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First Look: Mavericks Multiple Display improvements

updated 06:50 pm EDT, Wed October 23, 2013

Multiple Display features enhanced in Mavericks

OS X has long offered support for multiple display setups, but has received a lot of mixed feedback regarding particular implementations and interfaces. With OS X Mavericks, Apple has attempted to address all of the major user complaints and provide users with a more natural multi-display environment, with the main enhancement being the ability to use full-screen apps either across all displays or on a single display.

One of the first things we noticed when adding a second display to a Mavericks computer was the speed in which OS X was able to configure itself for the additional real estate. While previous versions of OS X were not slow, there was a noticeable lag where you were forced to watch a solid blue screen while the OS changed settings. In Mavericks, this is almost entirely gone. in our testing we tried several different monitors and found that each one became available almost immediately after being plugged into a MacBook Pro via HDMI or Mini DisplayPort. We should also note that a bug related to higher resolution displays seems to have been fixed in this release. Previously SwitchResX was required to get our 2560 x 1440 display to run at full resolution, but after the update OS X seems to be properly recognizing the display without the need for any third-party software.

After plugging in a display users have the option to either mirror their main display or to extend the desktop across the additional space. However, unlike previous OS X versions, Mavericks now treats each display as a unique environment. Spaces are no longer linked, meaning users can flip between desktops on one display without affecting any of the other displays. This extends to full screen apps, finally allowing users to place a full screen app on one display, while retaining full control of what the other displays are used for.

Another welcome addition is Mavericks handling of the Menu Bar and Dock in multi-display setups. Previously the Dock and Menu Bar would be locked to the primary display, but with OS X Mavericks these can be easily accessed from any display. Every display now receives its own Menu Bar and the Dock can be moved by simply moving the cursor to the appropriate location. For example, if the Dock is positioned on the bottom of the screen then it can be accessed from any display by moving the cursor to the bottom of any additional display. This can save a ton of extra mouse work when trying to access Dock icons, however, in our testing the feature wasn't totally reliable. The cursor never seemed to land in the "sweet spot" on the first attempt, forcing a slight reposition before the Dock would make its way over to a different display.

By: Bradley McBurney

by MacNN Staff



  1. DiabloConQueso

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 06-11-08

    I'm loving the new multi-monitor setup, which is perfect for my MacBook Air when I work at remote offices. Full-screen apps on both monitors is awesome. The dock and menubar on all monitors is awesome.

    One, tiny, little issue, though, that affects something I do frequently... try this:

    Have a full-screen app open on the second monitor. Have a non-full-screen app open on the main monitor. Try and move the non-full-screen app's window onto the second monitor -- it's a no go. You must first "swipe" the full-screen app off of the second monitor, returning the second monitor to the Desktop, THEN drag the window over from the main monitor to the secondary one.

    I think there's a more "Apple-like" solution here, which would be when you try and drag a window from one monitor to another monitor that's currently displaying a full-screen app, the full-screen app should auto-swipe off the screen, back to the Desktop, and allow you to drop the window onto the second monitor.

    Other than that, multi-monitor setups under Mavericks just got insanely better, in my humblest of opinions.

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