Window Tiling in macOS Sequoia is Apple's third try to fix a problem

Posted:
in macOS edited July 1

First there was Spaces, then Stage Manager, now there's Window Tiling. All try solving the issue of Mac window management -- yet all are hidden. Here's where they are and what they do on macOS Sequoia.

Toolbar options for arranging windows: move and resize, fill and arrange, full screen, and the option to move to another device.
The new macOS Sequoia adds more window management controls



It's possible that you've never had to think about window management on a Mac. It's more likely that you have faced multiple apps and open documents, that you've struggled to find the one you want, but you had no reason to know there's even a term for this.

As well as the term window management, though, there are three distinctly different systems for making it simpler to find what you need, and to concentrate on your work. That's three systems from Apple -- there are many third-party apps too.

Those third-party apps, most famously such as Moom, all concentrated on giving you quick ways to arrange windows on screen. With a click or a keystroke, a given window could take up the left half, the right third, or any possible position you determine.

Apple's latest Window Tiling in macOS Sequoia targets precisely this method. It's going to Sherlock some apps, but it might also promote them as all third-party rivals do more than Apple's new version.

Only, once Apple highlighted each of its window management tools at WWDC, it then hardly mentions them again. If you are a new Mac user, it is entirely possible that you would never realise these tools exist.

And right now, that's especially true with the new Window Tiling because it can be controlled by keystrokes -- but by default, only if your Mac keyboard is a small one with a function or globe button. Hopefully that will change during the rest of the beta process.

Window Tiling



You could even wonder if Apple wants to hide these features, because as well as limiting the keystrokes, it's put a constraint on just dragging windows around.

The demonstration showed that simply dragging a window to the side of the screen can now make it tile. But in reality -- at least in the beta -- this won't work unless you hold down the option key.

Window menu showing options for moving and resizing, with 'Top Right' selected against a background of document editing interface.
Under macOS Sequoia, every app's Window menu gains controls for tiling



Fortunately, that is just the default option. To have it so that a window will tile to a side of the screen, go to System Settings, Desktop & Dock, and turn off the option under Windows.

Now you can drag a window to one side and know that it will snap to, for instance, the left, or the top right, and so on.

You do also have the same options under the green traffic light at the top left of every Mac window. It's easy to click there and take the window full screen, but if you instead hover the cursor over the green light, you see options to either Move & Resize, or Fill & Arrange.

The former moves a window to the left, right, top, or bottom of the screen. The latter, Fill & Arrange, gives you options including full screen, half screen, and a quarter screen

Plus under the Window menu of every app, there is now a Move & Resize section, which is subtly different. Choosing this option gets you four sets of controls for your window positions:


  • Halves (left, right, top, bottom)

  • Quarters (top left, top right, bottom left, bottom right)

  • Arrange (left & right, right & left, top & bottom, bottom & top, quarters)

  • Return to Previous Size



That last option is also what happens if you drag a window back from a tiled position. So if you change your mind or are just done with having the window there, you can quickly revert to having it wherever it was.

One thing. Each of these options under the Window, Move & Resize menu, is specifically a menu option -- and that should mean you can add a keystroke.

Apple Pages application with a resize menu open showing layout options and a sidebar to move to another iPad.
The green traffic light has been extended to include window tiling options



So rather than having to use a keyboard with a function or globe key, you could go to Settings, Keyboard, and click on Keyboard Shortcuts... to set new keystrokes. At present, that doesn't appear to be working.

When it does, though, or when you have a globe key, or when you use the menus, the new macOS Sequoia's window tiling is excellent. The thing it lacks is the ability to say that you want a window to be in a more precise position and precise size than solely tiled into an existing grid.

For that, you need apps such as Moom, or Keyboard Maestro.


Mac system settings window showing 'Desktop & Dock' options with toggles for tiling windows and preferences.
System Settings in macOS Sequoia includes some window tiling controls

Stage Manager gets better



Stage Manager was introduced to the Mac with macOS Ventura, and it's also on the iPad. The idea is that you can quickly group apps together, so that if you're always working in Pages and Safari, they can be opened at the same time, and -- within limits -- positioned on screen where you like them.

