How to Use Split Screen on a Mac

Work in multiple programs at the same time

What to Know

  • Mouse over the green full-screen button to access the tile menu in each app.
  • Not every app works with Split View. Check for an icon with two arrows to ensure compatibility.

Here's how to use the Split View feature to be more productive on your Mac. Instructions in this article apply to macOS El Capitan (10.11) and later.

How to Use Split View in macOS Catalina (10.15) and Later

Starting in macOS Catalina, Apple made it quick and easy to tile windows using Split View, a feature that lets you quickly take advantage of your Mac's large screen and use two apps simultaneously. Follow these steps to split your screen.

  1. In the first program, hover your mouse over the green full-screen icon next to the close and minimize buttons.

    The full-screen icon in macOS
  2. A menu will appear. The two relevant options are Tile Window to Left of Screen and Tile Window to Right of Screen. Choose which side of the screen you want to tack this app to.

    The Tile Windows options in macOS
  3. The window will resize and move to the side you chose. On the other half of the screen, you'll see the other available apps you can use in Split View.

    Not every app works in Split View. Incompatible options will appear in a stack in the lower corner of the screen with a label that says, Not Available in This Split View.

    One app open in Split View
  4. Click the second app you want to open, and it will fill the other side of the screen.

    Mail and Photos open in Split View in macOS
  5. Click and drag the divider icon to adjust the balance (that is, how much of the screen each app takes up) of the two windows.

    The resize handle in Split View
  6. To exit Split View, press ESC on your keyboard or click the full-screen button in either app.

How to Use Split View in macOS El Capitan (10.11) Through Mojave (10.14)

The steps for using Split View in earlier versions of macOS are a little different (and less automatic), but they still use the full-screen button.

  1. In the first app, click the full-screen button and hold it.

  2. The window will "detach" from the workspace. Drag it to the side of the screen you want to use it on.

  3. Drop the window. It'll stick to that edge of the display, and the other compatible apps will appear on the other side.

  4. Click the second app you want to open in Split View.

What to Do if Split View Doesn't Work

In some cases, you might be unable to use an app with Split View. The first thing you should check is the icon on the full-screen button. If an app is compatible, the icon will look like two arrows pointing away from each other. If it isn't, the icon will be an X.

Full-screen button icons in macOS

You may also need to adjust Settings. Here's what to check:

  1. Select System Preferences under the Apple menu.

    System Preferences in macOS
  2. Click Mission Control.

    Mission Control in System Preferences
  3. Make sure the box next to Displays have separate Spaces has a checkmark in it.

    The "Displays have separate Spaces" option

What Can You Do With Split View?

With two apps open in Split View, you can do various tasks more easily without using the Command+Tab keyboard shortcut to switch between them. Some examples are:

  • Drag and drop a picture from Photos into a new message in Apple Mail.
  • Quickly copy text between programs like Safari and Pages.
  • Resize or write notes on an image in Preview and then drop it into another document.
  • Work while watching a movie on a streaming service like Netflix in a larger window than you can with Picture in Picture.
  • Transcribe an audio file into a word-processing document while keeping the audio player controls on-screen at all times.
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