Essential tools and tips for working with multiple monitors on Mac

Want to be more productive on your Mac? Add another screen, and you’ll spend less time switching between the multiple windows, tabs, and apps you use most. With Catalina, you can even use your iPad as a second screen with the new “Sidecar” feature.

Setting up a dual display on your Mac is an essential boost to your productivity. You waste more time than you might think sorting and arranging the windows of the apps you have open. Doubling the space you make for these windows means you spend less time dealing with them and more time getting your work done.

Essential tools and tips for working with multiple monitors on Mac - Mac

Setting up your Mac to use multiple monitors is easier, in many cases. But optimizing them is another problem entirely. We’ve collected some of our favorite tips to help you get the most out of your Mac’s multiple screens.

1. Arrange your screens the way that suits you

By default, macOS usually configures your second monitor to show the same exact contents of the first screen, which is known as “mirroring.” This is useful if you want to discuss a presentation with a group of people, but it is not useful if you want more space for your windows. Fortunately, turning this feature off is simple.

Open “System Preferences” , Go to “an offerThen select the tabranking. You have to deselect Mirror Displays to extend the contents of the desktop to the second screen instead. You can also choose to arrange the screens here, by positioning the screen to the right or left. Depending on how you actually set it up, you may want to drag one screen icon one higher than the other.

Essential tools and tips for working with multiple monitors on Mac - Mac

Another configuration that you should do is to choose the primary display. To do this, simply drag the white bar at the top of one of the screens in the “section”the offerto your preferred screen. Don’t see one of the displays you’ve connected listed? Learn how to troubleshoot problems with displays on your Mac.

2. Put the Dock in the right place

Most Mac users with dual monitors like to have the Dock positioned at the bottom of the same screen as the menu bar, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Alternatively, you can move it to the side of the screen. If your main screen is on the left, as placing the Dock on the right places it on the secondary screen.

To adjust the position of your Dock, open System Preferences , then select Dock. Here, you will see the position on the screen element, where you can choose left, bottom or right. You can also choose whether to automatically show or hide the Dock as you like.

Essential tools and tips for working with multiple monitors on Mac - Mac

3. Get more space to work with the virtual desktop

It’s possible that even with your Mac running multiple monitors, you still need more space. You can start neatly arranging your windows, or you can use another feature built into macOS: Spaces. Where is Apple’s application that provides a virtual desktop, which allows you to organize windows across multiple groups and switch between them at will.

Essential tools and tips for working with multiple monitors on Mac - Mac

This can cause a problem when your Mac has a second screen. For example, opening an app in full screen may cause one of the screens to stop working. This does not indicate that there is a problem with your screen – it’s how Spaces works by default. This is easy to change, so you can always take full advantage of dual monitors for Mac.

Open System Preferences , then locate the section Mission Control. Here, make sure to check the option labeled Displays have separate spaces. If you are using a newer version of macOS, this option is enabled by default, but in older versions it is usually not enabled.

Essential tools and tips for working with multiple monitors on Mac - Mac

4. You have an iPad? You have a second display

Spaces can help you get some of the benefits of a second screen without actually owning one. This isn’t the only way to get additional space to work without actually using an extra screen. If you have an iPad, you can use it as a second screen for your Mac.

Essential tools and tips for working with multiple monitors on Mac - Mac

There are a few ways to do this. One of them is Duet Display, an app that works on your Mac and iPad, allowing you to use the latter as a second screen. This app will cost you $9.99, but it also works with Windows, so it’s a great value.

If you’re running at least macOS 10.15 Catalina, you have another option that’s free and built in. Sidecar is a feature built into macOS, starting with Catalina, that lets you pair your iPad as a second monitor. We have a guide to help you use your iPad as a second screen with Sidecar.

5. Switch windows between screens easily with BetterTouchTool

If you’re coming from Linux or Windows, you’ve been using keyboard shortcuts to send apps to different screens. On macOS, you are somewhat limiting when it comes to these shortcuts. BetterTouchTool can easily remedy this situation.

This app is originally intended to improve your trackpad, but it also lets you do more with your keyboard. Actions include moving a window to the next screen, centering the app on a specific screen, and more. You can assign these options to any combination of keys you want.

Essential tools and tips for working with multiple monitors on Mac - Mac

BetterTouchTool is very powerful and can do a lot more than what’s mentioned here, so it’s easily worth the $7.50 that the developer charges for the license. However, it’s also available as part of a SetApp subscription, which costs $10 per month for a bunch of useful apps.

6. Extend the wallpaper across screens

This is more of a personal taste. Some people want to see a single, uninterrupted image that spans across multiple displays on their Mac. If you use a flat color instead of an image, or just prefer to display the same image on all screens, you can easily do this.

Essential tools and tips for working with multiple monitors on Mac - Mac

The bad news is that there is no way built into macOS that extends the wallpaper across multiple monitors. The good news is that there are plenty of tools like Fresco and the simple tool called Multi Monitor Wallpaper that can do that for you. You just have to install any of them, turn them on, and choose the wallpaper that suits you best.

Work smarter on your Mac

We hope that these powerful tips and utilities will help you to make effective use of the space provided by the additional screen. The second (or third) screen is a great way to increase productivity no matter what kind of work you do.

For more than this, take a look at the little tricks that make you more effective when working.

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