Window Types

The integrated development environment (IDE) contains two basic window types: tool windows and document windows. These two window types behave in slightly different ways.

Tool windows and document windows cannot be grouped together in the IDE.

Tool windows

Tool windows are listed on the View menu and are defined by the current application and its add-ins.

You can configure tool windows in the IDE to:

  • Show or hide automatically

  • Tab link with other tool windows

  • Dock against the edges of the IDE

  • Float over

  • Display on other monitors

In addition, you can display more than one instance of certain tool windows at a time. For example, you can display more than one Web browser window. You can create new instances of a tool window by choosing New Window on the Window menu. Also, you can determine how the Close and Auto Hide buttons affect a group of tool windows docked together.

Document windows

Document windows are dynamically created when you open or create files or other items. The list of open document windows appears on the Window menu in the current z-order, with the top-most window listed first.

The ways in which you manage your document windows depends greatly upon the interface mode selected in the General, Environment, Options Dialog Box. You can choose to work either in Tabbed Documents mode (the default) or in Multiple Document Interface (MDI) mode. Experiment with these settings to create a document editing environment that satisfies your needs and preferences. For more information, see Window Management.

Dockable windows

In Tabbed Mode, you can make document windows dockable or undockable by selecting or clearing Dockable on the Window menu. In MDI mode, document windows are undockable.


Certain document windows within the IDE are actually tool windows that have the dockable trait turned off. To dock these windows, choose Dockable from the Window menu.

Tab Groups

Tab Groups are available only in Tabbed Documents mode. They extend your ability to manage limited workspace while working with two or more open documents in the IDE. You can organize multiple document windows into either vertical or horizontal Tab Groups and easily shuffle documents from one Tab Group to another.


Tabbed documents can be dragged across the IDE by their tabs.

Tiled/Cascading windows

Windows can be tiled or arranged into cascading stacks only in MDI mode.

Split Windows

When you find yourself needing to view or edit two locations at once in a document, split windows can be useful. To divide your document into two independently scrolling sections, choose Split from the Window menu. Select Remove Split from the Window menu to restore the single view.

Reusing document windows

To reduce the number of windows open at the same time, you can choose to view all unchanged documents in the same document window, letting each new document you open replace the last. Choose the Re-use current document window option on the General page of Environment Options.


New documents will open in the current document window so long as the active document has not been changed.

Displaying help topics in windows

Help topics can be displayed internally or externally. These options are available in the Help, Environment, Options Dialog Box.


Changes to these settings do not take affect until the IDE is restarted.

By default, Help launches Help topics in an external program called Microsoft Document Explorer. Help tool windows can float, or be docked and pinned open or set to auto-hide when not in use, much like tool windows in the IDE.

See Also


How to: Arrange and Dock Windows

How to: Navigate Within the Integrated Development Environment

Other Resources

Window Management

Finding and Replacing

Help on Help (Microsoft Document Explorer Help)