I know that with OS X Lion (10.7) and Mountain Lion (10.8) applications can be assigned to specific Spaces/Desktops. With my laptop I daily connect and disconnect from an external monitor. When I disconnect, all my app windows are automatically gathered to the laptop monitor, of course.

When I reconnect to the external monitor, I manually move my app windows back to the second screen. Is there some functionality that is built into OS X that would automatically restore those application windows back to where they were previously?

  • So far the answers are directing me to third party applications. Perhaps OS X does not have a setting or option that would natively handle this.
    – SunSparc
    Apr 18, 2013 at 4:44
  • Update, this feature seems to be built in with Mavericks. Though that does not address the question for previous versions of the OS.
    – SunSparc
    Jan 10, 2014 at 2:58

3 Answers 3


This has been fixed in Mavericks. To control on which display an application's windows appear, move your cursor to the Dock icon for that application. Right-click (or Ctrl-click) on the icon, then select Options > Desktop on Display 1 (or 2). You also have the option to assign to all desktops or to none.

  • I would consider selecting this as an answer if you took more time to provide helpful details. As it is, I can only guess about the exact steps to recreate exactly what you are trying to describe. :)
    – SunSparc
    Jul 22, 2014 at 14:53
  • I made some edits and hope it's more useful now. Jul 23, 2014 at 17:38
  • When I unplug the monitor and plug it back in it seems to forget this setting. I'm setting the monitor as a primary device though.
    – frabcus
    Dec 16, 2014 at 9:14

I never tried it myself but I think this is what you are looking for:


  • I had actually seen this will Googling my question before asking here. I will look into it further. Though I was hoping there was some functionality built into OS X that I could bend to my will. :)
    – SunSparc
    Apr 12, 2013 at 15:51
  • I use Stay, and it's great, but it doesn't always behave as expected with regard to Spaces. I've chatted with the developer, and evidently it's a limitation of OSX APIs and it very difficult to work around.
    – wst
    Oct 16, 2013 at 15:29
  • Stay looked promising but it can't handle X11 applications launched from remote machine =(
    – rasjani
    Jun 4, 2014 at 7:31

The windowmanager Slate supports doing this kind of thing. You can create profiles (layout's) specific to a given situation, e.g. 1 monitor or 2 monitors, and specify how the windos should be organized (google chrome full screen on main screen, mail full screen on laptop screen, etc).

In addition to this feature, Slate has a truckload of other features. I would recommend skimming the documentation, but first read this blog post by Tristan Hume. A blog post I wrote about slate might also be interesting.

  • Perhaps similar to the Stay suggestion. I will take a look. Thanks.
    – SunSparc
    Apr 12, 2013 at 15:52

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