As someone who prefers the iPad I was particularly interested in this episode. In recent weeks and months I’ve been seeing the topic of window management on the Mac come up on Mastodon and in a couple podcasts. When I’ve seen it come up it’s in the context of “why is window management on the Mac still a mess and when/how will Apple fix it?”
So, of course I couldn’t help puzzle at this because for the past couple of years much of the ongoing critique/frustration directed towards the iPad from the nerd community has been along the lines of “iPad multi-tasking is terrible, the iPad needs windowing like the Mac, the iPad needs macOS, etc.” Then Stage Manager came last year and that critique got louder with Mac being held up as the windowing that the iPad needs.
So this iPad user has been surprised to hear recently that at least some Mac users think windowing is too complex and needs to be fixed.
As it happens I just wrote a blog post yesterday about spending more time with the iPad Mini again in part because I’ve recently realized that, more often than not, I only actually use one app at a time. And on the occasions that I need more than one app it’s often just 2 apps that I need and the relatively simple Split View is likely all I need to do the task at hand.
For the past year I’ve been using Stage Manager on the 13" iPad Pro. In the cases when I needed 3 or more apps on screen it was helpful. But it’s interesting to note that one of the critiques of the version in iPadOS 16 was the lack of truly freeform windowing an that the OS insisted on managing windows. In using the 17 beta I’ve found that I spend more time messing with windows in Stage Manager than I did with the previous version. When I want 2 or 3 windows I spend more time moving them and managing them in 17 beta. While the previous version was more restrictive in some ways it was better because, especially with 2 windows, it often set them as I wanted them, side by side, split in half. If I moved one to the other side the OS automatically moved the other window opposite which is what I wanted. Now I have to do that myself. And before Stage Manager, windowing was even more simple/limited and yet, the basic functioning of a window, two windows was easier, faster and required less maintenance by me. I’m now wondering if I’d be better served going back to the simpler 1 app, 2 Split View model with Slide Over as needed.
Which, bringing us back to this episode on Mac window management, perhaps speaks to the popularity of Windows tiled windows and the 3rd party apps for the Mac that perform this kind of tiled window management. Whether we’re talking about the Mac or iPad or some other computer platform, it would seem there is no right way to do app windows on a screen. There’s a tension between free form windowing and tiled/managed windowing.
And with spatial computing there will soon be the question of oh, what room did I leave my Mail app in? Why did I leave Safari in the kitchen?
Just started listening to this episode.
That windowshade feature mentioned as long gone is actually still present as a feature in the Stickies app. Most people probably think Stickies is long gone but it is still there (and I use it!).
The irony for me is that macOS had Spaces figured about 10 versions ago, you could have 4 spaces which you could switch between with CMD 1 - 4 and you could set an app to always open in the same space. There was nothing to stop Apple allowing more spaces and expanding the capability, but they took it away and the new version was never as good.
You likely already know this, but you can have more than 4 spaces.
I have 10 spaces and switch between each with control-n, n being the space number. Control-left/right arrow moves to the adjacent space. The keyboard shortcuts can be changed in Settings.
And apps can still be assigned to open in a specific space.
I use Better Touch tool to move windows between spaces, as macOS does not support this natively.
Thanks @MevetS. I do know that, unfortunately they took away my favourite piece of functionality, e.g. the ability to always open Safari in Space 2, iFlicks and Finder in Space 4, Firefox and drafts in space 3 and Opera in space 1.
I like closing apps when they’re not in use (neat freak) but to have them recreate their position when I need them again.
I also loved the fact that I always knew what was in space 3, so it became muscle memory.
You can move windows between spaces with a three finger swipe up then drag and drop.
I know it’s touched on in the episode, but wanted to share my own loud testimonial for Divvy. I am not sure if it’s just because I’ve used it for 10 years, or because it’s actually the best, but it is by far the best window manager on Mac I’ve used.
It’s available in the Mac App Store as well. It hasn’t been touched by the developer in years but it’s still IMO perfect.
What makes it so good? First, the grid. You can use either a keyboard shortcut or the menubar to pop up mininature representation of your screen – with a grid overlaid on it – in the middle of your screen, and then use your mouse or trackpad to “draw” where and what size you ant the current active window to be on your screen. As you’re “drawing” out a shape and location, a full-size preview is also displayed on your screen of where and what size that window will be. It’s a genuinely brilliant UI from 10+ years ago that I haven’t seen replicated in any other window manager.
Second, fully customizable keyboard shortcuts for any size/shape/location combination as described above to easily replicate your most used ones and activate them with the one shortcut on the keyboard. I have Top Half, Bottom Half, and the four quadrants set up as those are the only ones I really use; for less often used ones, I love using the UI as described above.