And then with a single click, you can send Pages and Safari away, as Mail, Reminders and Apple Music all jump to the fore together.

Apple does push this window management tool more than its others, but chiefly on the iPad. If you connect an iPad to an external display, then that display will have Stage Manager running -- whether you want it or not.

On the iPad's own screen, it's more like it is on the Mac. You go to Control Center, tap the Stage Manager button, and then you are in it, until you click that button again.

Article about iPhone 16 Pro with brighter, longer-lasting display using Samsung's M14 OLED panels. Includes an image of the phone against a colorful background.
Stage Manager has been steadily improved as a way to quickly switch between groups of apps



It is definitely a fast way of switching between sets of apps. And over time, Apple has made it easier to adjust the size of windows to suit what you need.

Plus it now more intelligently creates groups of apps based on what you have open before you click the Stage Manager button. Best of all, Stage Manager now correctly returns your windows to where they were after you switch off the feature.

Spaces



Stage Manager gets more promotion than most, Window Tiling gets highlighted because it's new, but Spaces is so ignored that you'd think it offended Apple in some way.

Yet when Steve Jobs launched it at WWDC 2006, he made it sound like a gift from the gods. "This is a big one," he said.

"If you're like me, you're doing a bunch of things at once, you've got a lot of apps running at once," he continued. "The tasks you're doing each require a few apps together, and wouldn't it be great if you could take those few apps required for a given task and create a space for them to be in?"

Spaces is the hardest to explain until you see it, then it's arguably the handiest of them all -- especially because it's one you can use with both Window Tiling and Stage Manager.

What Spaces looks like is having a second, third, fourth or more Mac desktops. You open apps, drag icons onto the desktop, rearrange windows -- and then with a swipe, those are all moved away and you have a new, empty desktop.

In that empty desktop, you open other apps, you open other documents. There's no constraint, no limit, it's up to you to decide what you want to see on each space -- but the idea is that you can group together what you need for any particular task.

"Another task has its own space with its collection of apps," said Jobs, "[and you can] rapidly switch between those in a super intuitive manner."

It isn't super-intuitive. It requires a swipe from the left or right of the screen, and sometimes you instead bring up the Mac's widgets list.

Multiple desktop windows are open on a Mac desktop, showing file explorers and settings. The bottom of the screen displays a dock with application icons.
With Spaces, the main part of the screen here is a regular desktop. But swipe up on a trackpad and you can see a second or subsequent desktop



But once you get used to Spaces, it is a very fast way to manage your windows.

Three choices



Spaces, Stage Manager, and Window Tiling, are all fast ways to accomplish finding what you need and concentrating on what you want. It's just peculiar how Apple clearly sees that this is a big issue for those of us using many apps and perhaps smaller screens -- and yet it tends to sideline each of these options.

Spaces came in 2006, Stage Manager in 2022, and now Window Tiling in 2024.

So right now we have the best that Apple has ever offered, with three separate systems all offering different solutions. It's just going to be interesting to see if we get some fourth option in the next few years.



Read on AppleInsider

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 21
    Moom and Spaces for the win! (unless Apple offer more customisation in Window Tiling, but I doubt they will).
    williamlondon
  • Reply 2 of 21
    dewmedewme Posts: 5,534member
    I totally get the gist of what the author is talking about. So many attempts to grapple with the same challenge but none of them have been adopted at the level they were anticipated to be. 

    I’ve found Stage Manager to be of no value on any of the platforms that support it, but that’s just me. The reason for this may have more to do with my use of multiple monitors than anything else. There was a bit of anguish about which devices would support Stage Manager but in the end I didn’t miss it at all on the devices it could not work on. 

    I have been using BetterSnapTool for several years and find it useful. If the new Window Tiling feature in Sequoia  is a better window management implementation than BetterSnapTool I will definitely be using it. 

