Window Management Head to Head: Size Up vs. Divvy

Window management in OS X has come a long way in recent years. Exposé gave us the ability to quickly view or hide our windows, Spaces gave us multiple environments to store and organize our windows, and most recently Dock Exposé has given us even more flexibility.

However, aside from a little AppleScripting, there is still no easy way to manage window sizes with the default OS X tools. Fortunately, a couple of third party options have popped up recently that handle this task with ease. Below we’ll take at look at both SizeUp and Divvy to see who reigns supreme as the window management king.

SizeUp

SizeUp is a surprisingly powerful application from Irradiated Software that allows you to change the sizing of the frontmost window of most applications via keyboard shortcut.

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SizeUp Shortcuts

When you first launch SizeUp, the preference panel automatically opens up to show you all of the available keyboard shortcuts. You can split the windows either in halves or quarters.

For example, if you want to split the screen vertically with two Finder windows, you’d select one Finder Window, hit ⌃⌥⌘→, then grab the other window and type ⌃⌥⌘←.

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Splitting the Screen Vertically

Alternatively, if you wanted to split the screen into four evenly-sized Finder windows, you would just use the “Quadrant Action” shortcuts on each window.

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Splitting the Screen Into Quadrants

There are also a few other helpful options here for managing a single window. For instance, you can send a window to the center of the screen and resize it to a specific pixel height and width or a percentage of the screen size. You can also use the SnapBack command to return a window to its previous size (see explanation below).

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SnapBack Explanation

Little tips like the one you see above pop up when you hover over anything the in preferences menu. A really nice touch that I hope other app developers pick up!

Menu Bar Commands

If you’re anything like me, that window full of shortcuts makes your head spin. I love keyboard shortcuts and use them as frequently as possible, but learning 17 new shortcuts all at once is quite intimidating!

Fortunately, the guys at Irradiated Software realized this would be a lot to take in and have included a menu bar dropdown that contains all the options you need.

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Menu Bar Commands

This makes it quick and easy to resize your windows whether you’ve figured out the shortcuts or not. This feature definitely takes the app out of mind boggling territory into the realm of something anyone can use.

Advanced Options

If you’re a control freak, splitting the screen into halves or quadrants may simply not be enough. Maybe you don’t like your windows to hit the screen edge or your workflow is such that one window needs to take up 2/3 of the screen and another window 1/3 of the screen.

Fear not, SizeUp accommodates the pickiest of users with the two preference panes below.

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Menu Bar Commands

Using margins, you can set a buffer in between the edge of either the screen or a window so that your windows will have some breathing room around them. The partitions menu is even more helpful by allowing you to set how SizeUp splits the screen for both the half and quarter screen options.

This gives you complete control over just about everything SizeUp does. With all these options, it’s definitely going to be hard for Divvy to step up to the plate and beat SizeUp at its own game.

Divvy

Divvy takes a completely different and quite revolutionary approach to window management. With Divvy, you can either click the menu bar icon or hit your defined keyboard shortcut to bring up a window containing a simple grid.

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Divvy Window

The grid here represents your screen. To resize a window, you simply click and drag to highlight portions of the grid, this will then resize your window proportionally.

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Drag a box to resize the window

The grid system makes it incredibly easy to size different windows any way you want, no matter how complicated your workflow becomes.

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Arrange your windows any way you want

If the grid doesn’t allow you enough control over window size, simply hit the option key to split it into even smaller segments.

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Hit the option key to split the grid

Preferences

To access the Divvy preferences, click the little gear icon in the Divvy window. Here you can set various options regarding how Divvy behaves. You can decide whether or not you want it to start at login, stay in the menu bar, show animations, display the window preview, etc.

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Divvy Preferences

You can also go under the shortcuts menu and create predefined keyboard shortcuts for certain window sizes so that when you launch Divvy, you can just hit your shortcut to size the window the way you would in SizeUp. Unfortunately, the keyboard shortcuts aren’t global so you have to activate Divvy first.

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The Shortcut Menu

Which App is Best?

As always, I refuse to take the route of less opinionated reviewers by leaving you with an answer such as “well it depends.” Instead I’ll make my brief argument and declare an actual winner.

SizeUp is an amazing app. It’s well designed, has that “Mac feel” and provides plenty of customization options. Resizing windows via a single global shortcut is simply the fastest way to manage your windows, period.

However, every time you want to split the screen in any way other than quadrants or halves, you have to go change your preferences. The flexibility is there, it’s just time consuming. Further, even with the customization options, you can only have one vertical and one horizontal split. For instance, if you wanted to create three vertical columns, it would not be easy to do using SizeUp.

After using SizeUp, I was skeptical about Divvy being able to top it. However, the unique grid interface for quickly sizing your windows virtually any way you can imagine blew me away. Suddenly everything that I found flexible in SizeUp seemed downright rigid. Further, with Divvy you can create custom shortcuts that mirror and beat most of the functionality found in SizeUp!

