Limited real estate on laptop screen - suggestions

I’ve loved my Macbook Pro 13" with retina display. Beautiful. But for the last six months, I’ve been using my laptop at work, plugging it into two 24" external monitors. So, now, when I’m back on the laptop, orphaned from the external monitors, I feel so claustrophobic.

When I’m attached to the external monitors, my windows management game is on point. when I’m laptop-alone, by windows are just an unorganized pile on the screen. There seems to be no point in “windows management” when I can’t really do anything side-by-side on a 13" monitor.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Not technical, but how you organize yourself, with multiple apps running, on your laptop monitor?

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Do you use Spaces?

The other thing I’ve found helpful in managing multiple windows on a laptop is splitting the available real estate 2/3–1/3 or 3/4–1/4, rather than half and half like I tend to do on a desktop.

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As @ChrisUpchurch suggested, Spaces/Mission Control can be very helpful.

You might also consider installing a window manager (I use Moom) and an app such as Yoink or Dropzone to make it convenient to move and copy data between apps on different Spaces (both are great, but Dropzone is my favourite of the two).


I’m glad you guys brought up Spaces. I sometimes use them, but then I’m not sure why I am using them. I know how they work functionally, but how are you using them practically? Is it easier for you to keep track of apps using different spaces, rather than all dumped on one Space?

I have both Magnet and BTT for window management. I use Magnet (and Keyboard Maestro) a lot when I’m on the external monitors. how are you using them on your laptops? I have tried the 2/3-1/3, but very few apps are practical in 1/3 mode. Most won’t even resize for me that small!

I’ve gone through almost the same issue recently and landed on one 28 inch monitor.

Previous to that I used spaces which I still do if in out with MacBook and also tried diet with my iPad which I didn’t love but was fine for keeping email open but I ended up thinking I may as well open it on iPad.

Spaces is good with 4 finger swipe to switch but totally depends if you need multiple Windows alongside each other.

This is my way of dealing with it:

  1. Max out the resolution in System Preferneces > Displays > Scale. On a Retina screen, this is magical.
  2. Spaces is sometimes useful. For example I put iTunes for music playback and Messages, both in split screen full screen mode in one space. Then I have a window for chatting and playing music, while all the other work is on another space.
  3. Use Window Management. I use where I simply use keyboard shortcuts to move a window to one side of the screen. Free open source app. :slight_smile:

I rely on spaces, but it took me a while to get comfy with it.
First, I turn off automatic repositioning as I need to know in which order they are and turn on 4 finger swipe.
Then I limit how many I have, usually 3 max but sometimes more if I have multiple windows of a particular app open or something.

The leftmost space is general and I use BTT to do 1/3 splits if needed.
The rightmost space is Chrome. I do all my school stuff in Chrome and use Safari for personal, so that has GSuite and others in it.
The middle is any other full screen app I want open, such as Logic.

(This structure lets me swipe spaces without thinking about where I’ll end up and is what makes it useful for me.)

Plus, I use Yoink for drag and drop copy/paste between spaces on a 13” Mac, but oddly find it gets in the way more than it helps on 15” or bigger display.

Another option would be to try Duet and use an iPad as a second screen.

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I run nearly all apps maximized, but not full screen, on my 13” MacBook Air, both when connected to an external display, and not. I often also run side-by-side, vertical half screens, when I need to write while consulting notes or a browser window.

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