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macOS 10.14 wish-list: Better Split View for Mac

I use Split View on macOS all the time, especially on the smaller 12-inch MacBook. It lets you keep two windows visible and active at the same time. It's similar to the iPad feature of the same name but where the iOS version started better and has gotten even better, since its introduction in 2015, the macOS version has languished in feature purgatory. That's something I hope Apple will change in macOS 10.14.

To invoke Split View, you hold down the green button, pick the side you want the first app on, pick the second app from an Exposé-style view of currently active windows, and — boom — you're off and working.

From there you can grab the toolbar and pull an app from left to right or right to left. What you can't do is change either app in the Split View. Ever.

If you have Safari on the left and Notes on the right, for example, you can switch sides for Safari and Notes, but you can't switch Safari for Maps or Notes for Messages. All you can do is destroy the Split View and create another using a different combination of apps. That is, once you reclaim whichever of the apps went full screen instead of returning to its previous state...

Contrast that to Split View on iPad where iOS 11 brought an all-new "dealing" mechanic that lets you pull apps from the Dock, toss them onto either side of the Split View, swap them around, and replace them at will. The new Fast App Switcher on iPad even remembers recent Split View combos and lets you return to them with just a couple swipes and taps.

That works great on multitouch. What I'd love to see on Mac is a mechanic where, if you hold down the green button again, its window shrinks back down to the chooser, and you can pick a different window to take its place in the Split View.

Nailing the interaction would be tricky, and there may well be another, much better way of doing it already in the works. Potentially for years now. I'd just love for it to work.

Split View has become a frequent companion of mine on the MacBook and MacBook Pro. With a few more tweaks, it would not only be more frequent but more constant.

Hopefully, Apple has something in the works for WWDC 2018, and the next generation of macOS, next June.

I've filed this feature request with Apple. It can be found at rdar://34787974.

