Move Windows, Apps, & Desktops Between Multiple Displays in Mac OS X with Mission Control

Jan 8, 2014 - 12 Comments

Multiple Display window management with Mission Control in Mac OS X

Mission Control is the excellent window management utility in OS X that lets you get a quick overview of everything you have open. While Mission Control has always been able to drag windows and apps between different virtual desktop Spaces, a new ability has been added to modern versions of OS X that allows Mac users with multiple monitor setups to gain the same drag & drop support between external displays too.

While you don’t need multiple screens to use the basic drag & drop between Spaces feature, but we’re focusing on that multi-screen setup usage here. This greatly improves multi-display window management and organization, and it makes it easier than ever to reassign apps and all their windows to another display, move an entire Desktop space to a different screen, or just send a single app window to another display if you’d prefer to do that too.

This is super easy to do, but it’s really better experienced than explained. Those with an external screen hooked up to their Mac can follow along:

  1. Enter Mission Control in OS X as usual, typically by hitting the F3 key or with a three-finger swipe up on a trackpad
  2. Grab any window, app, Desktop, or full screen app from one display and move it drop it onto another display

Drag windows, apps, and desktops to external displays from Mission Control in OS X

Depending on what you’re grabbing, you’ll get different results on the external display(s):

  • A single window will only take that window to the new display
  • An app icon will take all windows open within that app to the new display
  • A full screen app acts as a new Desktop space on the new display
  • An entire Desktop Space will move everything within that space to the new display

Using this trick when screens are overwhelmed with too many open apps or windows can be a lifesaver, quickly restoring productivity without having to close or quit everything or spend too long reconfiguring windows and desktops.

This works regardless of how many screens you have connected to the Mac, whether it’s two, three, or many. While this specific trick is limited to Macs using more than one display, you can also drag and drop apps, Desktops, Dashboard, and windows between virtual desktops on a single screen setup from the Mission Control window as well.


Related articles:

Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


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  1. Mark says:

    You can now move your mouse over the green (+) icon in the top left corner and you will see some nice options:

    1. Enter Full Screen
    2. Tile Window to Left Of Screen (then you get to select what to put on the right)
    3. Tile Right
    4. Move to Built-In Retina Display (or whatever your other moitor is called)

    So far, the ability to send to another screen from there is the simplest option for me, without having installed any extra apps or plugins.

    Thanks for the article!

  2. Sergio Francisco says:

    Is there a way to move apps between workspaces (or monitors) using only the keyboard?

    On Linux, if I press CTRL+Shift+Arrow , I can move apps between workspaces. Until now, I haven’t found a way to do it on Mac.

  3. Zach says:

    Thanks Grzegorz!

  4. Grzegorz says:

    It is possible to move only non-active Desktop Spaces between screens – trying to move an active Space will hit the edge of the screen and won’t let go any further. Before moving, switch to another Space first.

  5. Jim Syler says:

    Note that app icons only appear in Mission Control when you have “group windows by application” selected in the Mission Control Preference Pane. This should be mentioned in the article.

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