How to Use Split View in Full Screen with Mac OS

Oct 1, 2015 - 35 Comments

Using Split Screen View in Mac OS X

Split View is a new feature in Mac OS X which allows you to take two apps into full screen together, placing them split side-by-side. For example, you could take a Safari window into full screen mode and then split the fullscreen with another app, like Pages. Split View sizes the windows automatically for any screen size, so you don’t have to drag them to accommodate the display, and it’s quite easy to use once you learn how to access and use the split screen feature on the Mac.

This is a great feature for anyone who wants to focus, but researchers, writers, students, and developers will likely find this to be the most useful. We’ll cover two ways to enter into Split Screen mode, or Split View, on the Mac. Of course you’ll need a modern version of Mac OS to have this feature, anything newer than MacOS X 10.11 (or later) will have access to this screen splitting feature on the Mac.

How to Use Screen Splitting on Mac OS

Almost all modern Mac OS apps support screen splitting, if they can go full screen then they can also split screen with another app. As we mentioned there are two different ways to enter into screen splitting mode on Mac apps, we’ll cover both of them. Let’s get to it:

Entering Split View with Any Window from Anywhere in Mac OS X

Probably the easiest way to initially enter Split View is through a long click on any windows green maximize button.

Enter Split View with the green button on Mac

Here’s how it works, we’ll use Safari and the Dictionary app as examples to split side by side in full screen Split View:

  1. Click and hold on the green maximize button of an active window (for example, a Safari window)
  2. Click and hold the green button

  3. When the window shrinks slightly and the background becomes highlighted, you’re about to enter Split View, while continuing to hold the green button drag the active window into either the left or right panel to place it full screen there
  4. Entering Split View with a window in OS X

  5. As soon as you place the first window into the Split View panel, the other side of the screen turns into a mini-Expose much like Mission Control, simply click the window tile you want to open into Split View for the other side here to immediately send it side by side into Split Full Screen Mode
  6. Use Split View in OS X

Once you select the other window to full screen, they’ll be side by side one another in Split View:

Using Split View in full screen mode in Mac OS X

That’s all there is to it, that probably sounds more complicated than it is though, so I’d highly recommend trying it out yourself as there’s basically nothing that can go wrong by testing it. Just do a long press on the green button in a Mac window title bar and you’ll see for yourself how it works.

The video below demonstrates this feature in Mac OS X with a Safari browser window on your favorite website (, and the Dictionary app:

You can escape Split View just as you would exit full screen mode in general, either by clicking on any of the split viewed windows green button again, or by hitting the Escape key. Either will leave Split View in Full Screen mode, returning you to your regular Mac desktop experience.

You can also swipe to the side with a multi-touch trackpad or multitouch mouse to return to the desktop from split view, and then swipe back to return to the aforementioned Split View.

Using Split View Full Screen Mode from Mission Control on the Mac

You can also enter Split View from Mission Control by dragging apps and windows around, this is slightly trickier compared to the long-click green button method outlined above, but if you’re a big fan of working from Mission Control you’ll appreciate this:

  1. Enter Mission Control as usual, then drag any app or window to the very top of the screen and drop it there, this will send it into full screen mode in that screen
  2. Now drag and drop another app or window into the same screen thumbnail, this will cause those two apps to enter Split View together
  3. Click on the little thumbnail to enter into Split View for those two applications or windows

As usual, you can swipe left or right to return to the desktop, or hit the Escape key to exit Full Screen / Split View mode.


Related articles:

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


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  1. mikey strauss says:

    how do I get the old drag and drop on the newer versions of mac os? (Hold the green button and select right or left rather than drag and drop)

  2. Pegs says:

    Didn’t know this, especially the trick with Mission control. Works very nice, thanks!

  3. Thanina says:

    I was super excited when I finally figured it.

  4. haqe says:

    Thanks for this info, I’ve been 2 years using macbook and I just know this feature

  5. Bridget says:

    I was excited about this feature and now it tells me Microsoft Word isn’t available in Split Screen Mode. Really? Ugh.

  6. Kat says:

    How many screens/windows can I get on the display at once?

