There are many new features in Mac OS, but one that has really made a difference in my day to day use has been Spaces. Spaces basically creates multiple virtual monitors even if you only have one physical screen. This is extremely useful if you have a small screen (e.g. on a laptop) and want to run mutliple programs simultaneously without having to deal with minimizing windows or constantly reorganizing your workspace.

Once you turn on Spaces (in System Preferences), you can get started. I recommend starting with 4 spaces (the default) because its easy to manage. It’s also a good idea to assign a commonly used applications to a specific space. I have Mail go to space 2, Parallels go to space 3, and Keynote go to space 4. You can do whatever you want, but giving each space a specific “role” makes it easier to remember what is in each space.

Getting around in Spaces is fairly striaghtforward. Make sure you check the preference in System Preferences to have Spaces displayed in the menu bar. This menu can be used to switch from one space to another, but more importantly tells you which space you are in. By default, the F8 key will present you with a bird’s eye view of all your spaces.

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This view allows you to move a window from one space to another or to switch to a different space just by clicking on it. You can also move all the windows in a space to another space by dragging the blue background. You can also trigger this view if you include the Spaces icon on your dock.

A few more tips:

  • Drag a window to the edge of the screen bordering two spaces and wait – in a few seconds, you’ll have moved the window to the neighboring space.
  • To move to a specific space, hold down control and press the number of the space (control-3 goes to space 3). If you do this while dragging a window, the window comes with you.
  • While in the birds-eye view, hit c to collect all your windows into a single space.

Once you’ve mastered these shortcuts, you’ll appreciate how much more efficiently a small screen can be used.

3 thoughts on “Become a Leopard Spaces Master

  1. If the window manager (whether Windows or Mac) just provided a mechanism to assign a hotkey to each window, one really wouldn’t need Spaces or virtual desktops. Most people use virtual desktops to quickly switch to specific windows/applications (like you said, Firefox in space 1, Mail to space 2, etc.). I spend all my time in various windows, so being able to just hit Apple-1, Apple-3, etc. makes me not lust after Spaces too much.

    A nice substitute trick is to configure an extra mouse button to hit Expose so you can easily switch windows without having to move too much.

  2. Spaces is quite different than what you describe. It’s not just switching applications, its switching sets of windows. It adds the ability to switch more than one application…I could have a “Safari and iChat” space and bring them both to the front simultaneously. It’s easy to remember a small number of spaces than to try to keep track of a hotkey for each window (how would you define this anyway, since you’re always opening and closing windows). Additionally, Spaces accomplishes showing one set of windows while hiding another in one quick step. In addition, it’s easy to rearrange which combinations of windows you want to view. Lastly, you can have a single app’s windows spread over multiple spaces if it makes sense (e.g. my iChat buddy list is paired with my recreational Safari window, while a terminal window and TextMate is paired with a Safari window of a site I’m developing.

  3. Can I use windows of the same Application in different Space?
    Ex.: Logic Arrange Window in Space 1 and the Mix Window in Space 2.

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