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Align Windows in macOS 10.12 Sierra

Apple has made much of macOS 10.12 Sierra’s notable features, like Siri, Picture in Picture, and the capability to unlock your Mac with your Apple Watch. But our favorite new feature — automatic window alignment — wasn’t advertised by Apple at all, and it’s so subtle you may not even realize you’ve used it.

You move windows in Sierra just as you have since 1984, by clicking and dragging a window’s title bar (or status bar). In Sierra, however, if you slow down briefly when the edge of the window you’re dragging meets the edge of another window, the first window stops moving and aligns perfectly with the second window unless you force it past the edge. It doesn’t matter which sides you’re aligning.

This trick is particularly handy in the Finder, where you often want multiple windows open. But it should work with windows from any app, and even windows from different apps. That lets you simulate the side-by-side look of Split View without messing with full-screen mode.

Sierra’s window alignment also kicks in when you’re resizing windows, which, remember, you can do from any side of a window. Slowly drag the edge of one window to the edge of another to lock it in place. Or, if you’re expanding one window that’s next to another, window alignment makes it easy to match their heights.

The windows on my Mac have never been so neatly arranged!


If you want to position your windows precisely without aligning them, you can bypass Sierra’s window alignment code by pressing and holding Option as you drag the window.

 

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Comments about Align Windows in macOS 10.12 Sierra
(Comments are closed.)

Charles  2016-09-30 10:42
Hey that is the best trick I've seen in a long time.
chmoss  2016-09-30 12:36
I have been using Moom from the app store which is way more useful, at least to me.
David Weintraub  2016-09-30 16:03
I was testing this and it didn't work on my system. Then I realize I'm using Pathfinder and not Finder. Closing Pathfinder and using Finder does the trick.
Laine Lee  2016-10-01 00:20
I can get an edge to snap to a certain extent, but I can't get height to match. There must be some requirements that my system or settings don't meet.
gastropod  2016-10-01 01:02
If you double click on the arrow to expand the window, it will expand that side or corner all the way to the edge of the monitor. Room is left for the dock if it's visible.

Thanks for the option-key to bypass the feature. I like having lots of windows open, staggered with some space between them so I have somewhere to click to bring others forward. Neat alignment would destroy my planned chaos.
Yashodhan Khare  2016-10-01 04:01
This doesn't work on my MacBook Pro 13'', mid-2014 model
gastropod  2016-10-01 16:44
I was using a 21" iMac with the normal apple mouse. I'm not sure which year, probably late 2014.

Were you using the trackpad for clicking? Maybe there's a setting for it.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-10-04 15:04
Hmm, that's weird - one other person below is having trouble too. There's no interface for it, and I'm using it on an older MacBook Air yet, so the only thing I can imagine is some sort of software conflict.
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2016-10-04 06:27
What has always been missing, of course, is a feature from pre-OS X days, the Special Finder, where folder specific window positions and sizes were remembered from one session to another (http://arstechnica.com/apple/2003/04/finder/3/). The Special Finder treated windows as objects whose properties were set until you changed them. Thus you could close a Finder window (or restart the computer) and reopen a folder and its window would be right were you left it.

I have used Finder Window Manager since the early days in OS X to control Finder window positions. It enables me to create window sets with windows in specific locations at specific sizes. There are other window management tools out there now but I've seen none that offer this kind of control. Most of them just cut your screen into sections on a grid and/or provide the snapping capabilities newly available in Sierra. FWM is currently available only from MacUpdate (https://www.macupdate.com/app/mac/21475/finder-window-manager) while the developer is upgrading his software. In the meantime, FWM works for me in OS X 10.9.5 Mavericks. I haven't tested it in Yosemite, El Capitan or Sierra. I was afraid development had lapsed; It's a hopeful sign that the developer says he is modernizing his offerings.

Still, window management is one of the Finder's biggest weaknesses. Apple made a stab at fixing things with window tabs, but it's my impression most people don't even know the feature exists—and are unlikely to use it if they do. It's in Apple's genes to abandon a perfectly good feature, like the Special Finder, and never look back. They do the same thing with software, like Aperture. Even Spotlight is more difficult to use than the old Find File from Mac OS 7. I use Find Any File (http://apps.tempel.org/FindAnyFile/) to restore the ease of use Apple abandoned, which includes displaying found items in a hierarchical list so you can clearly see where they live. The closest you can come to that in Spotlight is to have the folder list displayed at the bottom of a window, with folders that bounce around as you try to uncover their names. It's the very definition of a pain in the butt, bad design personified.

Sadly Apple has long been infected with the change for its own sake virus and shows no signs of getting well. Indeed, they don't even know how sick they are. Though it's not all Tim Cook's fault. He learned hubris from Steve Jobs. With Jonathan Ive hanging around as God's shadow, who is Time to question things? He's an excellent businessman, but he doesn't know squat about design. So though Apple's off the rails in software design, he's not the man to see it, let alone fix it.
gastropod  2016-10-04 20:32
Thanks for the FWM link, it looks like I could really use it. I too miss the spacial Finder. As it started going away, I hoped that Pathfinder would be a good substitute, but it had problems with window management, too, though different ones. Tabs are seen as the Answer to Everything, but for anything other than read only, such as a browser, I can't stand tabs (and omniweb tabs beat safari tabs any day). Tabs make it hard to drag and drop, to compare things, or to find what you're looking for.

Snow Leopard is the last system that I've actually liked, even though it killed a quintessential Mac advantage over unix-Type and Creator codes. The loss has cost me much time, fiddling, and swearing ever since. Filename extensions--bah humbug, and get off my lawn...
Lawrence J. Collen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Benefactor 2016-10-04 11:01
I've not been able to make this work on an MBP Retina. Is there something I need to check off first?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-10-04 15:03
No, there's no interface to it at all. I'm using it on an older MacBook Air, so I doubt it's a hardware thing. Could you have some other software involved that might be conflicting? Perhaps try in another account or in a Safe Boot?
Lawrence J. Collen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Benefactor 2016-10-04 22:04
I'm not sure about a conflict but it's certainly possible. How could I tell if there was one and what was causing it?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-10-05 09:47
Well, as I said, try logging into a different account, or try a Safe Boot (boot with the Shift key down). If you have another startup disk, try that too. Anything to isolate some portion of the current system.
Lawrence J. Collen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Benefactor 2016-10-05 12:08
I haven't tried the different acct. solution yet but a Safe Boot didn't do anything at all with the "magnetic folder" situation but it has, seemingly, made the speaker icon show permanently on the desktop and a restart hasn't made it vanish nor has clicking off and the back on the button that allows for it to show up in the menu bar.
Lawrence J. Collen  An apple icon for a TidBITS Benefactor 2016-10-05 12:15
addition:
When I did a shut down instead it did vanish.
This is really a great feature! I have been using the FREE specticle App find it on github, can't see that changing soon but I see I am using this apple feature everyday now.
trailgirl  2016-10-19 11:58
I noticed this also works for aligning windows with the edges of the screen.