    All is not lost for me because I’ve always found the ability to run large apps and VMs in full screen mode and use Magic Trackpad gestures to swipe between them to be incredibly useful. This capability is one of the primary reasons why I have a Magic Trackpad on every Mac I own, regardless of the primary pointing device used with each Mac. I typically have the Magic Trackpad placed above the keyboard and the mouse or trackball mouse to the right of my keyboard. I occasionally use the trackpad for pointing but its primary use is for gestures. 
    Alex1N
  • Reply 3 of 21
    thttht Posts: 5,537member
    Are the magnetic window edges still in Sequoia? That's what I use to layout 4, 5, 6 non-overlapping windows on Sonoma.

    Window management has been a "problem" for 40+ years. It's not a problem. Or, it's a problem like keeping a clean desk is a problem. Some people don't care. Some people lay out their stuff in a seemingly unorganized mess, but they notionally remember where everything is. Some people are minimalists. A lot of people in-between.

    I've seen people lay out there files exclusively on their desktops. There would be like 100 files in a thumbnail grid on the desktop. Other people? It's just one, two, maybe three, floating terminal windows. They do everything in terminal emulator and manage their workflow through CLI.

    People do things the way they do things. If it works for them, great. That's the nice thing of having more flexibility and capability in window management. It lets people use their computers in a way they are comfortable with. So, I contest characterizing this as fixing a problem. It's more of way to allow different ways of working, all equally valid.
    muthuk_vanalingamdewmeappleinsideruserAlex1N
  • Reply 4 of 21
    sflagelsflagel Posts: 829member
    Spaces is the best tool. I wish Apple would continue to develop it (name each Space, is that really so difficult to allow?). 
    williamlondonAlex1Nblastdoor
  • Reply 5 of 21
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 12,955member
    i use BetterSnapTool on my personal machines for this as well 
    Flappo
  • Reply 6 of 21
    sunman42sunman42 Posts: 280member
    I can see these tools for limited screen real estate, e.g. on laptops, the best selling machines in the Mac lineup. I use a Studio display with a desktop, and I almost always know where my windows are. If I lose track of where a specific document window is in an app with several documents open, well, that’s what the Dock is for.

    i realize, ymmv.
    Alex1N
  • Reply 7 of 21
    williamlondonwilliamlondon Posts: 1,379member
    sflagel said:
    Spaces is the best tool. I wish Apple would continue to develop it (name each Space, is that really so difficult to allow?). 
    Yes, and allow us to save them. But I do love them and use them extensively, they are great.
    sflagelblastdoor
  • Reply 8 of 21
    Command-tab and Command-~ are my window management tools. Dozens of windows stacked all over the screen right where I left them (weeks ago). Each to their own eh?
    Alex1Ntokyojimu
  • Reply 9 of 21
    Alex1NAlex1N Posts: 144member
    I’ve been a dedicated Spaces user since not long after it came out, including the sadly-defunct Cocoabots ‘Hyperspaces’. I have seven spaces, each dedicated to a specific app or suite of related apps. And I long ago assigned it a screen corner that doesn’t conflict with other corner/side gestures. It’s clearly presented along with other choices in the ‘hot corners’ pane in wherever that is in Settings.

