How-To Geek

How to Rearrange Your Mac’s Windows With a Keyboard Shorcut

spectacle-working

When it comes to arranging windows, macOS is lagging behind…well, Windows. On Microsoft’s operating system, you can easily arrange two applications so they both take up half the screen, which is perfect for things like researching and writing at the same time. On macOS, though, you need to do any such arranging on your own.

Unless, that is, you find the right third party program for the job. There are a few great ones, but Spectacle is open source and lightweight, and works entirely using keyboard shortcuts. It’s the fastest way we’ve found to quickly make windows take up half the screen, the entire screen, or basically any configuration you can imagine. Here’s how to set it up.

How to Install and Enable Spectacle

First, go ahead and download Spectacle. The application comes in a ZIP file, which you can unarchive simply by opening it. Once you do, drag the Spectacle application to your Applications folder.

spectical-install

Launch Spectacle for the first time, and you’ll be told that Spectacle needs access to your Mac’s accessibility features. It depends on them to work.

spectacle-accessability

Click “Open System Preferences” and you’ll be taken to the correct panel. From here you need to ensure that “Spectacle” is checked.

spectacle-enable-system-prefs

Note that you might need to click the lock at bottom left and enter your password before you can make any changes here.

How to Arrange Your Windows With Spectacle

Now that Spectacle is set up, click its icon in the menu bar. You’ll see a list of actions:

spectacle-keyboard-shortcut-menubar

Click any of these and the current window will be arranged. Alternatively, simply take the time to learn the keyboard shortcuts listed. Note that “⌘” represents the Command key, “⌃” represents the Control key, “⌥” represents the Option key, and “⇧” represents the Shift key.

The actions themselves are best explored by experimenting, but here’s a few examples for you. “Left Half” will make the current window take up the left half of the screen, like so:

spectacle-left-half

You can use this, along with “Right Half,” to arrange two windows such that they take up the right and left half of the screen.

spectacle-working

This is great for multitasking.

“Top Half” is similar, making your current window take up the top half of the screen:

spectable-top-half

You could combine this with “Bottom Half.”

The other options are mostly similar. “Upper Left” and the rest cause windows to take up one-quarter of the screen.

spectacle-upper-left

With this you can arrange four windows on your screen, or you could have one half-screen window alongside two smaller ones.

spectacle-workflow

There are a few more options. If you have multiple monitors, you can use “Next Display” and “Previous Display” to move windows from one monitor to the next. You can also quickly adjust the size of any window with “Make Larger” and “Make Smaller,” which do exactly what you might think.

Overall, the only way to really learn how to use Spectacle is to dive in and use it. There’s just one catch, really: some windows won’t quite resize the way you’d like them to. The System Preferences window, for example, can’t really be resized at all, which means these shortcuts can’t affect them. While that’s unlikely to break your workflow, there are other programs that behave the same way. The Terminal also won’t necessarily fit in the shapes, because those windows are sized in part by character width. Most other applications should work fine with Spectacle, however.

How to Change Spectacle’s Keyboard Shortcuts

Maybe these precise keyboard shortcuts don’t make sense to you, or overlap with shortcuts you use in other applications. That’s fine! Click the Spectacle icon in the menu bar, then click “Preferences,” and you can change all of the shortcuts.

spectacle-preferences

You can also, from here, tell Spectacle to start at login, and even remove the menu bar icon. That’s about all this program offers in terms of configuration, but it really doesn’t need to offer much more. Start arranging your windows, quickly.

Justin Pot is a technology writer and enthusiast who lives in Portland, Oregon. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, if you want. You don't have to.

  • Published 01/10/17

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