There was one big catch though: speed. Obviously, using Divvy’s grid feature takes more time than hitting a keyboard shortcut, but even Divvy’s shortcut option takes more time to implement than that of SizeUp because of the lack of a global option. To put it differently, using SizeUp you can hit your shortcut from any app, resize your window and be on your way. However, using Divvy, you first have to activate Divvy, then hit your shortcut to resize the window. It’s only one extra step but it makes a big difference.

And the Winner Is…

Though both options have valid reasons to choose one over the other, Divvy was the clear winner for me. I definitely hope the developers add global functionality to the shortcuts but otherwise the app simply trumps SizeUp by providing tons more possibilities.

Divvy is only $1 more than SizeUp (Divvy is $14, SizeUp is $13) and it gives you all of the most important features found in SizeUp plus an innovative interface that lets you create custom window arrangements on the fly. Hats off to the Divvy developers for creating a really amazing (and even fun) way to manage windows in OS X.

Conclusion

In the end, both apps are really superb and well worth the $13-14 to purchase them. Fortunately, both apps let you download and try them out before purchasing so be sure to try both to see which one fits your particular needs best.

Your input is just as valuable as mine so after you’ve tried both apps, leave a comment below and tell us which one you liked best and why.


  • abdulrahman

    I am using “ShiftIt”. I use it for maximizing windows most of the time.

    [http://code.google.com/p/shiftit/]

  • abdulrahman

    I use “ShiftIt” for maximizing windows most of the time.

    [http://code.google.com/p/shiftit/]

  • pixelmixture

    cinch is the best and i tried them all ….

    • Jonathan Yankovich

      Have you tried Slicer?
      http://allsystemsgrow.com/slicer
      All keyboard (no mouse), one key combo and let’s you slice and dice halts, thirds, quarters, etc

  • sentience

    i use mercury mover. you invoke it and then press keys so you have fewer shortcuts to remember. for example, = centers, shift+= maximizes, and you can also move windows to the edges like that. it also lets you specify your own desired dimensions that can be accessed via the press of a key after invoking. it’s pretty nice.

  • David

    I use a combination of divvy and better touch tools.
    BTT has cinch like capabilities.

  • Anthony

    What calendar wallpaper is it that was used there? I like it.

  • noviolence

    I really like Breeze. Its simple yet flexible.

  • http://www.nirmal.ca Nirmal

    I use Better Touch Tool (Free) for Window Management
    These are my settings – http://cl.ly/0f65d2452deab49d0eaa

  • Jeremy Gale Pippin

    I use Divvy & SizeUp; if you don’t mind paying for both, the combination is really useful. I’d say 70% of my usage goes to SizeUp; simply putting windows side-by-side or in quadrants, but when I need an odd configuration I hit the hotkeys for Divvy.

  • Arnoud

    Been using SizeUp for a while already after trying Mercury Mover as well. I liked the simplicity and the support for multiple monitors. I have to move windows between monitors all the time, and SizeUp makes it so easy with a global keyboard shortcut! Love being able to center a window in a specific size (specified by me) easily like that as well. Can’t imagine controlling these often-used functions without global keyboard shortcuts..

  • http://www.iynque.com iynque

    I just found BetterTouchTool (on AppStorm, of course) for my Magic Mouse and it happens to include a window snap feature. It’s kind of nice to have in an app I always have running anyway. Of course, with Exposé, all this other window management seems a little… unnecessary. Fun to play with though!

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  • AT

    Another recommendation for BetterTouchTool, highly recommended if you have multitouch device or trackpad and even better, has Cinch inbuilt and is free!

  • Matthew Nicholas

    I’ve been using ‘MercuryMover’ and can’t fathom why it’s not listed above with the others here as it is an excellent piece of software art —

    http://www.heliumfoot.com/mercurymover/

    I’ve found it to be unbeatable (IMO) for precision window management and when used in conjunction with other software (specifically ‘Breeze’ and ‘USB Overdrive’) I can now just move any window to the position required at the touch of a button which is great for file sorting within the finder (and general window management in other apps as well of course).

    Without MercuryMover I wouldn’t have the pixel-perfect precision for windows which I think is a great bonus for a neat-freak such as myself! While I have purchased a copy of ‘Divvy’ I find that I rarely use it but it is still good for what it offers.

    • Matthew Nicholas

      Also forgot to mention the obvious; one of the most important aspects of ‘MercuryMover’ which is the ability to rearrange windows without even having to touch the mouse!

  • Oliver Sumpton

    on a 27″ ACD, MercuryMover is a far far far better option than SizeUp as it offers precise control over moving and resizing windows and with a larger screen you’ll rarely want to maximizing windows to the edge as it will be then be too large. SizeUp seems more for something like a 13″ MBP or Air, where you always want to squeeze every usable pixel into your workspace.

  • JC Hendee

    Moom is better than both of these, for my money…

    http://manytricks.com/moom/

    It is fully customizable, you can add the same shortcut keys if you want… but why bother? You is going to need that many configurations? Any why not decide which ones you want… and add ones of any kind.

    You can create endless preset resize/position configurations and they are all avail form a small popup overlay when you mouseover the expand (green) button on ANY window through your entire system. At $5 USD, it is a sweet deal as well.

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