Custom Layout

Visual Studio Code comes with a simple user interface and convenient default layout. At the same time, VS Code provides options and settings to let you customize the UI layout to suit your preferences and work style. In this topic, we'll highlight various UI customizations so you can display views, editors, and panels in the way that's most productive for you.

Note: If you are new to VS Code, you may want to start with the user interface overview or take a look at the Tips and Tricks article.

This article starts by discussing Workbench customizations to rearrange UI elements such as the side bars, views, and panels. Later in the article, we'll cover customization of the Editor region with editor groups, split editors, and editor tabs.


Primary side bar

The default (Primary) side bar shows views such as the File Explorer, Search, and Source Control on the left of the workbench. If you'd prefer it on the right, you can:

  • Right-click the Activity Bar and select Move Primary Side Bar Right.
  • Run View: Toggle Primary Side Bar Position to switch the Primary side bar right and left.
  • Set the Workbench > Side Bar: Location (workbench.sideBar.location) setting to right.

Secondary side bar

By default, VS Code shows all views in the Primary Side Bar located to the left of the editor region. If you like another place to display views, you can open the Secondary Side Bar to the right and drag and drop views into that side bar.

This can be useful if you'd like to see two views at the same time, for example, the File Explorer on the left and Source Control view on the right:

Source Control view in the Secondary Side bar to the right

To display the Secondary side bar, you can:

  • Run View: Toggle Secondary Side Bar Visibility (⌥⌘B (Windows, Linux Ctrl+Alt+B)).
  • Check the View > Appearance > Secondary Side Bar menu item.

The Secondary side bar is initially empty but you can drag and drop views and panels into it and the layout is preserved across your VS Code sessions.

Note: You can reset views and panels back to their default locations with the View: Reset View Locations command.

Activity Bar position

By default, the Activity Bar moves with the Primary Side Bar and remains on the outer edge of the workbench. You can also choose to hide the Activity Bar, or move it to the top or bottom of the Primary Side Bar.

The Activity Bar Position menu is available from the Activity Bar context menu, or under View > Appearance > Activity Bar Position has the options Default, Top, Bottom, or Hidden.

When the Activity Bar is in the top or bottom position, the Account and Manage buttons, usually at the bottom of the Activity Bar, move to the right side of the title bar.

Activity Bar in top position with Account and Manage buttons on the right of the title bar


The Panel region displays UI elements such as the Problems, Terminal, and Output panels and by default is located under the editor region.

Panel position

You can also move the region to the left or right of the editor with the Move Panel commands:

  • View: Move Panel Left (workbench.action.positionPanelLeft)
  • View: Move Panel Right (workbench.action.positionPanelRight)
  • View: Move Panel To Bottom (workbench.action.positionPanelBottom)

You can configure these options in the menu under View > Appearance > Panel Position, Panel title bar context menu, or using the new View: Move Panel commands.

Panel title bar context menu with Panel Position options

Panel alignment

This option lets you configure how far the bottom Panel spans across your window. There are four options:

  • Center - This is the default behavior. The panel spans the width of the editor area only.
  • Justify - The panel spans the full width of the window.
  • Left - The panel spans from the left edge of the window to the right edge of the editor area.
  • Right - The panel spans from the right edge of the window to the left edge of the editor area.

With all Panel alignment options, the Activity Bar is considered the edge of the window.

You can configure these options in the menu under View > Appearance > Align Panel, Panel title context menu, or using the new Set Panel Alignment to... commands.

Align Panel options from Panel title context menu

Maximize Panel size

When the Panel alignment is Center, you can quickly toggle the Panel region to fill the entire editor area with the Maximize Panel Size chevron button in the upper right of the Panel region. The chevron button points downwards in the maximized panel to restore the panel to the original size.

Maximize Panel Size button in the upper right of the Panel region

You can also maximize the Panel region via the View: Toggle Maximized Panel command.

Note: Besides customizing the overall Panel region display, individual panels may have their own layout customizations. For example, the Terminal lets you have multiple open tabs and split existing terminals.

Customize Layout control

The VS Code title bar also has buttons to toggle the visibility of the main UI elements (Side bars and Panel region).

