How to use keyboard shortcuts for a split-screen on macOS. iPadOS. Windows. Chrome OS.

To display two apps side-by, press these keys on Chrome OS. Windows. iPad OS. macOS. These shortcuts can simplify your life and make your life easier.

Illustration: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

Side-by-side browser windows and apps are great for many tech tasks. How do you choose a system? Make notes in one app, and have technical specs displayed in the other. What is the best way to organize your thoughts? While you work, draft an email in one window. How do you document settings? As you write details into a document, be sure to refer to the configuration.

Too often I see people switch between tabs and apps. What they really need is two apps displayed at once. If you have multiple monitors or devices, you can use the additional screen or device to display an app. It is often easiest to have two apps displayed on the same device. And, again, too often people try to do this manually—resizing a window then dragging and placing it to one side of the display.

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These key controls will allow you to quickly snap apps to the right side of your screen using Chrome OS, Windows or iPadOS. This visual guide might prove useful to people who frequently use different operating system. (I’ll be completely honest and say that I sometimes forget the split-screen keyboard commands. I wrote this to make it easier for me in the future.

How to make a Chrome OS split screen

Chrome OS allows you to switch between two different app/browser window positions by using key combinations. The following are the key combinations for Chrome OS alternate app/browser windows on a Chromebook: Alt key combined withYou can quickly reposition windows on the screen by using either the right or left bracket keysFigure A). The key combination is:

  • alt + [ moves a window to the left (and, if pressed again, around the center of the screen), while  
  • alt + ]Move a window to your right (or, if you press again, in the middle of the screen).

Figure A

Photo of a Chromebook Pixelbook Go keyboard, with the alt, [ and ] keys circled in red.

Press alt and [ to dock the active window to the left of the screen. Press the combination again to return it to the middle of the screen. (The combination of alt and ]Do the same to the right.

Photo by Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

How to make Windows split screens

Windows-compatible keyboards often include a Windows key. This key is used when the keyboard is intended for use with Windows systems. Get it pressed withUse the left orright arrow keys to quickly reposition any app in one of three positionsFigure B). If pressed repeatedly in a sequence, both key combinations (Windows Key + left arrow or Windows Key + right arrow), cycle the app’s position through left/right and center screens, then back to left/right.

Figure B

Photo of a Surface Laptop Go keyboard, with the Windows key, < and > keys circled in red.

To reposition the active app window on a Windows system press the Windows key, left arrow and the Windows key. You can also rotate the app by pressing these keys in the center, left and right areas of your screen. (The combination Windows key and right-arrow do the same to your right.

Photo by Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

How to create a split screen in macOS

Third-party apps are the easiest way to access a macOS system’s key combination and snap an app onto a side. I use the Magnet app($7.99) for my device. Once the Mac App Store has been installed, you can configure your device using the key combinations shown in Figure CThese are the commands that will move the active app to one side of the screen:

  • control + option + left mouse arrow to place an app to the left
  • Control + Option + Right Arrow, to position an application on the right

Apple also offers an alternative to third-party apps. Manual wayTo move apps to a section of the screen that uses app positioning options instead of keyboard controls.

Figure C

Photo of MacBook Air keyboard, with control, option, left arrow and right arrow keys circled in red.

Third-party magnet app adds window positioning keyboard control to macOS. Press Control + option +  left arrow to snap an app to the left side of the screen. Control + option + right Arrow does the same for the right.

Photo by Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

How to create split views on iPadOS

There are many ways that the iPad can position apps. This includes support for key combinations such as when you use an external Bluetooth keyboard or attached Smart Keyboard. If you are using a keyboard specifically designed for iPad use, press the Globe key + control+left arrow or Globe Key + control+right arrow.Figure D). This will take the current app and move it to the chosen side of the screen (i.e. left or right in what Apple calls split view).

You can then move the current app to the side and select the additional app to be used on the other half of the screen. You can tap the App Library or Home Screen to select the additional app. After you select the apps, both the original active app and the additional app will be displayed on your iPad side by side. (For Additional controlsTo activate the app, tap the three dots in the upper center of your screen.

Figure D

Photo of iPad Pro 12.9

Next, press the globe key + control + right arrow to select another app. The second app will be placed to the right of the iPad screen. (The globe key + control and right arrow work similarly to the left.

Photo by Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

How can you use split screen?

You can have two apps at once, but you should also keep in mind that the other app may be open simultaneously. SameApp in both windows Sometimes, for example, I open the same Google Doc in two browser windows while working on a long document. This allows me to reference text in one area of the Doc while writing or editing in another. The same strategy works when you need different tabs within a Google Sheet.

Are you able to use keyboard commands on your desktop or laptop to place apps side-by-side? Do you use this setup often or is it your default? Please comment below or tweet me to let me know how you set up your system to show two apps side by side.@awolber).

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