Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

Occasionally a program will open up in a tiny window, too small to be useful. We'll look at a couple of approaches to dealing with tiny windows.

When I open a page it comes up in a little box, but then I click the square it will open up all the way. Why is it doing this? It's just a little oblong box in one corner then it has a little square box where i click to make it open all the way.

It sounds like you're seeing something like this:

A VERY small window

This happens to people surprisingly often, and if you're not really familiar with adjusting windows to your liking, it can be very perplexing.

So, it's time to cover a few fundamentals.

Most programs open and operate in a "window" on your screen. That window has three possible states:

  • minimized - the window is actually not shown, but appears as an icon in your task bar

  • maximized - the window is shown and is sized to take up your entire screen

  • restored - the word doesn't make total sense, but this is when the window is open and visible, but at a size that is smaller than the size of your screen. In the "restored" state you can move the window around and change its size.

You may be seeing something like the image above, or perhaps something more like this:

A small window

(I'm using Firefox in my examples, so if you're using Internet Explorer or experiencing this with some other program, things may look just a little different for you. The concepts are the same, however.)

"... most programs, Internet Explorer and Firefox among them, remember their most recent restored size."

In both cases the window is actually in the "restored" state - it's on screen, not minimized, and it's not taking up the entire screen.

The "little square box" you've been clicking on is the "maximize" icon in the programs title bar. It puts the window in the maximized, full-screen state. On its left is the "minimize" icon, which keeps the program running but makes it accessible only through the task bar, and on its right is the close icon, which is used to close the program completely.

Title bar icons: minimize, maximize and close

So when you click on that "little square box" you're telling the program to maximize itself and take up the entire screen.

There's another approach to resolving this issue that, as we'll see in a minute, may actually be more helpful in the long run.

Move your mouse over one of the corners or side edges of the window until it turns into a double arrow:

Double Arrow Mouse Cursor

This is an indicator that you can resize the window. While the mouse is positioned as it is, click and hold the mouse, and drag it in whichever direction would make the window larger. For example here I've grabbed on to the lower right hand corner, so I'll click, hold, and drag the mouse further down and to the right:

Window made a more normal size

If a window is resizable, and not all are, then each corner and each side of the window edge can be clicked on and held to drag the corner or side one direction or another.

It's a useful skill since windows aren't always the most optimal size, and making everything maximized means you can't see what other programs are doing.

Now, the $100,000 question: why did this happen?

The first thing to realize is that most programs, Internet Explorer and Firefox among them, remember their most recent restored size. That means the mere act of resizing the window instead of immediately maximizing it should have resolved the issue for you. The next time the program starts up, it should appear at the size you most recently left it.

The real question is how did it "remember" such a tiny size to begin with?

There's no real answer here, as there are many possibilities. The program itself could have gotten confused or stray mouse movement or even confused typing of a sort could have altered the window's size before it was last closed. A crash of either the application or the computer could have caused the prior remembered size to have been lost or altered.

There's really no way to know.

But the great news is that it's easy to resolve with just a click and a drag.

Article C3266 - January 14, 2008 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

7 Comments
Packrat1947
January 18, 2008 8:44 PM

On some Vista boxes (mine included), no matter what you do, it just will not stick. I've tried everything registry tweaks included.

There is a nice freebie out there call autosizer.
http://www.southbaypc.com/AutoSizer/

After spending many hours struggling on my HP, I gave up and used a program. I'm not sure if this is exactly the same one- as I paid $9.95 for it.

Packrat1947

victor gutierrez
January 19, 2008 12:54 AM

On the window sizing issue (sometimes the window is a smaller size), AOL (in particular) has a drop down tab labeled 'window' which is used to 'remember' window size and/or position.

Bill
January 19, 2008 10:43 AM

Alternatively, for most programs, if you go to the location of the start-up Icon, [your desktop for example] right-click the program name and left-click "Properties". On the "Shortcut" tab you'll find a "Run" mini-window. Click on th down-arrow and select "Maximized".

Pete Ross
January 19, 2008 8:43 PM

If Windows do not open to full size in IE7, follow these instructions.

Open a webpage. Stretch it out to full size. Don't use maximize.
Choose any link on that webpage and right-click, select open in a new window.
Stretch that second window out to the desired size- don't use maximize.
Close the first IE window. Then close that second resized window. This should take care of the problem

Ron
March 8, 2009 9:00 AM

I had this small window problem in my XP and tried various remedies, but with no success. However,I then tried the Pete Ross solution. Sweet, short, and simple and it resolved this issue that was driving me crazy.
Thanks Pete!
Ron
_______
If Windows do not open to full size in IE7, follow these instructions.

Open a webpage. Stretch it out to full size. Don't use maximize.
Choose any link on that webpage and right-click, select open in a new window.
Stretch that second window out to the desired size- don't use maximize.
Close the first IE window. Then close that second resized window. This should take care of the problem


Posted by: Pete Ross at January 19, 2008 8:43 PM

Ed Seifert
March 16, 2009 3:29 PM

I Tried Everything But My Salvation Was A woderfull Thing called http://www.southbaypc.com/AutoSizer/ This Free Program Is The Answer. Thanks To Leo`s Site !

Carew
May 1, 2009 10:28 AM

Too bad this doesn't work for IE8

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