20+ Mac Window Management Utilities

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

Spaces, Exposé & Mission Control

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)

Mission Control

Mission Control

Hyperspaces

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.

Price: $12.95

Hyperspaces

Hyperspaces

VirtueDesktops

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.

Price: Free

VirtueDesktops

VirtueDesktops

HyperDock

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.

Price: $9.99

HyperDock

HyperDock

DisplayMaid

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.

Price: $4.99

DisplayMaid

DisplayMaid

Window Management

Cinch

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.

Price: $7

Cinch

Cinch

SizeUp

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.

Price: $13

SizeUp

SizeUp

Divvy

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.

Price: $14

Divvy

Divvy

Moom

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.

Price: $10

Moom

Moom

BetterSnapTool

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.

Price: $1.99

Better Snap Tool

Better Snap Tool

DoublePane

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.

Price: $2.99

DoublePane

DoublePane

Flexiglass

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.

Price: $9.99

Flexiglass preferences

Flexiglass Preferences

WindowMagnet

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.

Price: $4.99

WindowMagnet

WindowMagnet

Optimal Layout

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).

Price: $13.99

Optimal Layout

Optimal Layout

Other Interesting Window Management Apps

Spirited Away

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.

Price: Free

Spirited Away

Spirited Away

Think

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.

Price: Free

Think

Think

F.lux

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.

Price: Free

Flux

Flux

Deskshade

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)

Deskshade Preferences

Deskshade Preferences

Menu Eclipse

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.

Price: $2.99

Menu Eclipse

Menu Eclipse

 

Swapp

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.

Price: $4.99

Swapp

Swapp

Conclusion

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.


  • http://thecocoabots.com/ Tony Arnold

    As the developer of both Hyperspaces and VirtueDesktops, it would help my support load a bit if you mentioned that neither app is compatible with Lion. Hyperspaces works on Leopard and Snow Leopard, and VirtueDesktops only works on Tiger.

    Thanks!

    • David Ferguson

      Planning on updating them? I like Hyperspaces..

      • Raj Shah

        Cant be done. Hyperspaces can’t run on lion (http://thecocoabots.com/blog/post/377/).
        Besides, Lion has this functionality built in. Go to the space you want to change, and change the desktop like you normally would.

    • http://adamselby.com Adam Selby

      Pretty bad oversight on the author’s part.

    • http://www.living-intentionally.com/ Trane Francks

      I just wanted to say thanks for the work you did on VirtueDesktops. I discovered that app not long before upgrading from Tiger to Snow Leopard. While I didn’t use it for long, I loved it while I did. Thank you!

  • David Ferguson

    Nice post.. I’ve never heard of some of these. Most of the ones I would like I already use, but I’m gonna have to check out Menu Eclipse.

  • Peter

    Strange that Afloat did not get to this list…..

    I’m using it more than any above mentioned apps: http://infinite-labs.net/afloat/

  • Ido Vock

    BetterTouchTool does window snapping for free…

    • emse

      yep! in combination with gestures it’s the best tool I can think of

    • Lars Cabrera

      Indeed. I just installed it because of your comment, and I love it. Thanks a bunch. Millions of kudos in your direction

  • Jami

    Picked up Moom recently. While it doesn’t do *everything* I want (some simpler, single-purpose keyboard shortcuts being the major thing), it at least does everything Divvy and a bunch of other apps can at a fraction of the price.

  • http://a7web.com Aaron Holbrook

    I can’t believe you left off Zooom2! This is the best one of them all in my opinion – you can easily move and resize windows around just by holding down a couple keys and moving your mouse – no clicking whatsoever. You also don’t have to worry about precisely selecting a thin edge or corner, you just hover over the general area and move!

    • http://www.lri.me/ Lri

      I was going to mention Zooom as well. (http://coderage-software.com/zooom)

      Other apps that can move-or-resize-by-holding-modifier-keys are BetterSnapTool, BetterTouchTool, Flexiglass, NuKit, MondoMouse, HyperDock and Afloat. But Zooom probably has the most complete implementation. You can also use fn as a modifier, resize from the nearest instead of the bottom right corner, and snap windows to other UI elements and screen edges.

  • durbrow

    Nice review but you forgot the free window controller called ShiftIt.

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

    Also, doesn’t menu bar modification require the somewhat controversial SIMBL?

  • http://www.ffeld.com.br ffeld

    I´m using Moom to manage my windows… since Mac OS doesn´t have a tool like this. Shame on Apple because Windows have the shortcut (window + arrows) to allow you set the screens as you wish!

    8-)

  • Jo

    You also missed Breeze.

    http://www.autumnapps.com/breeze/

    Works like charm, unobstrusive and very keyboard-centric. You can even confine shortcuts to specific apps which only work if the app is frontmost.

    Opening two column-view Finder windows side by side takes 4 keyboard shortcuts. Takes less than 2 seconds.

    Cmd-N | Breeze-Shortcut 1 | Cmd-N | Breeze-Shortcut 2

    • John

      THIIIIIISS!!! Breeze is awesome. I used it on another computer but forgot the name and have been searching for the name of it again. Breeze is invaluable to me

  • http://www.lri.me/ Lri

    A more complete overview or more screenshots of some applications would’ve been nice.

    - Hyperdock supports AeroSnap and moving and resizing by holding modifier keys
    - ShiftIt has actions for moving a window to the next display (like Swapp) or the next space
    - Divvy’s preferences has a tab for assigning shortcuts to preset layouts
    - Moom supports quick layout shortcuts and saving desktop layouts
    - BetterSnap Tool supports quick layout shortcuts and resizing by holding modifier keys

    I mostly just use AppleScripts like: Six window resizing AppleScripts — Gist, https://gist.github.com/1166988 (they don’t support for multiple monitors yet)

  • warnaud

    I use a lot SizeWell -> http://www.sizewellplugin.com/ Free and awesome

    Cheers and thx for the list :-)

    Arnaud

  • Gy

    SplitScreen http://l.ginkapps.com/splitscreenapp should also be mentioned. It is much cheaper than the others at $0.99 and has almost all the same features.

  • http://tuananh.us Tuan Anh Tran

    DoublePane ftw. i got this little app for free on Mac App Store.

  • http://connect.me/ Drummond Reed

    Although only part of what it does is window management, I’ve found DragThing to be indispensable. Makes switching between windows on a crowded desktop very easy without having to go through lots of contortions.

  • http://christopherbull.name Chris Bull

    I have and Love hyperdock. It does all the window snapping as well, also ctrl + option + arrow key sends windows to half, full, top etc, even between different displays. I find it indispensable.

  • Bill Baxter

    SP Resize is also great for two displays and filling windows across both of them or just one. http://dawhelp.com/spresize

  • http://www.denflinkegrafiker.dk DeFliGra

    I’d just like a WindowShelf – a shelf where you could drag your windows to and from… just below the menu bar where the cursor is most of the time – both finder and app windows. And a tile all my windows with one shortcut. I really don’t like all this stacking and resize windows one window at a time. Sooooo sloooooow.

    That would be evolution!

  • Bobcat
  • Everpointer

    What about Window Tidy. Good user experience.

  • carles

    Spectacles is best window management so far

  • Dan

    I use Moom myself. Neat little app that does everything I wanted. There’s another similar app not mentioned here, Windownaut http://binarybakery.com/product.php?app=windownaut
    I do love that icon haha.

  • Bosco

    Have a look at Isolator if you are interested in a free app to hide inactive windows http://willmore.eu/software/isolator/

  • Xavier

    I LOVE SHIFT IT because its free and does pretty much what double pane does. It works on all my mac versions from 10.5 and up. http://code.google.com/p/shiftit/

  • http://imacami.net/tri bolobala

    Trí (http://imacami.net/tri) should be listed also.
    It comes with an interesting feature: shaking cursor to move/resize window.
    Furthermore, Trí enables you to cascade, tile horizontally or vertically the windows.

    If you need to try it, do not send an email to “support at imacami.net” to get promo code.

    • http://imacami.net/tri bolobala

      If you need to try it, send an email to “support at imacami.net” to get promo code

  • mds

    You forgot to mention the most advanced application in this category
    http://www.trifleapps.com/arrange.html

  • Pingback: Mac OS X

  • Mark

    You forgot Bartender

  • Pingback: Saving Time: The Art of the Shortcut « Teaching and Learning Tips

theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow
theatre-aglow