How to Use Split Screen on a MacBook for Extra Productivity

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 20, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

There may be a time when you're working on your MacBook and using two apps at the same time. Splitting the screen and resizing the two windows is a great way to work without constantly switching between the apps. Learning how to split the screen to fit multiple apps can help you save time while multitasking. In this article, we explore the benefits of splitting the screen on a MacBook, review the steps to use the split screen view, explain how to adjust and exit the view, and discuss the alternatives to the split screen.

The benefits of using split screen on a MacBook

The following are the benefits of using the split screen view on a MacBook:

  • Productivity: If you constantly switch between applications, using split screen on a MacBook can increase your productivity. This is because you don't pause your work to bring up another window.

  • Quick response: Split screens are better for anyone working in customer service or who requires a way to respond to work emails quickly. You can use one screen to communicate with colleagues and clients and the other to work.

  • Inexpensive: Using a split screen on a single monitor can save you the cost of setting up multiple monitors. Splitting a screen is simple and becomes easier with practise.

  • Multitasking: Using a split screen is an excellent option if the main setup in your office uses multiple monitors but you are working somewhere else. This allows you to enjoy the same multitasking.

Related: Essential Multitasking Skills and How to Improve Them

How to use a split screen

To ensure the split screen mode works on your Mac, check the settings first. Then, in the top-left corner of your monitor, go to the Apple menu, click System Preferences, and finally click Mission Control. Make sure the box next to "Displays Have Separate Spaces" has a check mark. You can use the following steps to split your screen with multiple applications on a MacBook running macOS Catalina or later:

  1. Open program windows: You can open two or more windows that you want to use in a split screen on your monitor. Look in the upper-left corner in the first window and find the red, yellow, and green dots.

  2. Click the green dot: When you click and hold down the green dot, the options are to enter full-screen mode, tile window to the left, and tile window to the right. By choosing the second or third option, the window fills either the left or right of the screen.

  3. Select the second window: You can now see your first app on one half of your screen, along with thumbnails of other open windows on the other side. Click the other window you want on the other side of the screen, and it fills the void to complete the split screen.

About mission control

Mission control can help you if multiple windows open at once on your computer and you want a way to view them all. There are various ways that you can access mission control. The simplest is to click and drag a window to the top of the screen, which automatically enters mission control mode. This mode shows all the open windows in a ribbon-like display and lets you switch from one window to another.

Another way to access this feature is by pressing the F3 button on your keyboard, or you can swipe up with three or four fingers on the track pad, depending on your track pad settings. You can also access mission control when using a split screen, making it easy to switch windows when necessary. Mission control can also help switch to a split screen when two apps are open. After activating mission control, you can click and drag the app window on top of another window icon in the ribbon display. This immediately starts a split screen.

Related: 16 Tips to Help You Work Smarter, Not Harder

Changing the split screen display

The following are the methods to adjust and exit the split screen view:

Window snapping

Window snapping allows you to click and drag a window to either half of the screen or one of the four corners. When you click and drag a window to the area where you want it to go, a translucent box appears in front of it. This box shows the window's area when you let go of the mouse. Releasing the mouse snaps the window to the position automatically. There are various spots where you can place the window, so it may take some practise to find the best location.

It's important to remember that this isn't the same as splitting the screen. For example, there's no black bar to help adjust the window size. The following are the different options available when window snapping:

  • Dragging a window to a corner occupies 25% of the screen

  • Dragging a window to the top section of the right or left side of the screen occupies the top half of the screen

  • Dragging a window to the bottom section of the right or left side of the screen occupies the bottom half of the screen

  • Dragging the window to the right or left of the screen without going into the corners fills the right or left half

  • Dragging the window to the top of your screen makes it full screen

Adjusting the split screen

It's not always necessary to divide the screen equally. If you want to adjust your screen, click and hold the black divider. You can find this in the middle of the two windows and slide it to the right or left to change the size of each half. This can be beneficial if you're looking at a larger website with an odd design or require extra space for a large spreadsheet. Remember that some applications have minimum screen widths, so you might not be able to adjust the divider much or at all.

If you decide to have the windows on different sides, you can click and hold the title bar of the windows and drag it to the opposite side. The windows automatically switch sides. The split screen automatically hides the menus and the dock. To see the menu bar, move your cursor to the top of the screen. You can exit the split screen if you're looking for the dock. To change an application, you can open mission control and drag one of the application windows to another app in the application ribbon.

Related: Computer Literacy in the Workplace: What You Need to Know

Exiting the split screen

If you want to exit the split screen view on a MacBook, you can press the "Escape" key to return to the standard window view mode. This may not work if you're using an app with a different "Escape" key function. In this scenario, you can click on the green dot at the window's top corner to exit the app. To exit the other app, click on the green dot on that window. You can also use mission control to exit the split screen by locating the inward-facing arrows in the space menu bar on the split screen window.

Split screen alternatives

The following are some alternatives to the split screen feature that can also increase your productivity:

The Mosaic app

The Mosaic app allows you to customize the screen layout easily into two or more parts. This feature can relieve you from the concern of determining how to open two applications and work with them simultaneously. It can also help you arrange the application windows most efficiently and manage more than two windows. To customize your window's layout, go to Mosaic and then click "Preferences". From there, you can search through various tabs on the menu to set up the layouts you like.

Custom workspaces

Workspaces is a feature to help you manage various apps and windows. This feature doesn't split the screen. It opens all your URLs, files, folders, apps, and emails in one click. Workspaces does this by creating a workspace in the app which lists all the actions you require the computer to perform to be ready for work. The feature can do all of this as soon as you run the workspaces app.

For example, a programmer can have a set amount of web pages, apps, and tools to start every time before working. The programmer can create a workspace for these tools in the Workspaces app and run it before beginning their work by just clicking on the workspace it creates. You can also set the workspace to run various elements immediately when you turn the computer on, or with a slight delay.

Related: 22 Essential Project Management Skills

Combining Mosaic and Workspaces

Combining the Mosaic app or the split screen feature with the Workspaces app allows you to create an efficient multitasking experience. The Mosaic app displays your windows how you choose to display them on your screen when the workspace app starts. You can do this to arrange your apps most effectively and access your materials and files quickly and comfortably. You can also improve your workflow by adding your apps, files, URLs, folders, actions, and websites to run automatically.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions, or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Explore more articles