Split-screen modes divide your computer screen into two different halves so you can view two separate windows at the same time. This is immensely useful for research projects and more complex work assignments (especially on laptops), which is why so many students and professionals hunt down ways to split their screen whenever they get a new Mac.
Now for the good news: In newer versions of MacOS, there’s a very easy split-screen mode called Split View that anyone with an updated Mac can use. In this guide, we’ll teach you how to use Split View on a Mac to make the most of your system.
While connecting multiple external monitors is always a possibility for larger projects, here’s how to divide your screen on a smaller level whenever you need it.
Get started with Split View
Step 1: Begin by opening two or more windows that you want to be paired in a split-screen layout: Browser windows, apps, documents — whatever you want. Pick your first window and look in its upper left corner to find three colored dots: Red, yellow and green. These control the window.
Step 2: If you hover the cursor over the green dot, it presents two small “expand” arrows. Hold down on this green dot and a list of options appears: Enter Full Screen, Tile Window to Left of Screen and Tile Window to Right of Screen. Select either the second or third option and the window will fill that portion of your display.
Step 3: One half of your Split View is done. You’ll see the first app on one half of the screen, with thumbnails of any other open windows on the other side. Select the other window that you want to use in Split View mode and it will expand to fill the void, completing the Split View experience. You can tap either window to switch your primary focus as needed.
Adjusting Split View
Split View doesn’t necessarily need to divide your screen equally. Click and hold on the black divider and slide it left or right to adjust each half of the screen. This is particularly useful if you’re trying to view a large web page with an odd design or need extra space for a big spreadsheet. Just note that some apps — like Apple’s Photos, for example — have minimum widths, so you may not be able to adjust the bar much or even at all.
If you realize you prefer the windows on different sides, simply click and hold an app’s title bar and drag it over to the opposite side. The windows will automatically switch places.
Not sure where your menus have gone? Split View automatically hides the menu bar (and Dock). Just move your pointer to the top of the screen and it reappears while your pointer remains, giving you access to each app’s menus while you’re using Split View.
Finally, if the windows are too small, you can adjust your resolution.
When you’re ready to leave Split View mode, click on the green dot on either window or press Esc. This will return both windows to their original state and allow you to resume what you were doing before entering Split View.
Split View options
If you hold Option (or Alt) and click the green button in a window’s top-left corner, you get three new options: Zoom, Move Window to Left Side of Screen and Move Window to Right Side of Screen.
Whereas Enter Full Screen hides the Dock and menu bar, Zoom keeps these in place. The difference between tiling a window and moving it is similar — tiling hides the Dock and menu bar, while moving does not. Moving also doesn’t enter Split View — there’s no moveable black bar when you just move a window to either side of the screen. You don’t need to pair a second app, either.
Mac users waited many long years, but MacOS has native window snapping, just like Windows 10. Click and drag a window to one of the four sides or four corners of your display and a translucent box will appear in front of it. This indicates the shape the window will occupy; release the mouse button and it’ll automatically snap to this position.
MacOS Catalina gives you a total of ten different options:
- Drag a window into a corner and it’ll take up 25% of your screen.
- Drag it to the top portion of either the left or right side of the screen and it’ll fill the top half of the display; do the same for the bottom portion of the left or right side and it’ll fill the bottom half of your screen.
- Drag the window to the left or right of the screen without going near the corner of your display and it’ll fill the left or right half.
- Drag it to the bottom of the screen to make it fill the middle third.
- Drag it to the top of the screen to make the app full screen. Note that if you then drag a little further up you’ll enter Mission Control, so you have to be careful with this.
Given there are so many choices, it may take a bit of practice to find the various sweet spots. But adding this functionality to MacOS is a definite boost for Mac users, who have been deprived of this useful function for far too long.
Note that window snapping is not the same as Split View — apps won’t enter full screen when you drag them into place, and there’s no black bar to adjust their size.
A quick word about Mission Control
Do you have several windows open at once and want something more comprehensive to view them all? Mission Control can help.
This mode displays all your open windows in a ribbon-like view that lets you quickly jump from one to another. Mission Control also lets you create multiple virtual desktops (or “spaces”), each with their own apps and windows open. These are also displayed on the ribbon, allowing you to easily move from desktop to another.
You can access Mission Control in many ways, but one of the easiest is to simply drag a window up to the top edge of your screen, which should automatically enter Mission Control mode. Alternatively, Apple keyboards typically include a Mission Control button (F3), or if you have a trackpad, you can swipe upwards with either three or four fingers (depending on your trackpad settings).
You can enter Mission Control while in Split View too, which is an easy way of switching windows as necessary. Mission Control also helps you switch to Split View when you have two fullscreen apps open. Just activate Mission Control and then drag your app window on top of another window or app icon. This should immediately activate Split View.
Cinch, a third-party alternative
If you’re not on board with Split View, there are alternatives for creating a split-screen setup.
One of our favorites is Cinch. It creates hot zones on the four corners of your Mac screen and two hot zones on the right and left sides. You simply drag a window into one of these zones, and it snaps into place. If you drag it into a corner, it will automatically snap to one-quarter of the size of your screen. If you drag the window to the side of your Mac, it will snap to half the screen.
Some users may find this easier and more intuitive or more useful for viewing multiple windows at once. If you are interested, Cinch does a good job staying current with the latest MacOS.
Some features won’t work on MacOS Mojave
Still using MacOS Mojave? Split View remains mostly the same, but there are a couple of notable differences. First, you can’t use the window snapping features that are built-in with MacOS Catalina. Instead, using an app like Cinch or Magnet can achieve similar results.
Second, you won’t get the Zoom, Move Window to Left Side of Screen and Move Window to Right Side of Screen tools if you hold Option while clicking the green button. This is a new feature introduced in Catalina.
If you’re thinking of upgrading to Catalina but haven’t made the leap, fear not — we have all the info you need to install MacOS Catalina in a separate guide.