How To Split Screen on Mac - All You Need To Know

Velina Nenova
Velina Nenova

Updated · Oct 16, 2022

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We need to multitask more often than not, and effectively doing so is ever so important.

A single app window is usually not enough, and going back and forth gets old quickly.

And let’s face it, when you’re on the go with your Macbook Pro, carrying even a portable monitor is not an ideal solution. Especially if you only want to have two apps active side by side.

For this reason, knowing how to split the screen on your Mac or Macbook will make your life much easier.

The function, called Split View by Apple, has been around for a while, but it hasn’t been the most obvious to figure out.

That’s where we come in.

Read on to make your multitasking life much easier.

How To Split Screen on Mac?

Using Split View on Mac is simple and requires only a few steps.

Depending on the macOS version, there are two slightly different ways of doing it. When writing this review, I used Mojave.

But don’t worry, I’ll explain both methods.

The one thing to remember about either of these is that the apps you want to split shouldn’t be in full-screen mode.

How to Split Screen on macOS Catalina and newer versions?

  • Hover the cursor to the top left corner of the app and over the green (full screen) button of the app you want to split
  • From the drop-down menu, select the Tile Window to Left of Screen or Right of the Screen. This will put the app in the corresponding half of the screen.
  • The rest of your open apps will appear on the other half. All you need to do is select the one you want, and it will lock beside the first one.

Can you Split Screen on an older Mac operating system?

Yes, you can.

As long as it’s running macOS El Capitan, Sierra, High Sierra, or Mojave, the below method will work.

  • Left-click and hold the green button at the top left corner of the window.
  • The selected app’s window will slightly shrink, and the area underneath it will turn blue.

green button

  • Either leave the app where it sits or drag it to the other side.

resizing tabs

  • Select the second one you need from the other half of the screen, and you’re good to go.

splitting screen on mac

Now that you’ve seen how to do a split screen on your Mac, you can drastically reduce bouncing between apps.

For example, you can keep an eye on a chat window while making dinner reservations or have your Word document open while transcribing data from an Excel spreadsheet.

It makes the workflow much more convenient.

You can also have more than one instance of Split View.

This means you can use it to have two or three pairs of apps open or maybe even have browser tabs in side by side windows instead.

To switch between these multiple windows on a Mac, you can use the traditional ways:

  • Scrolling between full screens - Command + Left/Right Arrow; swipe left or right with three fingers
  • Mission Control - F3 button; Control + Up/Down arrow; swipe up with four fingers on a trackpad

Adjusting Split View on Mac

Split View is one of those functions, which is good, but hasn’t lived up to its full potential yet, like lacking many customization options.

  • To change the width of either window, drag the border between them, left or right.

adjusting the split view

  • If you want to rearrange the windows, just click and drag the window on whichever side you want it.

Since this feature essentially lets the Mac have two windows, side by side on a full screen, the Menu Bar hides as usual.

However, if you’re running macOS Monterey, you can toggle this option on or off. This is how to do it:

  • Go to System Preferences
  • Go to Dock & Menu bar
  • In the main window of this menu, deselect Automatically hide and show the menu bar on full screen.

Exit A Split Screen On Mac

Once finished with your work, it’s time to exit Split View on your Mac.

Here’s how to do it:

  • Move the cursor to the top of the screen to view the red, yellow, and green buttons
  • Either press the red one to close the window or the green one to resize

Don’t worry about the second app disappearing. It’s just hidden as a full-screen window. To find it, simply use the switching options.

Additionally, if you wish to swap one of the two apps, you’d have to exit and redo the split screen process with the other one you want.

Why Won’t Mac Do a Split Screen?

Now that we know how to get a split screen on a Mac let’s troubleshoot a few reasons you might not be able to.  

First, as mentioned above, you need to make sure the app you want to split isn’t in full-screen mode already. If it is, it won’t work.

You also want to confirm that you enabled the Displays have separate Spaces setting. To do this:

  • Go to System Preferences
  • Go to Mission Control
  • Confirm that you selected Displays have separate Spaces.

Displays have separate Spaces

This option isn’t available if you’re running a macOS version older than El Capitan. In this case, you’ll need to update your system to a newer OS.

The last thing you should remember is that not all apps support side by side windows on Mac.

If the place where the green button is supposed to be, is blank or if it doesn’t have the tiny triangles inside, then the feature isn’t supported.

How Do You Split Screen On A Mac Without Full Screen?

If you’re not a fan of the full-screen mode of Split View, you always have the option to manually resize and arrange the windows on a Mac to your liking.

  • To resize, simply drag the sides or the corners of the app window.
  • To move the window, simply click somewhere on its top bar and drag it to wherever you want.
  • Repeat the same process for the rest.

Although this method may not be the most visually appealing, it gives you the chance to fit three or four windows instead of only two.

Of course, if you’re trying this on your Macbook Pro, the display may not be large enough to accommodate as many windows.

What Is The Keyboard Shortcut For Splitting Screens On Mac?

If you’re one to remember keyboard shortcuts like a pro, you may be disappointed to learn that there isn’t a dedicated Mac split screen shortcut available.

However, there are still a couple of things you can do.

There is, for example, a semi-shortcut available:

  • Put your desired window in full-screen mode by pressing Control + Command + F
  • Use one of the ways discussed above to access Mission Control - F3 button, keyboard, or gesture.

mission control

  • Select the second app you want to use and drag it into the full-screen one.

dragging a tab to full screen

And if you’re using macOS Catalina or later editions, you can create a custom shortcut for Split View:

  • Go to System Preferences.
  • Go to Keyboard and then select the Shortcuts tab.
  • Choose App Shortcuts.
  • Press the + button under the list view.
  • A pop-up window appears, prompting you to add the shortcut details. 
  • Type Tile Window to Left of Screen (or Right) in the first field.
  • Then input the key combination you want to use.

Wrap Up 

Figuring out how to split screen on your Mac may not be the most obvious process, but hopefully, you’ll find it’s far from being difficult.

Once you get used to it, multitasking on either your Mac or Macbook becomes a breeze.

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Velina Nenova

Velina Nenova

Velina describes herself as passionate media savvy and a versatile individual with numerous different interests, most a result of her Media & Communications BA. She has also developed a keen interest in Digital Marketing and Advertising. Her never-ending desire to constantly learn new things and enrich herself and her ultimate dream to go around the globe before 45 are her driving forces.

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