    • aPaul says:

      Two apps or app screens can be on screen at a time with Split Screen View mode, it’s a true split in half though they can be resized. If you need more than two app windows at a time, just use normal Windowed Mode in OS X

  7. DavidH says:

    Split screen is very handy for people like myself who like to multitask. Just because you have no use for it does not mean it is useless but only useless to you and those alike.

    I did find out that not all items with the correct green icon can be split screen together. for example iTunes and safari cannot on a 13″ macbook pro but it can be split screen on the iMac because the screen real estate is much greater than the 13″ macbook pro.

    I hope I helped those out there that found this weird at first.

  8. Texconsin says:

    I went back to Double Pane when I found I could not scroll between worksheets in an Excel Mac 2016 workbook. It’s also a challenge with Split Screen, keeping the screens on the same desktop, once you take them out of split mode.

  9. Judi says:

    Hitting the escape button doesn’t take me out of split screen. I have to double tap my mouse to send the apps to the desktop background. Then I hover my curser over those ‘joined’ apps and a little white button with two arrows pointing in at each other appears. I click on that and I resume normal single view. A bit cumbersome, me thinks, but maybe I’ll get used to it :shrug: .

    Just read Drayl’s response to Maxbo (16th October). What “escape full screen button”? I’ll give Command+Control+F a go, but that’s just as cumbersome if not more so. Why can’t resuming single view just be the simple click of one button?

    • DavidH says:

      if you just throw your cursor to the top of the screen then let go of the touch on the mousepad, it should also work to reveal the minimize icon and can escape split screen that way also. I just tried it and success.

  10. Maxbo says:

    This doesn’t work. When I enter Split View mode (two documents in Pages), i cannot get out of it. The Escape button doesn’t work. I have Dock placed on the left side and when I go there with cursor – nothing. Well, every 10th time the Dock shows. I have to click on some app (Safari) to leave Split View. Terrible!

    • Drayl says:

      Send your cursor to the top of the screen and click the escape full screen button to escape. Or try Command+Control+F

  11. ESC problem! says:

    Is that possible to deactivate the Esc option to quit Split mode? At text, ou cells, I just want to escape cursor, or something that is not to quit split mode, but bye bye split mode! =/

    • Murphy says:

      I’v been trying to find this too. It drives me nuts. The esc key is useful and now it’s not because of this.

  12. Jeff Sancricca says:

    I can get one window to split, but I get an “unavailable to split” message on more than one app I’ve tried. These apps have full screen capability.

  13. Seb says:

    This is a very welcome feature but the fact that you have to go and click on the small green blob makes it unfriendly.

    I’m sorry Capitan, but i’m keeping BetterTouchTool. And I recommend it to everyone also

  14. Edward Stern says:

    I must be missing something I can’t get this to work in any Apple Program in OS 10.11 Nothing happens when I click and hold on the green dot in any window. All i get is full screen view for that window.

  15. NickO says:

    Still cannot get it to work for me (early 2011 13″ MBP). Neither approach works.

  16. JeffM says:

    I use Magnet from the App Store. I think it’s 5 bucks. Allows quadrant snapping too.

  17. Wharf Xanadu says:

    Good feature thanks for explaining

  18. MarekP says:

    I may be missing something, but I’m struggling to fully grasp, what is so revolutionizing in this split-screen mode ?
    Is it just easiness to place to windows side-by-side ?

    • jshell says:

      yep.. pretty much it…

      Still I don’t use full screen mode all that much. For me, it would’ve been nicer if they did like what’s in Windows 7.

      • jlam says:

        I fully agree with your sentiment. Why in the world do we not yet have the built in ability within OS X to quickly move/manage windows with a simple press of the command button and related arrow key by now? Windows has had this for some time and it works fantastically for most needs, without some clumsy prolonged process that is not very smoothly done. With the simple pressing of 2 buttons you should be able to move a window on the desktop. Don’t understand why this has not been done years ago…?

    • Brett Sheppard says:

      does anyone know of the ability to display 4 screens on one large tv.. windows has a program called display fusion which makes this easy… please help

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