Turning inner space into outer space

June 28, 2024

The best free Mac app you may not have heard of

Window management — or the lack of it — comes up a lot in forums where people talk about Mac stuff. The next version of macOS will improve the situation, but it will be minimal compared with some of the features you can get with an app.

I first learned about how much better window management could be when I was forced to use Windows for a few years at work. I disliked everything about it except the ability to move windows to the sides and have them each take up half the screen.

What impressed me even more was grabbing the space between the two windows and resizing the widths of both at the same time. I especially like this setup with a code editor on one side and a web browser on the other.

My search for free similar functionality on a Mac led to me 1Piece, which is humbly described as an app that “includes many features to improve the usability of your Mac.”

It then goes on to describe an amazing 21 features — plus “others”.

Among these features is window management, which includes my wish — the ability to resize the widths of side-by-side windows at the same time. But there’s lots more.

If you find it tedious to grab each window and drag it to the side, you can use the “left + right” command. It takes the top two windows and places them side by side with one click.

Split Assist creates a display of open windows you can choose from to take up the other half of the screen. Or you can decide to put two of them into quarters.

You’re not limited to the usual halves and thirds. You can, for example, choose the top two thirds. Or you can set up a four by six grid and choose whatever portion of the screen you want.

Of course, you can set up hot keys for any of these.

You can also create presets — get a window just way you want it, then use the preset any time you want it that ideal size.

A tweak function puts handles on the edges of the top window so you can change its size a pixel at a time by using your keyboard.

You might think this is a lot in a free app — and it is! But “window management” is just one of the over 21 features it has.

Another much requested function I see is the equivalent of alt-tab in Windows. 1Piece has this covered with a feature called Window List. You hit option-tab, and get a list of all your open windows along with previews. You can tweak the list by making it show only the windows in a particular app. You can also make it show only minimized windows — plus much more.

Related to this is Desktop Windows. When invoked, it displays an interface showing all the open windows, allowing you to choose the one you want.

Describing all the functions of this app would be a monumental task. I found myself going down many a rabbit hole when I opened the preferences. So I’ll mention just a few more that caught my eye.

Hitting control-option-command-M moves your mouse pointer to the centre of the screen. Hitting control-option-command-H hides it.

You can set up a favourite window, and create a hot key to bring it into focus.

You can open a contextual version of the active app’s menu bar by hitting shift-command-1.

You might be wondering where this app has been all your life. It first came out in 2014, so that’s 10 years of development. As of this writing, the latest version came out on May 27, 2024.

Who is the developer? Other than his name — Takahiro Fujita — there is precious little information. The website has a Japanese translation, so it’s a safe bet that he is based in Japan.

I’m also going to guess he is a fan of anime. It’s too much of a co-incidence that 1Piece bears a name so similar to One Piece, the story of a search for a mythical treasure.

1Piece itself is like a treasure chest overflowing with gems.