Stop getting distracted by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, with macOS’ Full Screen mode

Take stock of everything that’s running on your Mac, and chances are you’ll end up with a long list of applications.

Most of us have multiple applications open at any one time, and dip between them throughout the day.

Sometimes, this kind of multi-tasking can help you get the job done, for example you might be researching in one window and making notes in another, or perhaps you’re keeping an eye on your work emails while putting the finishing touches to an important presentation. However, multi-tasking can also be a distraction – how many of us are guilty of “rewarding” ourselves with a little Facebook or Twitter break, inbetween tasks?

Whatever problem you’re currently facing, macOS has a screen mode that can help you be more productive.

In this article, I’ll show you how to finally stop getting lured away by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, by placing your most important application center stage, in Full Screen mode. And, for those readers who are doing the good kind of multi-tasking, I’ll show you how to display your most important applications side-by-side, using Split Screen mode.

Improve your focus with Full Screen mode

When you have a tonne of apps open, it can be difficult to focus on just one.

While you should always close unnecessary apps, you may have a legitimate reason for having multiple apps running in the background, for example perhaps you work better to music played via Spotify or iTunes, or your colleagues need to be able to contact you via Skype.

There may also be applications that you periodically check throughout the day, for example perhaps you occasionally glance at your inbox, just to make sure you haven’t missed an important message. While closing this application may help you focus in the short term, you’ll have to go through the process of launching the app, waiting for it to load, and then closing that application again, every single time you want to use it – not exactly a great use of your time!

If you need to have multiple apps open, then you can still make your Mac a less crowded, distracting environment, by isolating the application that you’re supposed to be focusing on, and placing it in Full Screen mode.

Full Screen mode is also perfect for watching movies, or if you need some extra space to edit photos or videos.

Giving an app centre stage

The easiest way to put an application into Full Screen mode, is to find the little “traffic light” icons in the app’s upper-left corner, and give the green “Full Screen” button a click (where the cursor is positioned in the following screenshot).

This application will then expand to fill your entire screen.

Alternatively, you can trigger Full Screen mode using one of the following keyboard shortcuts:

  • “Fn + F11.”
  • “Control + Command + F.”

Just be aware that some applications have their own keyboard shortcuts. If neither of the above shortcuts work for a particular app, then try checking out the app’s documentation, “Help” section or “Preferences” menu, for any information about this app’s own unique keyboard shortcuts.

Sick of Full Screen mode?

To exit Full Screen mode and revert to your Mac’s normal view, you can either:

  • Press the “Escape” key on your keyboard.
  • Use the “Control + Command + F” keyboard shortcut.
  • Hover your cursor over the upper-left corner of the screen, and then click the green “traffic light” button when it appears.

Becoming a multi-tasking pro, with Split Screen mode

If your find yourself switching between two apps, then you can make your life easier by dividing the screen, and then displaying these applications side-by-side.

To arrange two applications in Split Screen mode:

  • Make sure both applications are currently open.
  • Select one of the apps that you want to place in Split Screen mode, and then press and hold its green traffic light button. This window will then shrink, and shift to the left side of the screen.
  • Release the traffic light button.
  • In the empty, right-hand side of the screen, select the second application that you want to view in Split Screen mode. This application will then resize and reposition to occupy the right side of the Split Screen.


Split Screen doesn’t necessarily have to be a 50/50 split! You can tweak the amount of space available to both apps, by dragging the line that divides them.

How to exit Split Screen mode

To return to your Mac’s normal view, either:

  • Press the “Escape” key on your keyboard.
  • Hover over either application’s left-hand corner until the traffic light buttons appear, and then give the green button a click.

Before you go

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About the author

Jessica Thornsby

Jessica Thornsby is a technical writer based in Sheffield. She writes about Android, Java, Kotlin and all things Apple. She is the co-author of O'Reilly's "iWork: The Missing Manual," and the author of "Android UI Design," from Packt Publishing.

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