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When I restart my laptop (or log off and back on again), I expect apps like Safari to open up and restore all of the tabs and windows that I previously had. I also expect that the Safari tabs will restore to their respective desktops—so, for example, if I have Safari windows in Desktops 1, 3, and 5, I expect them to open up with their corresponding tabs in Desktops 1, 3, and 5 again after I log in.

However, that seems to happen only about 25% percent of the time. The rest of the time, Safari dumps all of the windows on Desktop 1. This seems to be the behavior which I am experiencing as far as I can remember, since High Sierra at least, all the way now to Mojave.

In contrast, apps like Pages and Finder always assign their windows to the correct desktops.

Other apps have this problem, like Sublime Text and Skim, but since they are third-party apps I'll give them some leeway and won't hold anything on the developers. However, this is not the type of behavior I would expect from stock macOS apps.

One thing to note is that any minimized Safari windows that I have always stay minimized, as they should. The behavior I am describing only affects visible windows.

Is there any sort of way to make the restoring behavior more consistent during log in, or is that some sort of the bug that Apple hasn't fixed?

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Apps cannot be assigned to multiple Spaces.

If you split multiple windows of any single app to to separate desktops with no other pre-assignment, they will all open on the desktop that just happens to be frontmost when they launch. This can feel more random at boot time, when the screen is rapidly changing Spaces to place each already-assigned app on its correct Space.

You can fix any app to any Space by right clicking its icon in the Dock, then Options >

enter image description here

  • All Desktops - the app will follow you wherever you go
  • This Desktop - will change to show the Space number once assigned, then will always open in that Space.
  • None - will open in whatever Space you're in at the time.

If you have Mission Control set to 'Displays have separate Spaces' & 2 monitors, you will need a minimum of 3 Spaces before these options will become available to you.

  • I agree with your answer, but I have experienced occasions where each of my Safari windows goes to the desktops they were originally in before Safari quit. This however happens only a monitory of the time. For the Pages documents, it always goes to its correct desktop (Desktop 6 for me) even though it’s not assigned to any particular desktop – Skeleton Bow Oct 22 '18 at 15:12
  • There may be some difference in behaviour if you use "Displays have separate Spaces" which I never use [because it drives me nuts;) but other than that possibility I cannot repro that any app will reopen on any other than a random Space if it was not pre-assigned, nor that any app will re-open windows on multiple Spaces. My only real 'qualification' for my assertion is observation over many years as an avid Spaces fan since it was first introduced in 2006 & a user of multiple screens since the 90s. – Tetsujin Oct 22 '18 at 15:18
  • My MacBook died because of low battery today. When I booted it back up after plugging it in, all Safari windows went back to their original spaces, except for two of them which appeared on the first desktop instead of the ones they were previously at. I'm pretty sure this wasn't a "hibernate" thing because of this behavior, and also because all my other apps seem to have restarted, so the operating system must have restarted. – Skeleton Bow Oct 29 '18 at 1:11
  • "Apps cannot be assigned to multiple Spaces." - This is not completely correct. Safari and a couple other apps will open their windows on the original desktop they were on pre-reboot, so there's obviously a mechanism in place to assign windows of an app to multiple desktops. It just seems that this is supported per-application, as some apps spread across multiple desktops pre-reboot do not return to their pre-reboot desktop, such as Stickies. I wonder if there's an Applescript that can memorize and restore windows to their assigned desktops... – hepcat72 Jul 9 at 18:26
  • @hepcat72 - this is actually a recent [& massively buggy] tweak, perhaps since Mojave. It works for Safari, yet at the same time, Messages & TextEdit can't remember their locations if on a secondary monitor, even with only one window open. As every incarnation of Spaces has actually been worse than the last, I don't see this being fixed any time soon. Apple would far rather you have split-screen & full-screen with 'gestures' on your machine & seem to have completely forgotten some of us don't use laptops, or trackpads, or a single monitor. – Tetsujin Jul 9 at 18:45

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