    I couldn’t work without Spaces now. Since I have a pre-METAL iMac, Stage Manager doesn’t work - so I don’t know what I’m missing - although from what I’ve read, I don’t appear to be missing much. I’ll check out Moom though - I tried Keyboard Maestro by didn’t like it for some reason, possibly the rerlatively high (subscription?) cost.
  • Reply 10 of 21
    I use spaces extensively, with Magnet to snap the windows to the edges. While my MacBook supports Stage Manager, I couldn’t really figure out how to use it in a way that made sense.
    i have a “three space” setup with one reserved for focus tasks, one for Outlook and Teams, and one for miscellaneous browser tabs.
    will be interesting to try Window Tiling on my Work computer where I’m not allowed to install Magnet. 
    sflagel
  • Reply 11 of 21
    hexclockhexclock Posts: 1,287member
    Microsoft solved the tiling problem in Windows 3.11. Why can’t Apple replicate and improve upon that function?
    williamlondon
  • Reply 12 of 21
    brianusbrianus Posts: 167member
    hexclock said:
    Microsoft solved the tiling problem in Windows 3.11. Why can’t Apple replicate and improve upon that function?
    I was a Windows user from 98 through early Vista (I also occasionally had to use 3.1, 95, and NT too), and I do not remember any “tiling” features, at least none that are in any way similar to what Apple is doing here or what I’m told modern Windows can do. Care to enlighten us on what 3.11 did that was so innovative?
    williamlondonauxio
  • Reply 13 of 21
    baconstangbaconstang Posts: 1,125member
    I solved my window problems with two 4K screens to complement my iMac's 5K. 
    edited July 1
  • Reply 14 of 21
    sflagelsflagel Posts: 829member
    Alex1N said:
    I’ve been a dedicated Spaces user since not long after it came out, including the sadly-defunct Cocoabots ‘Hyperspaces’. I have seven spaces, each dedicated to a specific app or suite of related apps. And I long ago assigned it a screen corner that doesn’t conflict with other corner/side gestures. It’s clearly presented along with other choices in the ‘hot corners’ pane in wherever that is in Settings.

    I couldn’t work without Spaces now. Since I have a pre-METAL iMac, Stage Manager doesn’t work - so I don’t know what I’m missing - although from what I’ve read, I don’t appear to be missing much. I’ll check out Moom though - I tried Keyboard Maestro by didn’t like it for some reason, possibly the rerlatively high (subscription?) cost.
    Stage Manager is like Spaces, but not as good…. I wish they had just developed Space s’more: allow to name them, save them, allow more multiple windows of the same app. 
    timpetus
  • Reply 15 of 21
    sflagelsflagel Posts: 829member
    For people that have multiple workflows, Spaces can be fantastic. You set up the apps that you need for each workflow in one Space each, and switching between tasks is so easy then. I really don’t understand why Apple didn’t just keep going in that. 
    appleinsideruserblastdoor
  • Reply 16 of 21
    AppleishAppleish Posts: 700member
    I've used Divvy for years. Fully customizable. Assignable keyboard shortcuts. Fast, fast, fast.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 17 of 21
    LettuceLettuce Posts: 16member
    The tiling works for me just when moving the window to the edge, no button press needed!
  • Reply 18 of 21
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 3,425member
    Glad to see lots of love for Spaces — I love it too. 

    I wonder if Spaces is most appealing for people with (1) a big desktop monitor and (2) lots of real work to do. And maybe that turns out to be a small, but very important, slice of the Mac user base. 
    williamlondon
  • Reply 19 of 21
    timpetustimpetus Posts: 43member
    I've been surprised not to hear any mention of the app I use to snap windows into position: Tiles. It looks like Apple is finally bringing essentially the same functionality into macOS. It works great and allows me to manage windows the same way I do on the PC I use at work.
    williamlondon
  • Reply 20 of 21
    CheeseFreezeCheeseFreeze Posts: 1,297member
    It always strikes me how differently people work when it comes to window management. 
    And as you can see in this thread that is evident.

    So to me this is not so much as Apple trying to ‘fix’ a universal ‘problem’, it is offering one more tool that was missing and people can choose to adapt or ignore.

    The fact that Apple somewhat hides this by default and offers granular options for, is not to impose a specific tool that a user might find frustrating. Can you imagine if the window snapping is standard behavior? Or Stage Manager? 

    I personally use none of them - not for development, not for anything. I just somehow remember where they are and focus them at will. It looks a bit messy but at no point I ever felt I was being hindered by macOS. In contrast, Windows 11 keeps interfering with my intentions. It imposes behavior on me that I don’t appreciate. I think Apple is making the right choices here.
    appleinsideruser
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