How to Split Screen on a Mac in a Few Clicks
Mac Tips

How to Split Screen on a Mac in a Few Clicks

What is Split View mode on a Mac and what do you use it for? If you need to use two programs at the same time without constantly switching back and forth between them, you can split the screen of your Mac.  


It’s helpful when you want to view two areas of different applications on one screen. For example, you are composing a text summarizing the contents of a book. You can open a text editor in one window, and a book in another one. And what’s more, you can regulate the size of the windows as long as both apps support this display mode.

two windows open on a mac in split screen mode

This article will explain how to half the screen on a Mac and what to do if it doesn’t work.

How to Split Screen on a Mac

To make sure Split View mode will be working on your Mac, check the settings first. In the top left corner of the screen, go to Apple MenuSystem Preferences Mission Control. Make sure that the box next to Displays have separate Spaces is checked.

check the displays have separate spaces box in mission control settings

The Split View mode is supported by all operating systems starting from OS X El Capitan. The most recent version of macOS—macOS Catalina—differs in the sequence of actions required to launch the mode. In the following sections, we outline the steps for macOS Catalina and for the other versions of the OS.

macOS Catalina

To launch split screen in macOS Catalina:

  1. In the top left corner of the window that’s currently open, click and hold the green circle with outward-facing arrows
  2. From the menu that appears select Tile Window to Left of Screen or Tile Window to Right of Screen. The window will fill the selected area
  3. On the vacant half of the screen select the second window that you would like to be open


Also, you may check out how to split screen on a Mac in a video guide:  

Other macOS Versions

To launch split screen in earlier Mac OS X versions:

1. In the top left corner of the window, click and hold the green circle with outward-facing arrows

location of the green circle to launch split screen on mac

2. The window will shrink and you can simply drag it to one side of the screen

3. Release the window to attach it to the left or the right side

4. Select another window for the other half of the screen to begin simultaneous use

How to Use Mission Control on a Mac

You can use Mission Control for quick viewing and switching between all active windows both in Split View and full-screen mode. It makes accessing any one of the windows open on your Mac simple and more productive.

To launch Mission Control, use one of the following methods:

  1. Press F3, the Mission Control button on your MacBook’s keyboard
  2. Press Control + Upwards arrow at the same time
  3. On Multi-Touch or Magic Trackpad, swipe up with three or four fingers
  4. On the surface of your Magic Mouse, click twice with both fingers
  5. Open Launchpad and navigate to Mission Control in the list of apps
  6. In OS X El Capitan, drag the window to the top side of the screen
find mission control in launchpad

All the currently open windows are displayed under the upper Spaces pane in the Mission Control view.


When navigating to the upper pane in Mission Control you can access the following locations on your Mac:

  • The main and the secondary desktops
  • Programs open in Split View
  • Applications open in the normal mode
mission control space menu and current windows

How to Adjust Split Screen View on a Mac

If one of the apps that you open in Split View requires more than half of the screen for optimal use, you can easily regulate how much space it takes up. Simply hold the black screen separator and move it as far as you need to the left or to the right. Bear in mind, some apps need a certain amount of space on the screen and won’t allow you to move the separator further than what they require.

change window size in split view using the screen separator

In Catalina, regulating the width of the window space is a bit different. Hold the Option key and click on the green circle in the upper corner of the screen to open a new menu. You will be presented with the option to Zoom, Move Window to Left Side of Screen, and Move Window to Right Side of Screen. The Zoom function allows you to regulate the size of the windows.


If you need to switch the positions of the windows between each other, you can hold the grey upper part of one of the windows and drag it to the opposite side of the screen. The part of the window on which you click will be active, whereas the other one will be in the View mode.

switch window positions in split view mode

You can change the resolution settings if the windows seem too small. To do that, go to Apple MenuSystem PreferencesDisplays Display Scaled. Then select one of the options from the list and check if you’re satisfied with how it looks in Split View mode.


To zoom in on an object or text in one of the windows, move your thumb and your index finger apart on the trackpad—an expansion gesture that you would use to change zoom in on an image on Mac.


Bear in mind that you won’t be able to see Dock or the menu bar on top of the screen in Split View mode. To view the upper menu bar, simply move the cursor to the top of the screen. If you want to use the dock, you have to exit Split View.


To change an application open in split screen mode, exit the mode and open Mission Control. Drag one of the program windows to another app in the Space menu bar. Alternatively, simply repeat the Split View launch again with a different application.

How to Exit Split Screen View on Mac

To exit the Split View mode on a MacBook, press Escape to return the windows to the normal mode. However, this method might not work if the Escape button has a different function in one of the apps. In this case, you can click on the green circle in the top corner of the window to exit one of the apps. To exit the other app, open it (it will be in full-screen mode) and click on the green circle there as well.


Alternatively, you can exit Split View through Mission Control by simply clicking on the button with inwards facing arrows on the Split View window in the Space menu bar. Both windows will return to normal size.

exit split view through space menu bar in mission control

Split Screen View System Requirements  

Split screen view became available in 2014 with the release of OS X El Capitan. Unfortunately, in earlier OS X versions you can’t view two apps at the same time.


Some applications, especially third-party apps downloaded from the Internet, don’t support the use of split screen. If you find that an app refuses to take up half of the screen, even though all settings seem to be in place, it’s most likely that it’s not designed to be viewed in this way. However, you will be pleased to know that most default apps for MacBook are fully supported.

Using Better Mac Split Screen Alternatives

As you progress through your career or education, you’re likely to find that you need to gain greater productivity and be able to get more tasks done at the same time. The number of open windows and apps on your Mac grows exponentially, while free space on your screen seems to shrink.


Unfortunately, split screen view has limited opportunities and settings. If two apps on the same screen are not enough for ultimate productivity, you’ll find that Split View is letting you down. You’re likely to spend quite some time trying to find the best app for your needs. Luckily, there are programs that allow viewing more than two windows at the same time, such as Magnet or Split Screen.


What is the shortcut for split screen on a Mac?

To divide a screen on a Mac momentarily, you can use the special green button in the top left corner of any window. To put two windows side by side on Mac, hold the green button and drag the window to the left or right of the screen.

What to do if Split Screen is not working on my Mac?

If Split Screen is not working, the first thing to do is to check your settings in System Preferences. Go to the Apple menuSystem Preferences Mission Control. Check the box next to Displays have separate Spaces.


If the settings seem to be fine but you still can’t access Split View, the problem might be in the version of your operating system. Make sure you’re using macOS El Capitan or newer. If that’s not an issue either, it’s likely that the app itself does not support Split Screen mode.

How to fit two windows on one screen on a Mac?

You can use Split View mode to operate two applications simultaneously. To open an app in Split View, hold the green circle in the top left corner of the window and drag it to one side of the screen. Then select the second app to go on the other side of the screen.


You can change the size of the windows in Split View by holding the black separator and dragging it to either side of the screen.


To switch which side the windows are on, hold the grey upper part of one of the windows and drag it to the opposite side of the screen.

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