How to snap Picture-in-Picture videos anywhere on your Mac

By , Oct 24, 2016

macOS Sierra Picture in Picture anywhere on screen Mac screenshot 003

The release of iOS 9 in September 2015 has brought out support for Picture-in-Picture video on newer iPad models. September 2016’s launch of macOS Sierra has enabled Picture-in-Picture video support on the Mac. Picture-in-Picture lets you watch web videos or iTunes movies in an overlay that always floats over the desktop and your apps.

The Picture-in-Picture overlay can be pinned to any corner of the screen by way of dragging. Unfortunately, Apple has not made it obvious that you can actually position the video overlay anywhere you want on your Mac’s screen.

In this brief tutorial, we’re going to teach you how to disengage any web video from its webpage and position it anywhere on the screen in macOS Sierra.

How to position Picture-in-Picture video anywhere on your Mac’s screen

1) Launch iTunes and start playing a movie or fire up Safari and play a video on any webpage you want. Most web videos that use an HTML5 video player, like Vimeo, should work with Picture-in-Picture on the Mac.

If the web video player lacks a dedicated Picture-in-Picture control, don’t panic.

Apple requires web developers to take advantage of new APIs to implement a Picture-in-Picture control in custom video players. Some websites have not been refreshed to take advantage of Picture-in-Picture support, but there’s a workaround.

TUTORIAL: enabling Picture-in-Picture for YouTube videos on Mac

If you don’t see the Picture-in-Picture button, right click the video and select Enter Picture-in-Picture in the popup menu. For YouTube videos, you must right-click twice to reveal that menu as the first click brings up YouTube’s own contextual menu.

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2) Click a Picture-in-Picture icon in the lower right corner of the video player. The video will disengage from the webpage and float in an overlay on the desktop.

macOS Sierra Picture in Picture controls Mac screenshot 001

3) Press and hold the Command (⌘) key on the keyboard, then click and drag the overlay and position it anywhere you want on your Mac’s display.

4) Let go of the button, then release the Command key.

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The overlay should stay affixed in place.

To reposition the video, hold the Command key and drag it to a desired position. Dragging without using the modifier key will reactivate corner snap which only lets you dock the overlay to one of the four screen corners.

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You can shrink or enlarge the overlay to a certain size, click to show playback controls and use the web player’s slider to scrub through the video playing in the overlay.

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Navigating away from the webpage or closing iTunes while the movie is playing will also close the Picture-in-Picture overlay.

To close the overlay yourself, click inside to reveal the controls and hit the Picture in Picture icon. The video will continue playing in its web video player or in iTunes. Clicking “x” in the upper left corner will close the overlay and stop the video.

TUTORIAL: using Picture-in-Picture with YouTube on iPad

Picture-in-Picture is very useful when you want to surf the web, read email or do other work while watching your favorite clips in the background.

macOS Sierra Picture in Picture Split View Mac screenshot 001

It’s especially nice that Picture-in-Picture is available in the side-by-side Split View multitasking mode and that the video overlay stays put even when switching Spaces, too, as shown above and below.

macOS Sierra Picture in Picture full screen apps Mac screenshot 001

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  • tjedison

    Any ideas on how to get this to work with Hulu or Netflix? Nice tip on the command-drag, that was new to me.

  • Thanks for the excellent tip! I absolutely love PiP but not knowing until now that I could move it anywhere I wanted was my only annoyance.

  • tjedison

    Doesn’t work for me on Netflix. Haven’t tried Hulu yet.

    • RandomAwesomeGuy

      Are you using the HTML 5 player and not Silverlight/Flash? The PIP frame only works with HTML 5.