The One Feature All Mac Users Need to Know

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A few years ago, I ditched my aging 2010 MacBook Pro for a 2016 Dell XPS 13. I knew it’d be somewhat of a gamble, as I always preferred Mac OS to Windows, but the Dell’s value was unbeatable.

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Ultimately I wasn’t happy with my XPS 13, though that had less to do with Microsoft’s OS and more to do with my unit’s myriad quality control oversights, from a glitchy trackpad to a wonky Wi-Fi card and a battery that failed after just eight months.

I returned to macOS’ warm embrace last year with a new MacBook Pro. And while I’m pleased to say I’m finally very happy with my daily laptop, there’s been one nagging feature from my Windows days that I have missed: snapping applications.

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Well, at least until last week. I relayed my disappointment to my colleague Andrew E. Freedman over at Tom’s Hardware. And then he blew my mind.

“You know you can do that on Mac too, right?”

I watched in disbelief as Andrew pulled my MacBook over and clicked-and-dragged over Safari’s full-screen button, allowing it to take up exactly half of the screen.

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It turns out you can snap windows in macOS, though it doesn’t work quite the same way as it does in Windows. If you choose one window for split-screen view on a Mac, you’re forced to choose another to consume the remaining portion of the display.

This isn’t the case on PC, though I think I prefer Apple’s implementation. Even though it limits you to two applications, it allows you to avoid ending up with a mess of overlapping windows in the un-snapped portion.

MORE: macOS Mojave Preview: Dark Mode Is Cool, But These Features Are Better

Split-screen is especially useful for me at work, where I often have to compare photos taken with smartphone cameras side-by-side to suss out the differences. I prefer doing this on my MacBook Pro’s Retina display for its vibrant colors and sharp resolution, though up until now I had to awkwardly try to resize Preview windows just so the images I was comparing would sort of match up in size.

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macOS’ split-screen view is also easily adjustable, just like Windows’. You can drag the slider that divides the two apps to make one larger and the other smaller. Additionally, you can also launch split-screen view by dragging an already-open window onto a preview of another desktop in Mission Control.

Andrew tells me this feature has been a mainstay in macOS since El Capitan. Laptop’s own Henry T. Casey even wrote a guide explaining how to do it way back in 2015.

I’m sure any Mac loyalist reading this story will wonder how in the world I missed split-screen for three years. I don’t know what to tell you. All I can say is that since I discovered it exists, it has already immeasurably improved my macOS experience.

Now, if only Microsoft could just come up with a good stand-in for Quick Look, and my biggest Windows complaint would be a thing of the past, too.

Credit: Laptop Mag

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7 comments
  • Ryan Hargett Says:

    I use spectacles like Iain, since I can use keyboard shortcuts like in Windows.

  • Adam Ismail Says:

    Hey all, just to clarify: To access split-screen view, you should only have to click, hold and drag over the full-screen button (the green one in the top left) of an app that supports the view (most I've found do). To get out of that view, hit the escape button.

  • Long-time Mac User Says:

    This does not seem to work as described in High Sierra. My guess is that there is a preference somewhere that controls this, but I couldn't find it. The linked article doesn't say either. If you're writing an entire article about one feature, it might be good to really understand how it works, what controls it, and explain it a little better.

  • C'mon Now Says:

    It does work the same in Windows. Once you drag a window to a hard side edge, it will half it and prompt you for what should occupy the other half.

    I also, I agree with @fun friends ... you never mentioned how to do this. Instead, you linked to a 3-year old article. C'mon now.

  • Fun Friends Says:

    Umm. You never said how to do it.. you only linked to a three year old article. Wow, this journalism thing is easy using old articles an re-hashing them. Ha ha

  • Atticus Mabry Says:

    Better Touch Tool or Better Snap Tool does an incredibly better job! And it’s the App Store for cheap! Functions just like Windows snapping.

  • Maureen Malloy Says:

    I haven’t missed this for three years in terms of knowing it’s a feature. I’ve missed using it since I tried it when first introduced and couldn’t escape it. So somehow I was able to achieve that and never used it again. I hate doing ANYTHING Apple introduces after a new update because it never works the way it’s described. If you would kindly tell me how to get out of split screen view, I’d gladly use it, it would be helpful. Thanks!

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