How to Create and Use Multiple Desktops on macOS

Numerous Mac users may not be familiar with macOS’ inherent ability to support multiple desktops. This guide will explain how to utilize this useful feature on your Apple computer.


How to Create and Use Multiple Desktops on macOS

In the contemporary era, where computers serve as versatile tools for tasks ranging from work and learning to entertainment and communication, managing our desktop environments can become a challenging endeavor.

Especially if your experience aligns with mine, you might find yourself juggling a multitude of open tabs and windows simultaneously: handling emails, utilizing Notion, working on an unfinished screenplay, and reserving a video for later viewing. It indeed resembles a complex digital landscape. However, here’s the exciting part: your Mac boasts a convenient feature that can transform this chaos into an orderly arrangement: Multiple Desktops.

Officially recognized as “Spaces,” these multiple desktops enable you to efficiently streamline your Mac’s interface without necessitating any supplementary hardware. People who are successful largely embrace this feature.

What Are Spaces on Mac?

Spaces, the official term for Multiple Desktops on your Mac, can be found within Mission Control. It allows you to efficiently categorize different windows into separate desktops. This means you can create distinct desktops for tasks such as Work and Personal browsing, or even allocate separate desktops for various ongoing projects at work.

When you are in a Space, only the windows associated with that Space are visible. Fortunately, accessing Mission Control is swift, allowing you to switch to your other windows located in different Spaces with ease. Let’s explore how you can effectively utilize these multiple desktops.

Using Spaces on Mac

Having multiple desktops on a Mac can significantly enhance your productivity. This guide provides comprehensive information on effectively utilizing them, covering setup and management.

Accessing Mission Control

apple keyboard
Image: Apple.

It’s essential to access Mission Control when working with multiple desktops on a Mac. After all, you can’t effectively manage tasks without knowing your tools. Let’s discuss how to do this.

To access Mission Control using a trackpad, swipe upwards with three fingers (swipe downwards to exit). When using a keyboard, you can either press the dedicated ‘Mission Control’ key (F3 key) or utilize the Ctrl + Up arrow keyboard shortcut to enter and exit Mission Control.

Creating a New Desktop (Space)

macos spaces multiple desktop

Upon entering Mission Control, you will observe your active windows displayed as small images on the screen. Positioned above these images is an area denoted as the Spaces Bar, which indicates the count of currently open desktops. To reveal more information, simply move your cursor to the upper edge of the screen, causing it to expand.

macos multiple desktop spaces

To create a new desktop, click the ‘+’ icon in the far right of the Spaces Bar.

macos multiple desktop spaces

An additional thumbnail will be displayed adjacent to your existing desktop. Simply click on it for access. macOS permits the creation of a maximum of 16 spaces.

There is just one limitation within this setup: it is not possible to modify the desktop names to enhance organization.

Using Separate Wallpapers for Different Desktops

macos system settings

You can customize individual spaces by applying distinct wallpapers to each desktop. To begin, locate the ‘System Settings’ application icon in the Dock, and perform a right-click on it.

macos all desktops wallpaper spaces

Access the ‘Options’ menu through the context menu, and then choose ‘All Desktops’ within the Assign to category.

macos multiple desktops spaces

First, access Mission Control to select the specific desktop where you wish to modify the wallpaper. Then, proceed to the Settings menu to make the desired wallpaper adjustment. Please note that this change will only apply to the currently selected desktop. Repeat this process for each desktop where you want to modify the wallpaper.

Switching Between Desktops

You can transition between different desktops through Mission Control, but there’s also a keyboard shortcut available for more efficient access. To easily navigate between them, simply press Control + Left/Right arrow keys.

If you’re using a trackpad, you can switch by swiping left or right using either three or four fingers. For Magic Mouse users, a two-finger swipe accomplishes the same task.

Moving Apps Between Desktops

How to Create and Use Multiple Desktops on macOS

It’s simple to relocate any open application window from one Space to another, and there are various methods to accomplish this.

You can move the open application window to the screen’s edge until it cannot be moved further and keep it there for a moment. It will then automatically shift to the neighboring Space. For instance, if you are currently on the second Space, dragging the window to the right edge will move it to the third Space, while dragging it to the left edge will move it to the first Space.

How to Create and Use Multiple Desktops on macOS

You can move windows within Mission Control by utilizing the drag-and-drop feature. To do so, access Mission Control from the desktop containing the desired application. Subsequently, drag the application’s thumbnail and release it onto the target desktop within the Spaces Bar, effecting the relocation of the application.

When you move an application window and release it onto a full-screen window using the Spaces Bar, the two applications will open in Split View.

Assigning Apps to a Desktop

How to Create and Use Multiple Desktops on macOS

When you assign an application to a specific desktop, you ensure that the application consistently opens in that particular Space.

To do this, navigate to the Dock and perform a Ctrl-click or right-click on the application’s icon. In case the application is not already present in the dock, launch it to add its icon to the dock. Then, access the ‘Options’ menu from the contextual menu that appears. Within the ‘Options’ sub-menu, you will encounter three choices:

  • All Desktops: Selecting this option will cause the application to open on all desktops whenever you launch it.
  • This Desktop: Opting for this choice will result in the application opening exclusively on the current desktop each time you initiate it.
  • None: If you choose this alternative, the application will open on the desktop you are currently using when you launch it, without any specific assignment.