Do you need a vertical screen on your Mac? Rotate the display

I remember visiting a college in 1985 (readers, I’m so ancient) and seeing the pinnacle of glamor and magic: a portrait-oriented CRT screen that was part of a composition system. Because the text was composed in “drafts,” long series of relatively narrow columns, the person placing the copy could more easily see a long series of text this way.

Computers have come a long way, but this orientation remains the same. You may end up with many activities that are better suited for a long vertical, such as long sequences of text you’re writing, many long menus, or a wide variety of palettes or material that stack nicely in large rectangles from top to bottom for reference, such as the resized windows.

A long time ago, you had to rely on third-party drivers or software to rotate a monitor display, but Apple added this to its Mac operating systems a long time ago. It’s not exactly hidden – although it may be, more in a moment – but it may be something you’ve never considered.

Some monitors also include a swivel joint where the display meets its stand. I remember accidentally rotating a monitor a few years ago that I didn’t know it had such a joint and thought I broke it for a moment!

In most cases, you should be able to open the Displays preference pane, and if macOS supports rotation on a monitor, a Rotate or Rotate menu appears on the Display tab, with options that may vary by macOS version and to display features. Apple mysteriously observes, “If you don’t see the pop-up menu, your computer doesn’t support this feature.” It doesn’t keep a list of which Macs have it or don’t have it. IMacs don’t seem to support native rotation.


The Rotate or Rotate menu appears for the combination of Mac and display that can support it.

In previous versions of Mac OS X and macOS, you may need to open System Preferences and while holding down Command and Option click the Display item to force a rotation menu to appear.

If your Mac doesn’t rotate the internal display or external displays, SwitchResX ($ 16) may be able to help.

This article on Mac 911 is in response to a question posed by Macworld reader Brett.

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