Having a dual monitor setup on your Mac serves as a major boost to your productivity. You waste more time than you may think sorting and arranging app windows. Doubling the space for those windows means you spend less time dealing with them and more time getting your work done.
Setting up your Mac with dual monitors is easier than ever, in many cases. But making the best use of them is another problem altogether. We’ve gathered some of our favorite tips to help you make the most of multiple Mac monitors.
1. Make Yourself at Home by Arranging Your Monitors
By default, macOS will usually configure your second monitor to show the same exact contents as the first, which is known as “mirroring.” This is handy if you’re showing a presentation to a group of people, but isn’t useful if you want more room for your windows. Fortunately, turning it off is simple.
Open System Preferences, go to Displays, then select the Arrangement tab. Uncheck Mirror Displays to extend the desktop to the second monitor instead. You can also choose your monitors’ arrangement here, including which is on the left and right. Depending on how you’ve physically set them up, you may even want to drag one monitor icon on top of the other.
Another configuration you should make is choosing your primary monitor. To do this, just drag the white bar at the top of one of the screens in the Displays section to the monitor you prefer. Don’t see one of your displays listed? Find out how to troubleshoot problems with multiple Mac monitors.
2. Put Your Dock in the Right Place
Most Mac users with dual monitors like to have their Dock on the bottom of the same screen as the menu bar, but that doesn’t mean you have to. You can instead move it to the side of the screen. If your primary display is on the left, putting the Dock on the right side will place it on the secondary monitor.
To adjust the position of your dock, open System Preferences, then select Dock. Here, you’ll see the Position on screen item, where you can choose Left, Bottom, or Right. You can also choose whether to automatically show or hide the dock as you prefer.
3. Get Even More Room to Work With Virtual Desktops
It’s possible that even with your Mac running multiple monitors, you’ll still need more room. You could start arranging windows meticulously, or you could use another feature built into macOS: Spaces. This is Apple’s take on the virtual desktop, which lets you organize windows across multiple groups and switch between them at will.
This can be a problem when your Mac has a second monitor. Opening an app in full-screen, for example, might cause one of your monitors to go blank. This doesn’t indicate a problem with your monitor—it’s just how Spaces works by default. This is easy to change, so you can always get full use out of your Mac’s dual monitors.
Open System Preferences, then locate the Mission Control section. Here, make sure to check the option labeled Displays have separate spaces. If you’re using a newer version of macOS, this may be enabled by default, but older versions usually don’t come with it enabled.
4. Have an iPad? You’ve Got Another Monitor
Spaces can help you get some of the benefits of a second monitor without actually owning one. That’s not the only way to get extra room to work without plunking down cash on an extra monitor, though. If you have an iPad, you can use it as a second monitor for your Mac.
There are a few ways to do this. One is Duet Display, an app that runs on your Mac and your iPad, letting you use the latter as another monitor. This 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’ve got another option that’s free. Sidecar is a feature built into macOS, beginning with Catalina, that lets you pair your iPad as a second monitor. We’ve got a guide to help you use your iPad as a second monitor with Sidecar.
5. Move Windows Between Monitors Easily With BetterTouchTool
If you’re coming from Linux or Windows, you may be used to sending apps to different monitors with keyboard shortcuts. On macOS, you’re fairly limited when it comes to these shortcuts. BetterTouchTool can easily remedy this situation.
This app originally aimed to power up your trackpad, but it also lets you do more with the keyboard. Actions include moving a window to the next monitor, centering an app on a given monitor, and more. You can assign these options to any key combination you like.
BetterTouchTool is extremely powerful and can do much more than what’s mentioned here, so it’s easily worth the $7.50 the developer charges for a license. That said, it’s also available as part of a SetApp subscription, which costs $10 per month for a bundle of useful apps. If you’re curious, we’ve put together a list of apps that make a SetApp subscription worth the price.
6. Stretch Your Wallpaper Across Monitors
This is more of a matter of personal taste. Some people want to see a single, unbroken image stretching across multiple monitors on their Mac. If you use a flat color instead of an image, or just prefer the same image displayed on all monitors, you don’t need to bother.
The bad news is that there’s no method built into macOS that stretches wallpapers across dual monitors. The good news is that there are plenty of tools like Fresco and the simply named Multi Monitor Wallpaper that can do this for you. Just install one, run it, and choose your wallpaper.
Working Smarter on Your Mac
Hopefully, these tips and powerful utilities help you utilize your extra screen space effectively. A second (or third) monitor is a great way to increase productivity no matter what kind of work you do.
For more like this, have a look at small tricks that make you more efficient when working in macOS.