Automatically move and resize windows on the Apple Mac desktop

Review: Free utility to create keyboard shortcuts to organise the windows and apps on the desktop on the Apple Mac.

One of the great advances in operating systems was enabling apps to run in overlapping windows. It is also a source of irritation too. Spectacle is a free app that makes it work beautifully.

It is great being able to run multiple applications at the same time on the the Mac and to have each one in a separate window. In addition to app windows are also Finder windows, System Preferences and other windows.

The screen can easily become overcrowded and apps and Finder windows become buried underneath each other. They are then hard to find and access when you need them and this is worse on small screens, such as with MacBooks. It isn't so much of a problem on the iMac with its big desktop.

It means you must use the Dock a lot more than you would like in order to switch from one app to another, or to see information that is in a window underneath several others.

You can manually move and resize windows and place them on the desktop so that they minimally overlap each other, but it is a nuisance and an irritation. Isn’t there some way to prevent apps from overlapping each other and appearing on top or underneath other apps?

Spectacle for Apple Mac

Yes. The solution is a free open source app called Spectacle.

It enables you to move and resize apps in a flash using keyboard shortcuts. Press a key combination and the current window is resized and positioned exactly where you want it, out of the way of others.

Run Spectacle and it displays the shortcuts you can use.

Spectacle app for the Apple Mac showing the keyboard shortcuts to position and size windows on the desktop

At first sight this looks like some sort of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, or maybe the current language was swapped for foreign character set.

Stare at it for a while and it does begin to make sense though. 

All the Left Half, Right Half, Top Half, Next Third, and similar commands refer to window sizes and positions on the desktop.

The weird symbols are the Shift, Ctrl, Option, Command and arrow keys.

Resize and reposition windows with Spectacle

To make the currently active window fill the left half of the screen, you would press Option+Command+left arrow keys. To make it fill a third of the screen, you would press Ctrl+Option+right arrow - repeat this to move it to the next third.

Using these keyboard shortcuts you can can quickly position windows in empty space on the desktop so they don’t overlap other apps, or at least minimise the overlap.

Keyboard clashes

I found that several of the keyboard shortcuts did not work. This is probably because they are already in use by macOS or another app. You can click any keyboard shortcut you want to change and then press the keys to use instead.

For example, I found Left Half and Right Half did not work, so clicking these and pressing Option+Command+> and Option+Command+< enabled the < and > keys to be used instead of left and right arrow keys.

Menu bar extra

Spectacle adds a menu bar item that enables you to select window size/positions from a menu. It also helps you to learn the keyboard shortcuts by showing them on the menu.

The menu bar icon can be hidden when you have learnt all the shortcuts. Spectacle then runs silently in the background.

Spectacle app for the Apple Mac showing the menu bar item listing keyboard shortcuts

App: Spectacle
Price: Free
By: Eric Czarny
macOS: 10.9 or later
Verdict: A useful free app for organising the windows on the desktop



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