Selecting subwindow

I’ve inherited a Vaadin application that mimics a desktop. It has one full-screen window with lots of little subwindows. The users will create new subwindows, move them around, resize them, etc.

Sometimes I wonder if this was really the right way to go. Shouldn’t each of these subwindows be a separate browser winder? Then the browser could manage them. At the moment I am trying to get it to work better the way it is. I’ve made it smarter about where it places new windows, and easier to find a window if it is buried under another one.

One problem is that it can be hard for a user to select a subwindow when it is under another subwindow. I’m used to operating systems that will let you click on a tiny piece of a subwindow and have it come to the top. Vaadin will do something similar, but it is not reliable. I have to click on a window many times to get it to come up. The more area that is exposed by a subwindow, the easier it is to select. When a subwindow is only showing a small amount of itself, sometimes I can’t ever seem to select it.

Perhaps I am just trying to select subwindows incorrectly. Perhaps I need to enable an option to make subwindows more responsive, or catch some events that I am currently ignoring. I really have no idea what approach I should take.