When watching a video on YouTube (or any other streaming service) – I use mainly Safari, sometimes Chrome, with the same result – when I switch to fullscreen, the video goes fullscreen in a new "Space" (virtual screen).

I'm not interested in virtual spaces in general, I've always found it to be a very un-Mac-y way to work. But in the case of videos, it's pretty annoying. Let's say I get a notification (mail, IM, anything) and want to quickly check it. I command-tab to the app that sent me the notification and instead of just superimposing to window on top of the video (as it does on Windows and as it did in earlier versions of Mac OS X), the sound continues playing, the video vanishes and I get that useless screen:

Very annoying screen after cmd-tabbing

I then have to click to exit full screen and double click again to get the full screen back (I'm sure there are other ways, with gestures and all, but it's just annoying).

Is there a way to revert to a sensible (à la Windows, or previous OS X versions) on recent macOS versions? I know VLC can do it, so it is theoretically possible, but did Apple hide a system setting somewhere to change that behaviour? If not, is there an app that does it?

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    Not really an answer to my original question, but I found that Firefox for Mac does full screen the "right" way – I now only view my Youtube and other media on Firefox.
    – Stephane
    Dec 2, 2018 at 20:06
  • @Stephane That's done because of the overhead of compositing a video atop a screen that has a non-trivial layout. Safari is optimized for best performance. Compositing a video atop a blank screen is easy. Add in clipping rectangles and it begins nibbling away at your battery rather quickly. A minor compromise in appearance can mean a great deal in terms of performance. I would much rather have 12 hour battery life than a YouTube video that plays full-screen. Try upgrading to YouTube Red or whatever...then you get YouTube PIP and full-screen. Apr 19, 2019 at 5:08

3 Answers 3


Have you tried adjusting the settings related to this in System Preferences > Mission Control?

The first checkbox there lets you disable automatic grouping of windows and there are other related options there too. You can also totally disable having multiple screens there.

I'm not sure if you're using macOS mojave and this is no longer a feature. Also this is the one gesture that I use..dragging from one side of the trackpad to the other with 3 fingers.


I have no idea WTF the answers here are trying to solve but they're not what the original question is asking for: a quick way to get back to the "virtual" Space with a fullscreen video playing on it. The big issue for me is that there's no shortcut to get back to a fullscreen video Space via a keyboard shortcut since it's not a "real" Space and it has no "Desktop #".

While this isn't a native solution, or even a "natural" workflow it's the fastest way I know to get back to the video on my system. It also requires third-party software (that isn't free).

First, you'll need Alfred including the Powerpack which has a million other uses, by the way. Once that's installed, you'll need a (free) Workflow called Alfred Browser Tabs which is very handy in that it allows you to search through your browser tabs by their tab title. It works for Chrome, Chromium, Safari, and a couple others.

Once the above are installed, my process for getting back to a Formula 1 video in Chrome for example is:

I open the Alfred box (eg. alt+space) and type tabs f1. The search takes a few milliseconds depending on how many tabs I have open. Then, assuming I have a tab matching f1 (eg. F1TV | 2021 Monza Grand Prix in the tab title) I can just hit enter and the fullscreen video tab will be focused (inherently switching to its Space.) If there are multiple matching tabs, I may have to eyeball the tab I want, and move down the list to select. But once I've switched to the tab I want a few times, Alfred gives it precedence, so it's usually the top result in Alfred.

This is probably most useful for existing Alfred Powerpack users, but in my opinion, every Mac owner should use it for its plethora of features and functionality. It's extremely powerful, has massively increased my productivity and all 'round ease of use of MacOS. It's the reason Apple has added so much functionality to Spotlight (having copied Alfred) but it remains to be a vastly superior alternative to Spotlight and is a complete replacement for me. /shill

For dedicated video apps that do fullscreen in the same way (eg. VLC) all of this is probably moot. You can most likely cmd+tab back to it.

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    You're on the right track: the fullscreen is not a real space and thus can not be controlled as such. It's a broken design Jan 28, 2022 at 3:00

Here's how to fix this:

  1. Go to System Preferences / Mission Control
  2. Enable "Displays have separate Spaces"

enter image description here

  1. Log out and in again

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