How to Go Full Screen on a Mac (with Photos)

macbook air

How to Go Full Screen on a Mac (with Photos)

Macs are a little awkward with the way that the operating system opens various windows. If you normally use a Windows PC, then you are probably accustomed to most windows opening as a full screen. However, this is not the case on a Mac, as nearly all newly opened windows will default to small windows.

Fortunately, entering full-screen mode on a window is very easy. All you have to do is click the green button on the top left side of any window; however, not all windows allow this mode. There is also a split view mode which allows you to split two windows in full-screen mode for easy multitasking.

Let’s get into the easy steps!

Step 1: Open an Application

The first step to entering full-screen mode is to open the application you want to use. Not every application or window will work with full-screen mode, but the vast majority will without a problem.

Step 2: Enter Full-Screen Mode

Now that you have your window open that you want to make full-screen, look to the top left side of the window. There are three round icons that turn colors when hovering over them. You need to click the green icon, which is the one farthest to the right.

You can either click on the icon to snap into full-size mode, or you can hover over it to bring up a menu. On the menu, you can choose to either make the window full-screen or enter split view mode with another window.

mac full screen
Once you’ve opened the application you want to set to full screen, click on the green dot in the upper left-hand corner to turn the window into full-screen mode.

Step 3: Adjust as Needed

Once in full-screen mode, you may be surprised that all of your menus disappeared. These will show up again once you move your cursor closer to the top or bottom of the screen. On a Mac, the windows will literally take up the entire screen, so the menu bar and dock will disappear.

You can change the full-screen settings in System Preferences to make the menu bar show up even when in full-screen mode. You can also switch between different windows by swiping three or four fingers either left or right across your trackpad if using a MacBook.

mac full screen
Above is what your screen looks like in full-screen mode — your menu bar and dock disappear!

Step 4: Exit Full-Screen Mode

Exiting full-screen mode is as easy as entering it. Find the green icon again, which will still be on the top left of the screen. If you don’t see it, don’t panic, move your cursor to the top of the screen, and a menu bar will drop down.

Click the green button again to exit full-screen mode and make the window shrink back to its original size. You can also do this by simply pressing the ESC button on your keyboard, which will also shrink the window.

mac full screen
To exit full screen, locate the same green dot in the upper lefthand corner of the screen, or press esc (escape).

Change Window Size

You can always change the size of a window manually to get it to fit the screen as you like. However, this isn’t nearly as intuitive as snapping into full-screen mode. To resize a window, simply open the program you want to use and then move your cursor to a corner. An arrow will appear, which indicates that clicking will resize the window.

Click and hold when the arrow appears, and then pull the window to resize it. You can also drag the entire window around the desktop to get it wherever you want. However, there is no way to keep the window this size or in a specific location once you close it. From there, you can either make the window maximized, minimize it, or close it like normal.

Use Screen Split View

Split view is a great feature on Macs, which allows you to split your desktop between two windows. You can easily assign one window to the left side of the screen and another to the right side of the screen. Split view has been available on all Mac devices running operating systems from 2015 to the present.

To enter split view, open both windows you want to split. Then, pick one of them and locate the green icon on the top left side of the screen. Do not click the green icon; instead, hover over it. A menu will drop down that lets you either go full-screen or split the screen. Choose to split the window to either the right or left.

The screen will then split, and the opposite side of the screen will show all of your open windows. Choose which one you want to open on that side of the screen by clicking on it. You are now in split-view mode. To exit, just hit the ESC button on your keyboard.

Change Full-Screen Window

Once a window is full-screen, it can seem like your ability to navigate is limited. More specifically, it can feel very clunky to go between different windows, especially if you need them full-screen. Luckily, there is an easy way to switch what window is maximized.

When you have a full-screen window, use three or four fingers and swipe left or right on your Mac’s trackpad. This should switch between other windows that you have open. If neither a three nor four-finger swipe does the trick, you will need to check your trackpad settings in System Preferences.


Going full-screen on a Mac can help maximize your monitor’s potential by using up every inch of space. However, some programs need to be used in full-screen mode to maximize their potential. For instance, some games or even video players are used in windowed mode but are better viewed full-screen.

Although Macs do not support natively opening most windows full-size, they make it easy enough to enter either full-screen or split view. In addition, the three icons on the top left of every page make it very easy and intuitive to modify the size of any window.

Check out the video below to see just how easy it is to enter full screen mode on a Mac.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the point of full-screen mode?

Full-screen mode allows you to maximize your Mac’s monitor space by allowing a window to take up the full monitor.

Why don't windows automatically open full screen?

The Mac operating system has seemingly never opened a window full-screen and it is likely a design choice to do so.

Does full-screen mode work with secondary monitors?

Full-screen mode does work with any screen, including on secondary monitors.

Why won't a window go full-screen?

Not all windows can open full-screen; however, most are small windows that would not benefit from full-screen.

What happened to the window's menu bar in full-screen mode?

The menu bar and dock will disappear by default in full-screen mode. Move your cursor where the bars should be and they will pop up.

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