Title bar buttons to toggle main UI elements, with hover on Toggle Panel

The rightmost button brings up the Customize Layout dropdown, where you can further change the visibility and layout of various UI elements and includes several layout modes:

Customize Layout dropdown shown via the Customize Layout button in the title bar

The layout modes are:

  • Full Screen - Set the editor to fill the full display screen. View: Toggle Full Screen (⌃⌘F (Windows, Linux F11)).
  • Zen Mode - Hide all UI except for the editor area. View: Toggle Zen Mode (⌘K Z (Windows, Linux Ctrl+K Z)).
  • Centered Layout - Centers the editor inside the editor region. View: Toggle Centered Layout.

Drag and drop views and panels

VS Code has a default layout of views and panels in the Primary Side bar and Panel region but you can drag and drop views and panels between these regions. For example, you can drag and drop the Source Control view into the Panel region or put the Problems panel into the Primary Side bar:

The Source Control view in the Panel region and Problem panel in the Primary Side bar

Note: Remember that you can reset a view and panel back to its default location with the Reset Location context menu item or all views and panels with the general View: Reset View Locations command.

You can also add views and panels to existing view or panel to create groups. For example, you could move the Output panel to the Explorer view group by dragging over the Explorer Activity Bar item and then dropping into the view:

Output panel moved to the Explorer view group

You are not limited to using the mouse for moving views and panels. You can also customize layouts via the keyboard with the View: Move View and View: Move Focused View commands, where dropdowns let you pick the UI element to move and the destination, either a location like the Side bar or Panel region or an existing view or panel to create a group.

Tool bars

Most VS Code views and panels have tool bars displayed on the top right of their UI. For example, the Search view has a tool bar with actions such as Refresh, Clear Search Results, etc.:

Search view tool bar with hover over Clear Search Results action

Hide items in tool bars

If you think a tool bar is too busy and you'd like to hide less frequently used actions, you can right-click on any action and select its Hide command (for example Hide 'Clear Search Results') or uncheck any of the actions from the dropdown. Hidden actions are moved to the ... More Actions menu and can be invoked from there.

To restore an action to the tool bar, right-click the tool bar button area and select the Reset Menu command or recheck the hidden action. To restore all menus in VS Code, run View: Reset All Menus from the Command Palette (⇧⌘P (Windows, Linux Ctrl+Shift+P)).

Search tool bar context menu with Reset menu command


You can customize the layout of the VS Code editor region independently of the workbench user interface. By default, the editor region displays useful features such as the minimap, breadcrumbs, editor tabs, and has optional UI such as Sticky Scroll. You can also adjust the layout of the editors themselves or move them into floating windows.

Minimap and breadcrumbs

The View > Appearance menu has a section for customizing the editor region. There you'll find toggles for:

Editor groups

By default, each opened editor goes into the same editor group and adds a new editor tab to the right. You can create new editor groups in order to group similar or related files, or to allow side by side editing of the same file. Create a new editor group by dragging an editor to the side, or using one of the Split commands in the context menu to duplicate the current editor into a new editor group to the left, right, above, or below.

Split editor commands in the editor tab context menu

The Split editor commands are also available from the View > Editor Layout menu and through the Command Palette.

If you'd like to go quickly between vertical and horizontal editor group layout, you can use the Toggle Vertical/Horizontal Editor Layout command (⌥⌘0 (Windows, Linux Shift+Alt+0)).

Split in group

You can also split an editor in the same group for side by side editing with the View: Split Editor in Group command (⌘K ⇧⌘\ (Windows, Linux Ctrl+K Ctrl+Shift+\)).

When using the split in group feature, there are specific commands for toggling this mode and navigating between the two split editors:

  • View: Split Editor in Group - Split the current editor.
  • View: Toggle Split Editor in Group - Toggle between split mode for the active editor.
  • View: Join Editor in Group - Go back to a single editor for the active file.
  • View: Toggle Layout of Split Editor in Group - Toggle between horizontal and vertical layout.

To navigate between the sides:

  • View: Focus First Side in Active Editor - Move focus to the first (left or top) side of split editor.
  • View: Focus Second Side in Active Editor - Move focus to the second (right or bottom) side.
  • View: Focus Other Side in Active Editor - Toggle between the split editor sides.

