click or right-click and select ‘Open‘ on deskpins.exe to run the program on your computer.
- Click the icon in your taskbar, and the mouse icon turns into a small, red pin.
- Pin your windoiw or program by clicking on the top portion of the window.
- A small, red pin icon appears in the title bar of the pinned window to show its status.
- To unpin the window, click the pin icon to turn the option off or just6 close the window.
- Optional: You can still minimize and maximize the window when desired without losing the window’s “always-on-top” status.
DeskPins is just as easy to use as you might imagine, but there are two things you should be aware of when using it.
First, the program may not function on computers under administrative control, such as work or school PCs. Talk to your employer’s or school’s help desk or IT department for assistance on this matter, as they may have policies on what is permitted and whether or not they install it or let you handle it.
Second, the visual indicator is helpful, but for some users, a keyboard shortcut is all they need, which is what AutoHotKey delivers.
Option #2: Use AutoHotKey with Custom Scripting
AutoHotkey is a free, open-source (GNU GPLv2) program that allows you to write custom scripts or use plugin scripts from other people to help you create macros on your computer.
The app is widely used and highly recommended, and its uses range from gaming to changing the direction of your mouse scroll.
If you’re looking to pin windows to your desktop, you can do so easily with AutoHotkey, although it’s worth noting that you’ll have to create the script by writing code manually.
Here are the steps on how to get going with AutoHotkey:
- Download and install AutoHotkey if you don’t have it already.
- Create a folder where you can hold your hot key script along with any others you may make in the future. I named mine Hot Keys. (Right click on your desktop and select New and Folder)
- In the folder, Right-click and choose New and then AutoHotKey Script.
- Now right-click on that file and choose Edit Script.
- Type or paste the following onto the bottom of the file: ^SPACE:: Winset, Alwaysontop, , A
- Save the file by clicking on File and the Save at the top of the window or you can press CTRL + s.
- If your file icon matches mine, right-click on the file and select Run Script. And you’re done. Just press CTRL + SPACE on whatever window you want to stay on top.
- If it does not match mine, when you right-click, choose Open with and Choose another app.
- Find the app AutoHotkey Unicode 64-bit and check the box labeled Always use this app to open .ahk files. After you press OK, the file icon should look like a purple “H”.
- Now run the script and you’re all finished.
The “^” character represents the Ctrl key, and “SPACE” represents the space bar, creating a Ctrl + [Space] hotkey. If preferred, you can also use “#” to represent the Windows key. Click Save.
Auto Hotkey does provide more customization than you’d otherwise get from Always On Top, but it’s also more work to use on your PC.
Ultimately, the two options mentioned above represent the best methods for helping productivity and efficiency by pinning a window to the foreground in Windows 10.
Whether you’re looking to keep a video playing in the background, pin a calculator or notepad while working on spreadsheets, or you need to watch a file transfer while editing a photo in Photoshop, it’s super easy to do with DeskPins and AutoHotKey.
Note: This article is not a promotion of any kind for any particular application.