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Increase your efficiency with Affinity’s Separated Mode

Separated Mode is a feature of Affinity apps on macOS that splits the major interface components into discrete windows, enabling greater workspace customisation and making some tasks easier.

First, let’s talk about Separated Mode’s key workspace differences. In normal mode, the Tools panel and studio panels can be organised as you want, even across multiple displays, but the main application window always exists and contains the Toolbar, context toolbar and tabs for your open documents.

Separated Mode dispenses with the main window. The Toolbar and context toolbar become one floating window, and each open document gets its own window too.

One way to use this is with two displays arranged vertically. For example, a MacBook with an external display standing over it, or an iMac with its desktop extended onto an iPad connected using Sidecar. The larger, upper display might be devoted to documents and the lower one to panels and toolbars, with the toolbars placed at the adjoining edge for fast access.

On the lower display in this Affinity Publisher setup, we’ve split apart the commonly used panels, like Character and Paragraph, to save us clicking between them.

Separated Mode can improve how you perform certain tasks too. Two documents, or two views of the same document by choosing View > New View, can be arranged side by side—to compare them or to copy and paste between them, say. In normal mode, this would require switching back and forth between tabs.

In Affinity Publisher, this enables you to keep a different part of your document visible for reference. Subeditors will find this invaluable.

The Affinity Photo example below shows how Separated Mode can enhance working with embedded documents. Our main document contains an embedded document with a Perspective live filter applied to it.

On our right-hand display, we’re editing the embedded document in its normal perspective. The changes we make there are shown live in the final composition on our left-hand display.

Separated Mode enables you to edit an embedded document in one window (right) and see the effect rendered live in your overall composition (left).

Got three displays? Try this: put panels and toolbars on the first, a window for close-up editing on the second, and a window that shows your whole image/spread on the third.

An example three-display arrangement, as defined in System Preferences’ Displays pane (bottom left), showing two different document views on separate displays, and toolbars and panels on a third display.

Separated Mode window management tips

Where did the menu bar go?

In macOS, you can press a window’s green button and choose Tile Window to Left/Right of Screen to arrange this and another window side by side in full-screen Split View mode. This temporarily hides the menu bar and windows’ title bars. When you need those elements, move the pointer to the screen’s top edge to reveal them.

Can’t enter or leave Separated Mode?

If Window > Separated Mode is dimmed and so can’t be chosen, find the window that’s in full-screen mode, reveal the menu and title bars, then click the green button to exit full-screen mode. Now try leaving Separated Mode.

Split the view without entering full-screen mode

To split the desktop between documents but keep them as floating windows, hold opt and double-click any corner of one window, then repeat for the second. Both will fill the desktop. Now drag one window’s left edge and the other’s right edge towards the centre of the desktop to divide the display between them.

Keep documents in a tabbed window

Too many document windows? Choose Window > Merge All Windows. To merge only some windows, drag one’s title bar over another’s until the latter window turns blue, then let go.

Customise the Tools Panel

This tip is also useful in normal mode if you like to relocate the Tools panel to a secondary display (using View > Dock Tools). Choose View > Customise Tools to rearrange the icons across up to eight columns.

With the Tools panel in a floating window on a secondary display, try rearranging its icons across more columns to save having to move the pointer as far to reach the lower tools.

The example arrangement above shows (on the left) how you might organise tools in rows by function using the separator, which is the last icon in the available set (right). We’ve added discrete icons for our most-used shapes to save holding on the default icon to access them.

Technical author

Alan is part of our technical authoring team and joined us from the world of magazines (MacUser), where he wrote up software techniques and worked on pioneering interactive digital editions. When he’s not neck-deep in page layouts, layer masks and adjustment layers, you’ll often find him digging through second-hand records for interesting sleeve artwork or gazing in wonderment at the graphical variety of Japanese video games.

Credits & Footnotes

Artwork featured in header image created by and copyright of Alberto Seveso.

Page layout featured in first image created in-house.

Imagery featured in second image sourced from Shutterstock.

Artwork featured in third image created by and copyright of Mathis Burmeister.