The Workbench > Editor: Split in Group Layout (workbench.editor.splitInGroupLayout) setting lets you set the preferred split editor layout to either horizontal (default) or vertical.

Grid layout

If you'd like more control over the editor group layout, you can use the grid layout, where you can have multiple rows and columns of editor groups visible. The View > Editor Layout menu lists various editor layout options (for example, Two Columns, Three Columns, Grid (2x2)) and you can adjust the group sizes by grabbing and moving the sash between them.

Editor Grid 2x2 layout with the sash highlighted

Floating editor windows

You can open an editor in a floating window, for example to move the editor to another place on your monitor or even to another monitor.

To open an editor in a floating window, drag it out of the main window and drop it anywhere outside of the current VS Code window:

Floating editor windows are capable of opening as many editors as you like in a grid layout. The windows will restore at their location after restart and reopen all the editors within.

Another way to detach an editor is to right-click on an editor tab, and select the option Move into New Window (workbench.action.moveEditorToNewWindow) or Copy into New Window (⌘K O (Windows, Linux Ctrl+K O)).

Floating windows from editor tab menu

If you want to move an entire editor group, select Move Editor Group into New Window () or Copy Editor Group into New Window ().

Pinned tabs

If you'd like an editor tab to always be visible, you can pin it to the editor tab bar. You can pin an editor tab from either the context menu or using the command View: Pin Editor (⌘K ⇧Enter (Windows, Linux Ctrl+K Shift+Enter)).

Pinned editor tab with pin button highlighted

Pinned tabs help access files that are important to you as:

  • Pinned tabs always appear first before non-pinned tabs.
  • They do not scroll out of view if you have many tabs opened.
  • They do not close when using editor tab commands such as Close Others or Close All.
  • They do not close even when you exceed a set limit of opened editors.

Unpin an editor by clicking on the pin icon, using the Unpin editor tab context menu item, or the View: Unpin Editor command.

You can choose how you'd like to display pinned editors with the Workbench > Editor: Pinned Tab Sizing (workbench.editor.pinnedTabSizing) setting. The options are:

  • normal: A pinned tab inherits the look of other tabs (default)
  • shrink: A pinned tab shrinks to a fixed size showing parts of the editor label.
  • compact: A pinned tab will only show as icon or first letter of the editor label.

You can also show pinned editor tabs on a separate row above the regular editor tab bar by setting Workbench > Editor: Pinned Tabs On Separate Row. You can pin and unpin editors by dragging and dropping their tabs between the two rows.

Locked editor groups

When using multiple editors, it's common to have one or more that you want to always keep visible. The locked editor group feature, where an entire editor group is locked and visible, provides a stable display and any request to open a new editor will create it in another group. You can tell whether an editor group is locked by the lock icon in the editor group tool bar.

Locked editor group with lock icon highlighted

You can lock an editor group by selecting Lock Group from the editor tool bar More Actions ... dropdown or running the View: Lock Editor Group command.

Lock Group command in the editor tool bar More Actions dropdown

You can unlock an editor group by clicking on the lock icon or running the View: Unlock Editor Group command.

Locked groups behave differently than unlocked groups:

  • New editors will not open in a locked group unless explicitly moved there (for example, via drag and drop).
  • If a new editor skips a locked group, it will either open in the most recently used unlocked group or create a new group to the side of the locked one.
  • The locked state of an editor group is persisted and restored across restarts.
  • You can lock empty groups as well, allowing for a more stable editor layout.

The primary use case is for terminals in the editor area. For example, you might want to edit text on the left and have a terminal on the right that is always visible. When a terminal editor is created and moved to the side, it will automatically lock. This means that even when the terminal on the right is focused, opening a file will open it on the left side without needing to manually change focus first.

Auto locking groups can be configured using the workbench.editor.autoLockGroups setting, which defaults to only terminal editors but any editor type can be added to get the same behavior.

Auto Lock Groups setting with Terminal checked in the Settings editor

The commands related to editor group locking:

  • View: Lock Editor Group - Lock the active editor group.
  • View: Unlock Editor Group - Unlock the active locked editor group.
  • View: Toggle Editor Group Lock - Lock or unlock the active editor group.

You must have more that one editor group for these commands to be available.

Next steps

Read on to find out about: