El Capitan’s Split View Seems Useless Until You Actually Use It

Justin Pot 12-11-2015

Split View seems like a gimmick, until you use it for a while. Then you’ll wonder how you used your Mac without it.


Skeptical? That makes sense. Of all the new features in El Capitan OS X El Capitan is Here! Upgrade For A Smoother Mac Experience Mac OS X El Capitan is a subtle release: its biggest changes aren't visible — but you'll probably notice them anyway. Read More , Split View gets the most attention – and I’ll be honest, at first I didn’t see the appeal. Sure, on the iPad split screen is huge: until now you could only ever have one app open at a time. But on the Mac it’s always been possible to see multiple applications at once, because it’s always been possible to have multiple windows open.So why bother with Split View?

I suspect many people feel the same way, which is fair, but I recommend at least giving this feature a chance. For some use cases – such as researching, planning your tasks for the day, or just communicating – Split View can combine apps in a way that’s just plain productive.

If you like vertical space, you’ll love this.

How To Start Using Split View

So, what is Split View? It’s a feature in El Capitan that builds on the full screen feature introduced in Lion, allowing you to have two applications open, side-by-side, in full screen. It looks like this:



The dock and menubar are nowhere to be found, and neither are either program’s menu bars. It’s a really uncluttered way to work, especially if you need more vertical space to work with.

If you’re running El Capitan, there are a few different ways to start using Split View. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Click and hold the green button at the top-left of any application – it will take up half the screen, and you’ll be able to pick another app to split the screen with:


  • Enter Mission Control, then drag any window to an already full screened app.


  • Drag windows to the top of the screen to quickly enter Mission Control, with that window already selected. Drag the window to the top of the screen to send it to full-screen mode, then drag another window there to split your screen.

You’ll notice that none of the above methods include a keyboard shortcut, and as far as I can tell there’s no official way to create one in OS X. Install BetterTouchTool (which lets you become a better trackpad user Become A Power Trackpad User With BetterTouchTool It's especially useful for Mac users who do lots of work in applications like iPhoto or Aperture, or who surf the web. Read More but also lets you create keyboard shortcuts for almost anything, and you can set your own keyboard shortcut or touchpad gesture for split view:


Potential Uses For El Capitan’s Split View

So, now that you’ve got a handle on using split view, what should you use it for? This was my main stumbling block with the feature, but now I’ve got a few favorite combinations I leave launched most of the time.

Planning Mode: Combine Your To-Do List With Your Note Taking App



Whatever your to-do list, and whatever your ideal note taking app, they’re better together. I have OneNote running alongside Reminders pretty much at all times, so I can plan my to-do list using my compiled projects and plans.

Research Mode: Combine browser with notes


When you’re diving deep into the web for research purposes, it’s easy to get lost down there. My recommendation: take notes as you go, to help remind you why you jumped in to start with. Combining your browser with a text editor is a simple way to do this.

Communications Mode: Combine Email With IM



Some things just work better together, and I think IM and email are like that. Whatever IM app you use, combine it with your email app of choice and you can do all of your communications in one place.

Accessing Desktop Files in Full Screen

Just one tip, before I go, because one annoyance I’ve found in split view (and full screen more generally) is the inability to drag files from my desktop to an open window. If you’d like to have access to the Desktop while using split view, head to the finder and drag your “Desktop” folder to the dock.


You can now quickly get to the files on your Desktop, even while in full screen mode.

How Do You Use Split Mode?

Some tools just work better together, even when you’re trying to focus. So I want to know: what things do you combine with split view? Let’s compile the best ideas in the comments below.

Want to learn even more about your Mac’s many window management features? There are lots of ways to enhance the multitasking in OS X Do More, Better: Enhancing Multitasking in Mac OS X Multitasking is not always a choice. When you have to write up a report, you need access to your text processor, but also to your reference material. While working, I often end up working with... Read More , and many good habits Mac users should get used to 7 Good Habits Every Mac User Should Get Used To Today we're going to share our favourite good Mac habits, while desperately trying to forget the bad ones. Read More – and we’ve outlined a lot of them. Or maybe you’d like to hear from Reddit: here’s the best Mac tips you’ve never heard of The Best Built-In Mac Tips You've Never Heard of, According to Reddit There's a surprising number of things your Mac can do out of the box, if you only know how. Read More that they’ve collected over the years.

Related topics: Multitasking, OS X El Capitan, Productivity.

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