Third – configurable margins between windows. This is purely aesthetic and subjective, but I love being able to configure 5-10px margins between screen edges and windows to allow little sparks of color from my wallpaper to shine through even if I have, say, two windows taking up the full left and right sides of my screen.
That’s all. It’s awesome. It’s the first app I’ve installed on every Mac since forever.
Is this not that functionality?
- navigate to the desired space.
- right click not the item in the dock, in this case Mail
- select Options > Assign To This Desktop.
And now Mail will always open in the assigned Desktop (aka Space), which for me is Space 5.
Yep. I prefer the Better Touch Tool method as it is all done from the keyboard. Control -Option Left/Right Arrow and the currently active window moves from space to space.
Depending on how I’m using my Mac (external display and a mouse vs. external display and a trackpad vs. built-in display with a trackpad, etc.) I will either do window management with my mouse, keyboard, or trackpad… A combination of everything.
I’d set up some gestures to manage windows with BTT (e.g. swipe down with 4 fingers to hide, swipe up with 4 fingers to quit, etc.) and so I think Swish might work for me… I’ll have to practice and see! It’s definitely an interesting take.
It’s not been mentioned in the episode I think but after Command-Tabbing you can move between apps with the arrow keys. (Or does that work only with Keyboard Maestro?)
How is BetterSnapTool different from the window management offered in BTT?
I just got though the episode and started to tinker with Shortcuts. I have been using Rectangle; I just came across this GitHub page which includes terminal commands for Rectangle.
The only thing that I am struggling with now is when I launch the shortcut, it starts on my laptop screen and not my monitor. Is there an option in Shortcuts that allows me to select which desktop and which space the shortcut should be run in?
Your description of Divvy is exactly how I use Lasso, which was also featured on the episode. It’s got a pop-up grid that lets you draw out where you want a window to go, with the preview and everything. It wasn’t mentioned on the show, but Lasso has assignable keyboard shortcuts for any window size/location too. Plus the margins between windows are adjustable (I have mine set to 8px). Sounds like the developer of Lasso is a fan of Divvy.
It also handles multiple monitors really well: the grid just shows all your monitors and lets you draw a window anywhere you want. Instead of moving across displays and then into position, it can just put the window where you want. It’s perfect!
My use of Lasso is 90% keyboard shortcuts and 10% drawing when I want to get more granular.
Edit: I forgot my favourite feature! Many other apps have it, but I want my window manager to have a leader/activation key, then single-key keyboard shortcuts. Lasso has it and it’s great. (Example: I press ⌥-Space to trigger Lasso, then C to put a window in the centre two thirds of the screen.)
I’ve used both since their respective early days. BTT was developed first and was primarily for improving the tap and swipe actions on Apple’s trackpads and Magic mouses. It has since grown considerably in functionality. BST was developed solely for window snapping, for those not needing the tap/swipe functionality of BTT. It has some better snapping features and is much lighter weight.
In my case, I use BST on my iMac on which I use an inexpensive Logitech Mouse and ancient Northgate OmniKey keyboard. BTT has nothing additional to offer on this system. However my MBP has BTT installed for improving the trackpad.
This is super interesting; I will have to give Lasso a try as I was not aware of any other apps with this UI. Honestly, I’ve been worried for years that Divvy was going to disappear and didn’t seem popular enough to have a hoard of copycats. It’s reassuring to know that at least one other app exists with the paradigm incase an OS update breaks Divvy some day and it doesn’t get updated.
Edit: I just played around with this for a few minutes and I think I’m already in love. This might have finally replaced Divvy for me.
Interesting show. I bought Moom a couple of years ago, but I never bothered configuring it: I just used the standard settings. After a while, I uninstalled it an decided to use the stock window management system in Mac OS.
oooooooooo Lasso is great. More money spent!
Why can’t I get Spaces to work how I want? I’d like one space for communications, one for Omnifocus/Calendar/one session of Obsidian, three for different projects I’m working on, and one for personal stuff.
Each space will have its own Finder, Safari, Obsidian, PDF Expert, and Word sessions. I never want to open an app or file and be switched into another space without my telling it to.
Completely. Separate. Workspaces. I think Windows can do this. It would be so helpful to me! If anyone can tell me how to do this, I’d be grateful.
Perhaps one thing to check are the 2nd and 3rd options is Settings > Desktop & Dock > Mission Control and ensure they are off.
Hope this helps.
Great episode! Been thinking for a while about trying other options than Moom, but hearing this makes me feel more solid about my choice.
Was surprised to not hear about Warp (not the terminal, too many apps with the same/similar names lol) on this episode — saw it covered on MacStories a while back and been curious to try it out. Seems like it could be especially good for David’s contextual computing stuff. Would love to hear about it on a follow-up episode!