How To Use OS X El Capitan's Split Screen Mode

  • MORE

screen shot 2015 10 07 at 2.54.34 pm

Windows users may have been able to lock two windows into a split screen mode for years, but that feature has now made it to the Mac with OS X El Capitan. The operating system update introduces support for this screen-tidying feature for up to two windows per display at a time. You can browse recipes online in Safari with a to-do list open in Notes to make a grocery list, or you can have Steam and Twitter open side by side to get tips for what to buy in the latest sale. Here's how to divide your screen equally (or unequally) between two windows.

MORE: OS X El Capitan: Full Review


How To Use OS X El Capitan's New Split Screen Mode

1. Click and hold the green button in the upper left corner of an app that shows two triangles pointing in opposite directions. Do not release the button. If the green dot reveals a + sign, that app does not support slit screen view.

1   split screen screen shot

2. While holding down on the button, drag the window to the half of the screen you want to place it in. That half of the screen will be tinted blue.

2   screen shot 2015 10 07 at 12.50.30 pm copy

3. Click on the window you want to fill the rest of your screen. 3   screen shot 2015 10 07 at 12.53.29 pm copy

4. To resize the windows, click and drag the black bar between the two windows to the left or right.

4a   split screen screen shot copy

5. To break a window out of split screen view, move your cursor to the top of the window and click on the green dot again.

5   split screen screen shot


Author Bio
Henry T. Casey
Henry T. Casey,
After graduating from Bard College a B.A. in Literature, Henry T. Casey worked in publishing and product development at Rizzoli and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, respectively. Henry joined Tom's Guide and LAPTOP having written for The Content Strategist, Tech Radar and Patek Philippe International Magazine. He divides his free time between going to live concerts, listening to too many podcasts, and mastering his cold brew coffee process. Content rules everything around him.
Henry T. Casey, on
Add a comment
  • George Says:

    Thanks for the tips! Works great.

  • lulu davies Says:

    does not work at all this does not work for my mac air so thumbs down

  • Jane Doe Says:

    Look for a little app called spectacle. Better than the crap Apple is giving us.

  • mary Blennerhassett Says:

    I wish I had stuck with windows! Apple have a cleverly of manipulating their customers, so that once you have bought into them, you are just about obliged to stay with them,i.e.: you are tied in to their whole process. Honestly its like a flaming religion,or else...a power battle between the mega rich computer barons of silicon valley, and wherever else they hang out!!

  • Mary Blennerhassett Says:

    it just gets more and more complicated , and my brain is getting smaller and smaller!!

  • Alexandria Says:

    Thank you so much. I've been trying to do multiple windows on Mac, in vain, for ages. Accidentally found this article when, once again, I was searching for a way to handle multiple screens while writing a blog.

  • Tracy Sublett Says:

    Thank you for your help. I finally have been successful at a split screen on the mac between a word document and chrome.

  • ranjeetnatt Says:

    There are many screen modes that can be used in q basic .Every mode has a different solution and supports different number of colours

  • Paul Nicholson Says:

    I bought a Mac 3 years ago because it streamlined with my iPhone and had a nice laptop shell. But when people start using terms such as 'app' instead of program, 'Kind' instead of Type, and praising the release of basic functions such as pulling the screen to the side, I realise that I've made a shocking mistake. I installed Cinch the moment I got this pos, along with a hundred other essential programs to make this absolutely HORRIFIC operating system work. Now that Apple have made a screen splitter that requires you to aim for a tiny button, and of course as always only works on one screen, not multiple monitor setups, I realise that I'm going to have to spend the next month of my life going back to IBM compatible. Apple computers are for children. They are toys. There is nothing you can do on them. There is hardly any software for them. And they put your files where they want, have different capabilities in Finder and dialogue boxes, etc. I've lost years of original work using Time Machine. Customer Service smile emotionlessly and use the term 'third party' all the time, as if the main party is themselves. Mac Users are a bunch of brain dead followers and I don't want any part of this awful, awful software anymore. I'm keeping the laptop though. There must be a million hacks to use the touchpad on Windows by now. My productivity is about to increase a million fold.

  • Haley Says:

    So I have the little green guy that says I can split my screen but when I hold it down nothing else happens? I can't drag it to either side, it just goes to full screen. Please help, haha.

  • Spencer Lee Says:

    There is a much easier way to spilt screen, just take the 2 tabs and put it to max size, then click F3 and drag it to together.

  • David Says:

    There are so many ads on this page that I don't know where the content starts and ends - I've tried following the directions but no luck. Just as well I have a Magic Mouse and I can use the old method of swiping from one screen to another - clumsy but it works

  • Nick J Says:

    Cinch for the WIN! Still better implementation than this 5 second process.....

