If you’re ready to increase your productivity by connecting your Mac to an external display, you need the right app to fully control your display. And if it’s your first time, you might be surprised to hear that your keyboard’s volume or brightness controls no longer work.
To make matters worse, you can’t even make changes through the Control Center. That’s because Macs don’t support the Consumer Electronics Control protocol. Because Macs don’t work with CEC, you can’t use your Mac to control connected displays directly.
However, you can use one of these six apps to regain control of your Mac’s external display.
1. MonitorControl: Best All-in-One App
When it comes to ease of use, MonitorControl is king. This app packs powerful tools to control your external display’s brightness and volume levels without overwhelming you with options.
At a glance, MonitorControl’s interface is simple and clear. It gives you exactly the information you need and nothing you don’t. But don’t let its simplicity fool you. MonitorControl packs full DDC hardware dimming for supported monitors, meaning it actually changes the monitor’s brightness settings instead of just using software dimming.
And if your monitor supports DDC, you can also control the volume of any built-in speakers. If you’re looking for one tool that can do it all, MonitorControl is right up your alley.
You need to head over to GitHub to get the full version of MonitorControl and unlock all its features. But if you’re looking for a one-click installation, a stripped-down version called MonitorControl Lite is available on the App Store. But be warned, the lite version does not have volume control or DDC hardware dimming.
Download: MonitorControl (Free) or MonitorControl Lite (Free)
2. Volume control: Best simple volume controls
Audio Control is one of the best ways to regain control of your Mac audio. And unlike some apps that overwhelm you with features, SoundControl is refreshingly simple and easy to use.
Once Sound Control is installed on your Mac, you’ll be able to use the keyboard controls again to raise and lower the volume system-wide. But Sound Control does more than just control the volume on the external monitor.
It’s also great for managing all the audio devices connected to your Mac. With just a single click, you can easily switch between the external display’s speakers, audio devices such as headphones, and even your MacBook’s built-in audio.
Sound Control’s advanced features include volume control for individual apps, per-app EQ, and even the ability to customize the sound’s left/right balance. You’ll need to pay to unlock Sound Control’s full feature set, but an unlimited free trial gives you access to the most important features.
Download: Sound Control ($25, free trial available)
3. eqMac: Best for audiophiles
eqMac has emerged as one of the most popular options for managing audio on macOS, and there’s a reason for that. It lets you easily control the speakers on your external display and is also a great tool for managing all the audio coming from your Mac.
The app has a stylish interface that’s easy to use, but if you’re serious about audio, it offers an intense level of customization. eqMac has three different equalizers that allow you to adjust the Mac sound to the smallest level. You even create profiles for different audio devices and apps.
eqMac is also excellent at managing multiple audio outputs and can automatically connect to preferred devices. So if you’re serious about audio, you can’t go wrong with this software.
Download: eqMac (free, subscription available)
4. DisplayBuddy: Best for Multi-Monitor Setups
Managing multiple displays on macOS doesn’t have to be difficult. DisplayBuddy is a great tool that lets you control your Mac’s external display, even if you have a multi-display setup.
DisplayBuddy lets you manage the brightness, contrast level, and volume of all the displays connected to your Mac, and even lets you change settings independently of each other.
So if you’re editing videos with Final Cut Pro X or Adobe Premiere Pro, you can easily turn up the brightness on the main screen to get a better view of your work. And if you’re watching a movie or playing some of the best Mac games, you can dim or black out your secondary displays so you can focus on the action.
DisplayBuddy helps you get the most out of your multi-screen setup. And as an added bonus, DisplayBuddy even has Siri support, giving you an even more seamless experience.
Download: DisplayBuddy ($12.99, free trial available)
5. Audio source: Best for redirecting audio
If you’re someone who is constantly juggling multiple audio input and output devices, SoundSource by Rogue Amoeba can make your life a lot easier.
SoundSource not only allows you to control the display’s volume levels, but also allows you to redirect audio between all connected devices and apps. That means you can play Zoom’s audio from the display’s speakers and send your songs from Spotify to your surround sound setup. The possibilities are endless.
SoundSource also has a number of advanced features, such as a 10-band equalizer that allows you to fine-tune the sound.
Download: SoundSource ($39, free trial available)
6. Lunar: Best for Apple Display owners
Branding itself as the “defacto app for controlling displays,” Lunar sets itself apart from the pack by packing a stylish interface that’s backed up with serious technology.
Lunar combines volume control with full DDC hardware dimming, meaning it actually controls the screen’s brightness rather than just simulating dimming with a dark overlay.
Lunar also has some exclusive features you won’t find anywhere else. For example, Sensor Mode lets you use an external light sensor to automatically dim and increase brightness based on current lighting conditions, meaning you can make the external display adapt just like your MacBook’s built-in display.
Lunar can also control Apple displays, giving you smoother brightness transitions and an experience closer to a MacBook’s built-in display. And if you have a 2021 MacBook Pro or newer, or if you own the impressive Pro Display XDR, you can use the Lunar to crank up the screen to 1,600 nits even when you’re not watching HDR content; that’s over three times brighter than you can with macOS alone.
Download: Lunar ($23, free trial available)
Take control of your Mac’s external display
Apple says macOS is intuitive and easy to use. But that is until you decide to connect your Mac to an external display. The fact that macOS still doesn’t support volume or brightness controls for external displays is a huge mistake by Apple.
For a long time, using a Mac with an external display meant giving up some basic quality-of-life features. Fortunately, you can regain control of your Mac screen with the right app, meaning you can get a big-screen experience without making a huge sacrifice.