While I can be an effective Mac road warrior with my trusty MacBook Pro, or even used an iPad with a Bluetooth keyboard, most of my day-to-day work is done on a honkin’ fast 27-inch iMac with Retina 5k display. There’s just no substitute for large amounts of 14.7-million pixels of high resolution screen real estate. One of the best uses of all those pixels is the split screen, segregating multiple app windows, one left, one right.
Many Mac utilities allow you to move app windows into various quadrants on the screen, usually with a click or two; but a quadrant, a quarter of the screen, is just too small. Half a screen vertical is not. There are a number of utilities which do the job, including OS X El Capitan itself.
First on my list is the app I use the most and it didn’t come from Apple. The app is creatively entitled SplitScreen. Select the app window you want for the left half. Then select the app window you want for the right half. Done. Split Screen splits the screen in half instantly. Well, almost instantly. There are shortcuts to master.
The advantage to using Split Screen vs. manual handling should be obvious. It’s much faster, comes with configurable keyboard shortcuts for power users, but also has the option to resize a window to full screen but not in OS X’s fullscreen mode (which means something slightly different).
The only caveats are that not all Mac apps are supported for split screen mode (not all app windows are big enough even for half a screen, and there’s no option for 1/3 screen, 2/3 screen, etc. I’d also like to see an undo option to move the app’s window back to the original position.
On the other side of the coin is Apple’s built-in split view function (another way of saying split screen). It’s free, of course, and it’s somewhat intuitive even if the feature list isn’t very long. Things have changed in OS X El Capitan. Notice the little green button in the upper left corner of most Mac app screens? Click the green button and the foremost app goes into fullscreen mode. Getting to split view requires a few more steps and involves more steps. It’s free, but no match for Split Screen’s ease of use.
Wait. That’s only two split screen apps. There’s more.
The same Mac developer that does Split Screen also does Split Screen Pro and Split Screen Ultimate. I know, right? How many ways can you split a screen? Apparently more than most of us thought.
While the vanilla Split Screen works well, and has keyboard shortcuts for shrinking a window left and right and even full screen, those features pale in significance to Split Screen Pro which can shrink to quadrants, center a screen, divide a screen into three parts, restore everything to the original window position, and it works on Macs with dual displays.
Well, if Split Screen Pro does all that, then what’s the ultimate? It adds multiple displays and has a feature borrowed from Windows; the drag and snap function. If you can live with the Mac’s built-in but somewhat cumbersome split view, OK, but the vanilla Split Screen is my choice.