Full screen or windowed?

Hey all,

Thought I’d put up a quick poll to ask if you find that you use apps in full screen more than windowed. I noticed while at work this week that a couple of the more seasoned people, also known for being the best at what they do, tend to work in full screen mode. I don’t know if it reduces distractions, or maybe it offers more on screen to work with. I imagine that some of the choice depends upon the app in question, although I have seen people using gmail both ways.

My tendency is to work windowed, but I have to admit, I get more distracted on my Mac than on my iPad for the very reason that you can’t multitask as easily on an iPad. Also, some applications or web sites are far too unruly in full screen on a 27" monitor. Part of me wonders if I’d be more productive if I got a 24" iMac and made a rule of full-screen apps. :slight_smile:

So I was curious. What works for you?

  • Full screen applications
  • Windowed applications

0 voters

I’m a fullscreener, but I also do a fair bit of tiling left/right.


If I could revert to the old macOS style where there was no “full screen” button and only a “change viewport size” button, I would. Instead, I hold down the Opt key all the time before I click the green button like an animal.

The only time I use fullscreen is when my wife and I are on a Zoom call with somebody. She prefers it. It upsets me.


Most apps don’t look great in full screen mode, it’s either full of too much whitespace or a long empty toolbar, etc. If I want to get rid of distractions, I will either use the “Hide Others” option in the menu or move the window I want to focus on to an empty space in mission control.


Better Touch Tool can fix that:

This convinced me to buy BTT.


Sorta windowed I guess… I’m duplicating (as much as possible) my iPad workflows… split screen but I don’t like the Mac’s built in split screen so I have two windows side by side in most cases. Currently spread out over 6 to 8 desktop spaces, each grouped by the job of the app… so, Messages, Slack and mail are three columns on one desktop. Two Safari windows side-by-side. And a few others, each according to work/project. Full screen on a 27" seems a waste. But I’m also not able to just have more than 2 or 3 app windows scattered about randomly at different sizes. I tried 4 equally tiled but that doesn’t work as each seems too small.


I am using a 34" monitor, hence no sense using full window on any app (may be except watching video, which I rarely do on a computer monitor)

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For the last decade or so that I was working I used a 13’ MacBook Air or Pro. I frequently used an external monitor or 21.5 iMac when remoting into other Macs (running a 27" iMac on a 13" screen with ARD isn’t fun) but I did the bulk of my work on the MacBook.

That’s one reason it was easy for me to move to an iPad Pro as my primary computer. Working on an iPad, IMO, is virtually identical to using full screen apps and Screens on a MacBook.


Woah. Woah. Woah. Woah. Woah.

(I needed 20 characters.)

I use windowed applications with the windows maximized (one app on the screen at a time).Occasionally I use tiled windows but this is rare. I use Mosaic for window management because it’s in Setapp (does what I need it to do) but I may load BTT just for the green button management. Thanks @MevetS.

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Me too, most of the time — but, I also keep my dock and menu bar hidden. Effectively, it’s like full-screen mode, but I don’t have to endure the slow animation when switching between true full-screen apps. (This is on a 13 inch MacBook Air.)

I much prefer using keyboard shortcuts over mousing around the menu bar, so keeping the menu bar hidden has not been a problem for the 3+ years that I’ve used this setup.

I feel like gets to one of my greatest frustrations b/c I can’t seem to home in on a universal solution.

Like may have already posted, I love split screening relevant apps when pumping through work (e.g., Fantastical and OmniFocus, Mail and OmniFocus, Chrome and Obsidian, etc.). I often have multiple desktop screens with Chrome windows across them for different combinations. From time to time I have to restart my Mac or quit Chrome and relaunching and reorganizing is super frustrating. What’s worse? Detaching from my external display, which makes a mess of all those desktop screens and windows.

I am not a heavy keyboard user so I need the menubar visible. I tried to hide/show dock but I find the animation of showing/hiding distracting. I’m always accidentally invoking the dock. Maybe, if it just appeared/disappeared instead of slowly coming up and going down. I’m glad we have these choices, though.

Mostly windowed here, I use Moom to set window sizes to my preference. Only times I go full-screen are to watch a video or play a game.


After I got used to the many shortcuts of Amethyst, I can’t see myself not using it.

So it’s kinda both full-screen and windowed at the same time, I guess?


Full screen on the MacBook, windowed on the iMac.


Full screen on screens that are <15” and never full screen on screens that are >15”*.

If distraction is the problem, then I would suggest looking at notification (read: turn them off, ALL of them!) and not keeping stuff on the desktop. I find that a minimalist windowed application (say: Typora) sitting against a pleasant minimalist background picture, with nothing on the desktop, dock hidden, and no notifications is, from a distraction point of view, as good as full screen. And if your screen is large, it looks much better than just blowing up the app.

Exactly, which is why Mac laptops make only limited sense to me. At that stage, you gain some OS flexibility but lose cellular and tablet mode/Apple Pencil. It’s a close fight. Mac was born as a desktop and as far as I’m concerned it’s still awkward in mobile. Vice versa for iPadOS.

*: there are some apps that warrant full screen even on a large screen. Gmail (which AFAIK is a website!) ain’t one. Probably Logic, FCP, etc. I could even concede that sometimes Obsidian’s sliding panes work well full screen on an iMac. But by and large, after you expand to cover ~14” of diagonal space, there are few apps that take advantage of the extra space.

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Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts! Looks like most people have no issues being productive while windowed, so my thinking that maybe full screen was better for productivity doesn’t hold.

Really appreciate your replies!

I use BetterSnapTool to enlarge windows to fill the screen, or to fill the left/right hand sides. It works better (generally) for me than going MacOS full screen/left/right.

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I use Option-green but usually only on my 13" laptop screen. After toying with full screen when it was new, it just didn’t feel right to me. Though I occasionally full screen Music, partly so it runs away to a new desktop by itself.

However one feature I use all the time is the “slow drag” of windows to butt up against each other. I really wish I could do that on Win 10 at work! I also really wish that one pixel buffer zone didn’t exist.