Multiple Screen Display Arrangement

If you are using more than one screen with your Mac, you can set where each screen is located relative to the others in your desktop's virtual space. You can choose which screen is the main one by dragging the menu bar representation to that screen. You can also adjust the rotation of your screens to use them vertically.
Video Transcript / Captions
Closed captioning for this video is available on YouTube: Multiple Screen Display Arrangement.

A lot of us work with more than one screen on our Mac. Whether it's a MacBook that has a screen attached or maybe a MacPro or MacMini that has multiple screens we know that not only do they exist in a physical space close to each other when we're using them but also there's the idea that the desktops are virtually close to each other in how they interact. How the cursor moves from one to the other. How windows move from one to the other. So let's take a look at how you can adjust that to get it just right for you.

Here's my setup. I have three screens. I've got an older thirty inch monitor in the middle and then I have two rather inexpensive 1080 monitors on either side that I've set to vertical. When I go into System Preferences and I look at Displays I can click on Arrangement and I can see a representation of those screens here. This is where I can control where they are virtually. Now I want them, of course, to look close to how they do physically.

So, for instance, the default may have actually been to have this screen aligned up here with the top. But that's not how it looks on my desk. So it's rather confusing when I try to move the cursor from one screen to another. It doesn't popup where I want. If I'm at the bottom say of the left screen here and I try to move to the right I can't get anywhere even though it looks like I should be able to go right to this screen. So you want to adjust these screens anyway you want. You can drag and drop anyway you want to make them look like the screens that you have. You can even move them around very easily. So if they're in the wrong positions virtually, compared to what they are physically, you just basically drag and drop them around. So line them up to get them kind of where you want them to be. That would be somewhat accurate but I kind of like it here cause I think of the bottom edge of the screen as lined up.

Also another thing to notice is this bar at the top. This is the Menu Bar and it tells you what screen is default. I can drag that Menu Bar to another screen. So if you ever find when you're Mac starts up or wakes up if the Menu Bar is always in the wrong place or if when you run new apps they always appear on the wrong screen then use this Menu Bar. Drag it around and put it on the screen that you want as your main screen.

Not all apps, not all windows are going to open based on this. It's a starting point. For instance if you're using an app and you were using it on one screen and then you quit the app and you open it again, it's probably going to put the window back where it was before. But you definitely do want to have this Menu Bar on the screen that you think of as the main screen. Have these adjusted to where you want and make sure that you have it all set. Try things out. Play around with it and get it to where you're comfortable.

Also notice you can Gather Windows. Gather Windows actually brings together all of the displays onto one screen here so I can see them. Otherwise this one was on one side and this one was on the other and this one was the only one we saw here on my Screen Capture. Notice you can set things like this is how I rotated those two displays ninety degrees. They're not set to Standard. This one is set to ninety. This one is set to 270. So that the screens are vertical on either side. That's done in Display. Here, of course, I've got the rotation of the center one set to Standard.

Notice I can also adjust Color separately for each one of those as well because different screens are made by different manufacturers and you may want to adjust color separately for each one of those.

That's how you deal with having multiple screens on your Mac. I know a lot of people that have multiple screens but haven't taken the time to really play around with screen placement here. It's definitely worthwhile doing.

Comments: 6 Responses to “Multiple Screen Display Arrangement”

    John Atkinson
    5 months ago

    Great explanation of the virtual/physical desktops, Gary. I was wondering why one side screen is set to 90 degree rotation, while the one on the other side is set to 270 degrees.

    5 months ago

    John: That’s just the way I have my two side monitors set. I have the “bottom” of the monitors turned to face the center. So one is rotated 90 on one side, the other -90 (or 270) on the other side.

    4 months ago

    So if you run Keynote, does it present to both screens?

    4 months ago

    Cameron: Keynote gives you lots of different options about what to put on each screen with multiple monitors. People usually present with the presentation all over one screen (projector or large TV) and an assortment of elements on the other — like the current screen, next screen, controls, notes, the time, and so on.

    3 months ago

    I do not have an Arrangement tab. iMac 2018 High Seirra 10.13.6. How can I get it to display, so I can change the arrangement display?

    3 months ago

    Natalie: Do you have a second monitor? The Arrangement tab only shows up if you have more than one. And if you do have more than one, when you go to Displays, you get one window per screen. The Arrangement tab is only on the window for the main screen.

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