How to configure and use hot corners on macOS

There’s a lot to explore in macOS — from file sharing to keyboard remapping — so you’d be forgiven for not having discovered every single feature that Apple’s desktop operating system has to offer. One of the most useful and yet less well known features is something Apple calls hot corners.

Like keyboard shortcuts, hot corners can help you do more in less time on your Mac. The idea is that certain actions are triggered when you move the pointer into one of the corners of the display. Better yet, you’re able to configure these actions so that they correspond to the jobs you’re doing most often on macOS.

You can, for example, quickly create a new note in Apple Notes, or launch the system screen saver, or open up Mission Control. You don’t have to enable all four corners at the same time, either — you can pick and choose which ones are active at any time.

Configuring hot corners

To pick a function for each corner of the display or to disable particular hot corners:

  • Open the Apple menu and pick System Settings.
  • Open up the Desktop & Dock panel and scroll down to the bottom.
  • Click Hot Corners (bottom right) to see the current configuration.
  • Select any shortcut from the four drop-down menus.
  • Click Done to apply the changes.

You can add any modifier key (Command, Shift, Option, or Control) or modifier key combination to a hot corner. The modifier key options make hot corners a bit more of a deliberate action and reduce the chance of you accidentally activating a hot corner just because the pointer is in a corner of the display.

  • Hold down the desired key or key combination while selecting a hot corner function.
  • Click Done to apply the changes.

You can choose shortcuts for hot corners in System Settings.

You get 11 options for each hot corner: 

  • Mission Control
  • Application Windows
  • Desktop
  • Notification Center
  • Launchpad
  • Quick Note
  • Start Screen Saver
  • Disable Screen Saver (so it never appears)
  • Put Display to Sleep
  • Lock Screen
  • Or no action at all

Perhaps the two most useful options, from a productivity standpoint, are Mission Control and Launchpad. The former takes you to an overview of the apps that are currently running and all the desktop spaces that you’ve set up, while the latter takes you to the macOS equivalent of the Start menu, where all your apps are accessible.

Using hot corners

One thing you can use a hot corner for is to turn off the screen saver.

Making use of a hot corner is as simple as moving the pointer to the relevant corner of the screen. Sometimes, as is the case with creating a quick note in Notes, an additional click is required to launch the shortcut. If you’ve set up a modifier key, you’ll of course need to have this pressed as well.

So, for example, if you have the top-right corner of your display set to Application Windows, moving the pointer up to that corner will show all the open windows for the current app, making it a little easier to switch between them.

You can drag files between apps using hot corners, too. Say one of your hot corners is set to Launchpad: try dragging an image from a Finder window to the Launchpad hot corner and then on top of the Notes app shortcut. A new note will be created with the image in it. Set a hot corner to Desktop, and you can drag files there, too.

That’s one example of how hot corners can be useful, and there are lots of others. Personally, I find the Lock Screen one most helpful — when I’m stepping away from my desk, a quick swipe of the trackpad locks my MacBook, with no need to press any keys or click through any menus.

Using multiple displays

If you’re using two displays and want the hot corners to only work on the four outer corners, you need to align the displays.

Hot corners can be a little quirky when you’re using multiple displays. Essentially, the four corners will work independently on each screen — which may be fine with you, unless you want them to act as if you were using a single screen. In that case, your displays have to be precisely aligned in System Settings

To change the alignment of multiple displays:

  • Open the Apple menu.
  • Select System Settings > Displays.
  • Click Arrange, then click and drag the displays to align them. On any adjacent displays that are “snapped” together and exactly aligned, hot corners will be disabled.
  • Select Done to confirm.

While hot corners don’t do anything you can’t already do in macOS with a few clicks or button presses, they are really convenient and can make a significant difference in how quickly you can get around the operating system and its features.


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