This post is part of a series that revisits some of our readers’ favorite articles from the past that still contain awesome and relevant information that you might find useful. This post was originally published on August 23rd, 2011.
As most laptop users are aware, running multiple applications on that thirteen inch display is a pain. Things get crowded very quickly and there isn’t much you can do besides drag and resize each window- slowly and painfully. Or can you?
In this post I’m going to blast through all the different options for managing windows on your Mac. There are some general categories to keep in mind: those that work with virtual desktops (or in Apple-world: Spaces), individual windows and some unique window management solutions. Let’s dive in!
Virtual Desktops and Spaces
Built right into your Mac is the powerful Mission Control (Mountain Lion and Lion) and Spaces (Snow Leopard) system utilities. Built to help you manage windows in an easy to use and understand manner, they feature a virtual desktop setup along with the built-in Exposé features that lets you see all of your working windows at a glance.
Price: $19.99 (for a Mountain Lion upgrade)
This utility allows you to take the idea of Spaces to the next level. Hyperspaces lets you customize each space to feature different desktops, naming them and switching to them in an easy Heads-Up-Display mode. It only works on Snow Leopard, but if you’re using an older Mac that doesn’t have Mission Control, it might be worth the price for some extra Spaces features.
If the new mission control setup isn’t your style, you might find a better option in VirtueDesktop. It works very similarly to the old version of Spaces- letting you create virtual desktops that are easy to switch between. It hasn’t been updated in awhile, but it was the start of the old “Slapbook” phase, where you could shift between desktops by tapping the side of your Macbook’s monitor.
If you’d rather get previews of the windows that you’ve hidden or minimized for active dock applications, take a look at Hyperdock. It gives you a miniature preview of each window you have running for each application in your dock. Just click the window and Hyperdock will bring it to the forefront.
This app allows you to save and restore applications’ position and size inside of different workspaces. You can set up different workspaces for when you’re at home or on the go and have the application automatically adjust based of the arrangement of the displays.
This little utility brings the enviable technology from Windows 7 to the Mac. It allows you to drag windows to the edge of the screen to “Snap” them to one side of the screen, talking up just half of your display. You also have the power to drag the window to the menubar to maximize it. It nicely outlines where the window will end up after you let go of your mouse as well.
This application takes keyboard shortcuts to the next level! Applying quick keyboard shortcuts to moving and resizing windows to fill a quarter, half, just the middle or the entire screen. It can be a bit overwhelming to try to learn 15+ keyboard shortcuts at once, but it sure makes moving windows around a breeze.
This popular application allows you to quickly manage the size and placement of application windows. On any active window, you can pull up a heads-up-display and use a grid to plot out where and how big the window should be.
Another widely popular application that completely takes over the seemingly useless green traffic light button at the top corner of each screen. Moom repurposes this button and gives you quick access to resizing the window or customizing where and how big it should be through a Divvy-like grid pattern.
This utility brings a similar set of features as most of the other window managers. It allows you to resize windows into halves, quarters or fill the whole screen. It has a handy overlay that shows what the window’s size will be once resized.
Similar to Cinch, DoublePane allows you to quickly resize two windows so they can sit side-by-side, taking up just half the screen each. It’s perfectly simple and priced to make reading a Safari window and taking notes in Pages next to each other extremely simple. This would be a great option for students doing research or anyone that finds themselves with two windows open on the same display throughout the day. You can also chose your own keyboard shortcuts to assign to managing the windows.
This application follows suit with most of the window management applications out there. Except it features the ability to change the function of the traffic light bubbles in the top corner of each application. You can define what right clicking on them does. It also supports setting up multitouch gestures for window control.
This application has hot edges and corners that allow you to quickly resize your windows. Simply drag a window to the side to resize it to take up half of your display, or to a corner to take up just a fourth. It even gives you a nice overlay preview of what space the application is going to take up.
This application seems to boast some of the most features of any of these window management applications. From keyboard shortcut controls to grid layouts to grouping windows together, this application seems to have it all. However with a lot of features comes a bit of bloat and confusion. It also takes up a bit too much of my menu bar for my liking (though this is fully customizable).
Other Interesting Window Management Apps
My g-to app to help control window clutter, Spirited Away makes inactive applications disappear from your screen. You can also set up a block list to avoid having your twitter feed disappear on you.
Think is a super simple application that hides away other windows and the desktop so you can concentrate on what you need to get done. You can set the transparency as well as a color that you’d like your window to be surrounded by (I recommend just black). It makes it very easy to switch between focused applications as well.
Not quite a window management application, however it does affect what you see on your screen. F.lux changes the tone and color of your computer screen as the night wears on. Set it to the type of light in your environment and F.lux matches its tone so that your eyes don’t become as sore.
Perfect for hiding icons and folders on your desktop, Deskhade can help you prepare for screenshots as well as insert movies into the background. A movie of floating clouds sounds nice for a background- just beware on the CPU / Battery drain of such a feature.
Price: Free (for now)
This application let’s you wield control over the menu bar sitting at the top of your screen. Make it invisible or opaque, it really gives you a lot of control.
This handy utility allows you to switch all the windows on one display to another. You can even just select the most forefront window and send it over to your secondary display.
That’s the end of our collection of window management apps. I hope you’ve found a few new gems to help keep your OS X experience organized and efficient.
There are a million of these types of utilities on the market so if we missed your favorite, leave a comment below and tell us about it.