How to span a window between two displays in Mavericks

If you use OS X Mavericks with multiple displays, you may have noticed a change in the system's behavior since you upgraded: You now get docks and menus in each window. But there's a drawback: you can't display a single window between multiple displays anymore. Either the app or the window is on one display or the other, but never both. Here's a handy tip for restoring that functionality, for anyone who misses it from Mountain Lion.

To understand what's going on, let's talk about space. Well, specifically, Spaces. Spaces, in OS X parlance, are virtual desktops. Each Space can contain whatever windows you want: applications, groups of windows, however you want to organize what's happening on your Mac. You can have multiple Spaces managed on a single display to make it easier to manage complex workflows between applications, for example.

By default, OS X Mavericks maintains each distinct display as a separate Space. That's why you get the menu and dock on each separate display in Mavericks, instead of just your main display. To restore the ability to span windows between multiple displays, follow these instructions:

  1. Click on the menu.
  2. Select System Preferences.
  3. Click on Mission Control.
  4. Uncheck the box marked Displays have separate spaces.
  5. Log out or restart your Mac.

Once you've restarted, you'll be able to span windows across displays to your heart's content. This is the pre-Mavericks way of managing multiple displays, so no more menu bar or dock on the second screen.

Is Mavericks' new way of managing screens an irritation, or do you prefer it? Did this tip help? Let me know in the comments.

11 Comments
  • I can't get used to how the dock randomly switches between displays, but independent spaces and full-screen windows on each display is a massive improvement.
  • The dock shouldn't "randomly" switch between displays. If you want the dock on the other display, take your cursor and put it where your dock would normally be, then move it up a little bit. This will cause the dock to show up. If you are using a left or right hand side dock, it could appear that it was happening randomly.
  • I like how it is now but it needs Improvement. 2 things that drive me nuts is when you go to the display where the dock currently isn't showing, trying to get it to pop up is a task in itself. The other thing is when you open a new app it should pop up in the display you're currently working on rather than opening on the second display.
  • Thanks for this! What displays are those in those photos by the way?
  • Those are Marcus' displays. You can find more out about the setup here.
  • I do not have the privilege of being able to make use of multiple displays, Lord knows I could make good use of that option!
    This is a really nice tip to know, though, because you never know - that dream of a fully loaded Mac Pro w/3 monitors still lives.
    Thank you for pointing out, Peter!
    :D Sent from the iMore App
  • I like how it works but that's because in my multi-monitor setup. I run Remote Desktop so Windows is on one screen and OS X on the other. The dock swapping is what annoys me. I know how to do it but the time delay needs to be longer. Try using Win8 with all these corner hovering moves. The dock pops up multiple times a freaking day. Sent from the iMore App
  • Good tip, thanks Peter.
  • I can't compare to pre Mavericks, but compared to Windows, Mavericks way of handling dual monitors is much better for me. Much more flexible. It has worked good using MBP. I love the dock being on all monitors. Sent from the iMore App
  • I hate to say this, but I think Windows does this much better. Simple. Apple complicates the whole thing by making such a big deal with full screen mode. You can maximize windows since windows 3.1. Apple still hasn't gotten this right. All I want is 1 dock, and the ability to maximize my window to the full screen without tying up my other screens. (Just 1 "space"). Why is this so hard for Apple to do?
  • Awesome, this was driving me crazy for a month. All is good in the universe now... Thanks !!