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

15 Comments
  • This is a feature that Windows nailed way back when 7 was released. It's pretty near perfect in my opinion and it's a shame it can't be replicated or improved upon by Apple. Of course there are patents and licenses and the like but at least make it functional. I NEVER use the split view feature in El Capitan because it's too cumbersome. I use it in Windows all the time because of the ease of use. It just feels natural at this point.
  • window snapping and Split View are two different things. Split View gets rid of the menu bar and other things (it's like going in Full Screen mode, but only taking up half the screen. Windows 7 didn't do that, it just snapped. That being said, I prefer snapping. Both BetterSnapTool and BetterTouchTool allowed this on Mac for years. But snapping and Split View are not technically the same.
  • This is the beauty of the Mac. Someone can come along and write a utility that does something like this. No way can you modify iOS without a jailbreak.
  • I prefer using BetterSnapTool.
  • check Spectacle. I really like how i can use keyboard shortcuts to move windows around. huge time saver and great for working without multiple monitors. https://www.spectacleapp.com/
  • I used to use split view, but found that it was limited and pretty annoying to use. I now mostly use "Magnet" which is basically the snapping view of Windows but with more snapping and resizing options.
  • I've always used Cinch to achieve a similar effect (although more mouse than keyboard based) i can't get my head round split view it seems cumbersome in comparison never seems to do what i was hoping it was going to
  • I'd love to see Split View support more than two windows for those of us who don't use notebooks and their tiny screens. I could easily get three windows across my display. Four if they reformat to an iPhone-like layout. I see a lot of people citing Windows 7's Snap feature, but that, and the corresponding one used on the Windows 10 desktop is a sad shadow of what was possible in Windows 8. I'd love that kind of free-form liberty on my Mac. I have a huge screen. Why should I have to be limited to what a MacBook Air can do? ;)
  • Some good thoughts Rene. I like your constructive approach to issues with Apple products. Splitview, 3D Touch, Handoff, Siri etc, are all advanced features of IOS and/or OS X that I often use on first release and then slowly forget that they even exist. They never really become core parts of my workflows. I suspect I am not alone in this. I do use splitview infrequently, however I unintentionally invoke it more frequently when swiping through photos. I wonder whether I may be better just disabling it. It would be interesting if iMore ran a survey for each operating system to evaluate how much such advanced features are used. Apple need to add new features to each os version to encourage upgrades etc. but it may be that many of the features may only serve to clutter and confuse the normal user's experience. Sent from the iMore App
  • Dead on article Rene, split view is relatively sloppy... OSX has just gotten sloppier over the last year or two... I use my Mac for email, surfing, making and receiving phone call and syncing calendar, notes, to do's etc, and almost all of those features need large stability improvements... While I LOVE answering my phone on my Mac, it only works half of the time... You start to depend on a feature only to have it irritate you that it only works part of the time... "It just works" is not accurate anymore... Maybe they could consider "Apple, we're adding some new half baked features this year..." Sent from the iMore App
  • Forget MacOS and its incredibly cumbersome split view functionality. For relatively little expense, buy one of the "Snap into Place" apps. I personally use Cinch...dead simple but not too customizable, or Magnet (more customizable). Both Cinch and Magnet are available on the Mac App Store.
  • I agree this feature definitely needs improvement! I also agree with Tarpdogg - I NEVER use the split view feature because it's too cumbersome. I use it in Windows all the time because it is quick and easy. Split view gets rid of the menu bar and the Dock. Restoring these just adds another step to my workflow. I wish Apple would implement the following: 1. Green button = Maximize window to full size with Menu and Dock visible. (Like Windows and Linux)
    2. Double Clicking on the Title Bar = Window zoom
    3. Full screen button for working without the Menu or the Dock visible.
    4. Window snapping like Windows 10 has. P.S. Please do a better job of remembering my previous window size and location. Every time I start a new document in Pages or use Preview I have to resize the window. Ugh! Please remember my preferred window size and location.
  • My problem is the way one window takes focus, and when I want to go to the other side, it usually involves a lot of clicks until one works. You should just be able to tab. Can you? Where do you find out?
  • @ EPJS: Windows does split view. It activates via Windows Snapping. macOS doesn't. This is why Split View on macOS is cumbersome compared to Windows. Microsoft has been doing Split view for a long time. You're confusing "Split View" on Windows with Windows Tiling, which Windows has done since at least the 3.x Days. The two are not the same thing. Windows allows you to split apps up to 4 ways on the screen, and then you resize the apps via splitter bars, just like you do on macOS. The major differences are: 1. Windows Split View does not force you into Full Screen Mode (which hides the Menu and Dock on macOS - bad for people who don't know every major keyboard shortcut in their apps, and multi-task heavily)
    2. Windows allows up to 4 apps in Split View. This works well on large and/or high resolution screens. It will split both vertically and horizontally, and they're adjusted the same way - with splitter bars.
    3. Windows Split View is activated simply by snapping/window docking. Windows Management on Windows has been consistently better than on macOS, IMO (pun unintended). It strikes me as odd that Apple would choose such a bastardized way of activating a very useful function, to the point that it actually puts people off of using it. You can split views on Windows with your eyes closed. You almost need a magnifying glass on macOS to make sure you grab that button to drag the Windows over. Plus, it only does 2 Windows, while iMacs have 21.5"+ screens (and all of them have 4K+ screens now?). Split view is nice, but I agree with the article titles. It's not very productive on macOS. It hides menus and Toolbars. It only splits two ways. It's a PITA/inconvenient to activate and use. I never use it, despite the fact that this feature gets tons of use on my Windows machine (and when I had Windows Boot Camped onto my iMac).
  • Also, 3-4 Way Splitting is incredibly convenient for things like software development, where you can have your IDE take up half (or more) of a large screen, and have terminal & team communication tools docked next to it. Or... watching a live stream of an event, while having a Twitter client (for following live tweets) and a messaging app (to chat with friends about what's happening) docked next to it - resized to a single column in width. This is possible on Windows, but not macOS. So yea... do make it more productive.