How to use split screen on Mac

Split View El Capitan

Split View first appeared in OS X El Capitan in 2015.

Your Mac can open two windows side-by-side in split screen mode, which Apple calls Split View. Here is everything you need to know to make use of the feature, which is one of the best ways to work between two applications.

What is Split View?

Available since OS X El Capitan and designed to make Full Screen View even more effective, Split View lets you work between two applications, even in Full Screen View – really useful when you want to focus on getting work done and cut out background clutter.

Split view in action

Split view in action

How to use split screen/Split View on a Mac

To begin you must enter Full Screen View for your first application.

To use Split View first you must tap and hold the green button to the top let of the window belonging to the first application you want to access in Split view. The screen will split in two, one half will be greyed out while the active window you are in will appear normal, but smaller. Drag your active application to the left or right side of your display.

To add a second application

Now you have your first application active there are several ways to open a second application in the other half of your Split View:

#1. Click in the unused half of the view and tap an application window you can see in the preview mode you are presented with there to open it in that view.

#2. You can also choose applications using the Mission Control.

While in Full Screen View:

You can get to Split View on your Mac even when in full-screen view:

  • While in full-screen view tap the Mission Control button on your keyboard (F3).
  • Mission Control will open up: You’ll see active applications in the bottom of this view and any full screen applications (if you have more than one) and Spaces appear at the top of the Mission Control view.
  • You will be able to see the full-screen application you are currently using in one of the previews at the top.
  • To open an app just drag-&-drop it into that preview. This also works for apps that you may currently also have open in full-screen – just drag the relevant preview to the window.

Your Split View window should open up with the two applications you want to use side-by-side.

How can I open different apps in this view?

You can remain in Split View mode in one app while changing the app available in the other. To do so, just tap one side of the view to make it active and then tap Mission Control (F3). Now in the desktop preview you can just drag a new app to your active Space.

How do I choose which window to work in while in Split View?

Just tap the relevant window to begin working in that view.

How do I swap window positions in Split View?

To swap the two windows around just click and hold the top of one window momentarily and drag it to the other side. Both windows will exchange sides in quite a satisfactory animation.

Can I make one window bigger?

You can make one side of your Split View window bigger, just drag the grey bar at the dividing line to the left or right.

How do I quit Split View?

  • To quit Split View just move the your cursor to the top of your display to get to the application window menu and tap the full-screen button for one of your two applications.
  • The program will exit Split View and you’ll immediately see it in normal view, while the remaining app will enter Full Screen view but in a different Space.
  • Take three fingers and swipe right or left on your trackpad and you’ll be taken to other Spaces you may be using on your Mac.

More hints and tips

You may get some good Mac user ideas in these collections:

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Jonny Evans

Watching Apple since 1999. I don't say what they should do. I say what they might do. They sometimes do.

1 Response

  1. Rob Ferguson says:

    Awhile back, I stumbled into split view & had a devil of time getting out of the split view mode. With these tips I’ll now know how to deal with this if I stumble into it again. Most of my office colleagues use dual monitors which create an actual split screen, but I prefer to just toggle back & forth between apps & really see little use for a split screen function.

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