2021 MacBook Pro 14-inch on a desk
Justin Duino / How-To Geek

I switched back to Mac computers last year, but after using a mix of Windows and Linux for several years, there were a few elements of macOS that were annoying. One app helped fix that is a utility called Magnet.

Apple has introduced many different window management systems in macOS over the years, including Exposé, Spaces, Mission Control (which replaced the first two), and most recently, Stage Manager. However, most of them are focused on switching between overlapping windows or regular virtual desktops. There’s no built-in system for organizing windows into specific areas of the screen, like snapping on Windows or the tiling window managers in Linux distributions.

The most annoying aspect here is how full-screen windows work on Mac. In most cases, when you click the green maximize button on a window, it doesn’t just take up all the available desktop space. Instead, it goes full-screen, hiding the menu bar and dock and appearing as a new virtual desktop in Mission Control. You’re supposed to double-click the top bar to minimize or maximize the current window without going full-screen — closer to the behavior on Windows — but that doesn’t always work with applications that place buttons or other controls in that area.

I prefer regular window snapping over Apple’s mishmash of different systems, especially the option to split my screen into two halves. There are a handful of third-party utilities that implement this behavior, but the one that has worked the best for me is Magnet. It’s a one-time purchase on the App Store ($9.99, as of the time of writing), and allows you to snap windows by dragging your mouse or using a keyboard shortcut.

image of keyboard shortcuts available in Magnet
Keyboard shortcuts in Magnet

Magnet can organize your screen into two columns, two rows, a 2×2 grid, or three columns. Each position in each layout has a dedicated keyboard shortcut, so if you memorize those, you can organize your screen exactly how you want in just a few keyboard clicks. I’m not great at remembering all the shortcuts, so I mostly just use the mouse gestures. As you drag a window to a corner or side of the screen, Magnet shows an overlay for where it will appear, just like on Windows.

For the most part, I stick to the full-desktop or dual-pane views. The full-size window snap gives me as much space as possible while still showing the system menu bar, and when I’m writing, I like to have my editor snapped to one side and whatever I’m researching on the other side.

It’s worth noting that Magnet uses accessibility permissions in macOS to manage and resize windows, and there’s always the chance it could break after major OS updates until a fix is introduced. I didn’t notice anything broken when upgrading from macOS Monterey to macOS Ventura, though.

If you’re used to window snapping from other platforms, and you’re switching to a Mac (or just need to occasionally use a Mac), you should give Magnet a try. I don’t know why Apple hasn’t implemented native window snapping, especially when it has been it has been available on Windows for over a decade, but at least there is a workable solution.

You can buy Magnet on the App Store.