  • LisaR Says:

    Sorry, please ignore my previous question; I figured it out. Thanks.

  • LisaR Says:

    I can't drag the window while holding down the green button. I see the two arrows so I know the app supports the feature. What am I doing wrong?

  • Gavster Says:

    Such a long time coming and they implement it like this? Not only do I have to go hover and hold on a little button (instead of just grabbing the title bar and quickly dragging it to the side - 100 times easier); but once it's snapped I can only unsnap it and lose the windows position, I can't just have that one window half screen by itself and continue with other stuff; hey Apple, the reason I wanted to put the window there is BECAUSE I WANT IT THERE AND MAYBE I WANT IT TO STAY THERE!?!?! Apple really do frustrate me lately. I bet it's down to some stupid patent, scrap the patent system please.

    Back to better snap tool or tile windows lite. What a waste of time.

  • Corey Hughes Says:

    I've tried this on Pages and Chrome and nothing happens at all

  • simon Says:

    have to say henry - this is a very poor instructional and left me cursing many applications that don't support it.
    Turns out you don't see the arrows until you hover over a normal green button - a major omission in my opinion.

  • Mac.. Says:

    Works fine,very easy and free.
    just need more programs to support it.
    It does work with Word 2016.

  • Guy With Advice Says:

    It's a bit sad that OSX is finally getting this functionality. I would say the only function that Windows has beat Apple on.

    I've been using BetterSnapTool


    for quite some time. It is the best solution if you are a heavy multi-tasker. You can split windows even down to quarter sections of the screen unlike other window splitters I've seen. Assign shortcuts to the numberpad and quickly throw windows to any quarter corner, half screen, full, or even thirds of the screen. You can even set shortcuts to move windows from one screen to the next if you use dual monitors.

  • Lindsay Says:

    I was so excited for this.. Oh, but the one app I want to use split screen with, Word, doesn't support it. Damn, Macbook!

  • PowahUser Says:

    I'm a Mac fan, but Windows did this first and better with an instant Win+Right/Left arrow shortcut. Please tell me there's a keyboard shortcut for this!

  • Norman Lewis Says:

    That is too many steps. I use Split Screen App ( which gives me 10 more ways of splitting windows plus I can resize the windows without even touching my mouse (just keyboard shortcuts). And the best part is, I can do Drag and Snap windows just like Windows 8. Still better than El Capitan's Split Screen!

  • Dennis Says:

    What are you talking about? That is far too complicated!!

    All you do is click/hold the green arrows (next to the close/minimise buttons) and it will automatically resize etc.

  • Frank Says:

    This worked for me: click and hold the green button for the first window you want to be split screen...this puts it on the left, then click the other window you want (not the button, the window)'s now on the right. The above directions are more complicated than needed, I think.

  • fafa rafa Says:

    This is just idiotic. First you have to maximize the applications, then move them to another virtual desktop.

    This is where Windows wins, and I'm a Mac user. On windows you just drag the damn application to the side and it's done.

    I stay with the rest of the people on this one, waaaay too complicated for such a simple thing.

  • Emily Says:

    I don't understand how this works, I've tried a number of times. The split takes way to long there should just be a button at the top of the page.

  • James Says:

    When I try the split screen with mail it doesn't work mail takes over the screen

  • AnthonyC Says:

    I use Sizeup with its keyboard shortcuts, it is just wonderful and worth every penny!

  • MattP Says:

    A LOT harder than it needs to be.

  • ReneD Says:

    Or you could just get Bettersnaptool from the Appstore. its like $2 and it works exactly like Windows snap. can even decide how big or small you want the windows to be.

  • Stuart Says:

    i can't get this to work, neither commands are working for me, is the feature available on the mac mini ?

  • dobes Says:

    I simply dragged the open document/app to the top of the screen where Mission Control has open apps. I didn't see any + sign, and just left it there. But when I brought the second document up and passed it along the line of open apps/documents, + signs appeared and I was able to add it to the one I wanted. It's a great feature.

  • Alex Says:

    For me the only way this worked was to have the hot corner set up as Mission Control, then I was able to add the windows onto the top of the screen. Holding the green full screen button within the window was the easiest.

  • Stu Says:

    Nothing happens when I drag a window up to the menubar.

  • Ben Says:

    Thanks Noah, much easier and faster way to do this.

  • Noah Says:

    You can also click and hold on the "Fullscreen mode" green button then drag the app to what side you want it on.

Back to top