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Since moving to a new macbook, I've encountered a problem. I'll have several windows spread out across multiple Spaces, like the following illustration based off of the mission control view:

enter image description here

(Apologies for the silly drawing.) After connecting and disconnecting to my external monitors, the windows all get chucked to the first Space, like so:

enter image description here

Now I need to drag all the windows back to their appropriate Spaces/Desktops. I'm used to windows getting slightly outta whack when disconnecting from monitors, but I could use Moom to return to normal. However my understanding is that there's no OS API to move windows between spaces.

I have "Displays have separate spaces" unchecked.

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  • Please clarify your specific problem or provide additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it's hard to tell exactly what you're asking.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 14:12

2 Answers 2

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With "Displays have separate spaces" unchecked, then it is behaving correctly.

Your apps are not on three spaces, they're on one, across three displays… so when you disconnect the others, the Mac correctly brings the apps back into the remaining screen. It cannot anticipate your ever adding those screens back again. You would lose the apps off-screen if that were the case.

The odd thing in your drawing is that your top bar of Mission Control ought to have it laid out that way - those apps should not all be next to each other as 3 Spaces visible next to each other on one display, they should each be on its own screen, all with the same numbered Desktop label.

This is what I see on mine, with two displays & 7 Spaces 'sets'.

enter image description here

Click for larger version

I've roughly Photoshopped one above the other rather than side by side, one on each screen. They're mainly empty right now, but if you look at the left-most pair, Desktop 1, that's the one I have most of my day-to-day oprganisation on. Safari to the left, then Finder; and on the right display, Calendar, TextEdit, RDC, Maps, Activity Monitor etc.
If I disconnect the right display, everything jumps over to the left display, so I don't lose it, & gets annoyingly intermingled. I try to never do that, of course.

With that setup, you're probably better off enabling "Displays have separate spaces" & then setting each of those apps in a different Space. You do need at least one more Space than you have displays to do that properly. Then, if you remove a display, the "Space" should be remembered.

If you use apps in fullscreen, then all the above is moot, because fullscreen apps break almost every Spaces protocol; cannot be numbered, will not stay where you put them & come up in random order each time they're invoked… [amongst the many reasons I never use fullscreen;)

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  • Thank you for your answer. However: "Your apps are not on three spaces, they're on one, across three displays" is incorrect. They are in fact in three different spaces. And those apps can be across multiple displays while still being is "Desktop 3", for example.
    – jpaddison3
    Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 11:27
  • I'm not sure I understand what you meant there, sorry. If they're in 3 different Spaces/Desktops, then you couldn't see all three at once across the three screens - that's one way to be certain. If each one is on e.g. Desktop 3, then what I said still stands.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Nov 14, 2021 at 12:15
  • At the start, I indeed cannot see all at once across the three screens. After connecting to and disconnecting from the monitors, they all got moved from three separate spaces into one.
    – jpaddison3
    Commented Nov 15, 2021 at 13:39
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Updating the OS from 12.0 to 12.0.1 fixed this. (That or it just needed a restart, but I [90% confidence] already had restarted it.)

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