Why switch from Spectacle to Rectangle

Ryan Hanson
Sep 14 · 3 min read

In every single post I’ve seen where someone asks which apps they should install on their new mac, one of the first suggestions is a window manager. Rectangle is increasingly mentioned (thanks!), but I still see Spectacle users that say they have no reason to switch. If Spectacle does it for you, that’s awesome — it’s a great app, but there are some concrete reasons to go with Rectangle, even outside of a direct feature comparison.

Notarization

Spectacle stopped being maintained before Apple started enforcing app notarization. You can argue that notarization is merely a false sense of security, but from my perspective it is a valid guarantee that the app you’re getting is the one that I’ve notarized with my developer id and without malware as long as you get it from the GitHub repo (rectangleapp.com downloads also point to GitHub). It is not likely that you’re going to go download a malware infested version of Spectacle from an unofficial source, but if somehow you did end up with one then there is a lot of damage that could be done. In order for a window manager app to work on macOS, you need to give that app accessibility privileges. Among other things, an app with accessibility privileges has the potential to log keystrokes.

Again, the odds of coming across a malware version of Spectacle are probably always going to be pretty slim. I don’t see the author of Spectacle letting spectacleapp.com go, but why take the risk if you don’t have to?

The Future

Apple engineers have actually done an amazing job to not break 3rd party window management over the years. From my experience, most core macOS functionality like this doesn’t break across releases, but a lot of little things do tend to break. It’s a testament to Spectacle that most of that seems to have been avoided, but again, why think about the potential of something going unfixed if you don’t have to. Rectangle is definitely not bug-free, but as a user, I’ll take some odds of bugs getting fixed over a zero chance of a bug getting fixed. Since Rectangle is written in Swift, it’s more likely to get help from more developers than a Spectacle fork. Spectacle is written in Objective-C and… JavaScript.

Features

Perhaps Spectacle already does everything you need. A nice thing about Rectangle is that it has all but a handful obscure pieces of functionality in Spectacle. Rectangle is as close as you’re going to get to a drop-in replacement.

I purposely keep Rectangle really slim on features. At this point, I typically only let in features that are transparent to users unless they seek them out, which is why a lot of features are toggled via command line. I have also only added features requested by a lot of users. The main feature that is in Rectangle but not Spectacle is dragging windows to screen edges to snap them. Feel free to comb through the readme for more.

Try it out!

Spectacle’s an awesome app that I’m lucky to be following the footsteps of with Rectangle. If Spectacle does it for you, by all means, stick with it! It’s hard to ignore the benefits of going with Rectangle though :)

Ryan Hanson

Programming. Daydreaming.

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