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How to Manage Windows in Mountain Lion with Spaces

If Mission Control lets you manage your windows in real time, spaces lets you manage windows by organizing them in groups called spaces and switch from space to space with a keystroke or gesture.

When you use spaces, only two kinds of windows are shown: windows from applications associated with the active space and windows from applications launched while that space is active.

If you find yourself spending too much time moving and resizing windows on-screen, consider setting up spaces for specific tasks. You might have one space dedicated to a specific project, another for web surfing, and a third for e-mail, each with all its windows arranged just the way you like them.

Think of a space as being a single screen, set up just the way you like it, with its windows arranged just the way you like them. Take, for example, the three spaces shown in these three figures: one for web surfing, one for Mail, and one for working in the Finder.

Web-surfing space, with three Safari windows (Apple Press Info, Alltop page, and eTrade) arranged j
Web-surfing space, with three Safari windows (Apple Press Info, Alltop page, and eTrade) arranged just so.
Mail space, with three Mail windows (Message Viewer, Addresses, and Activity) arranged just so.
Mail space, with three Mail windows (Message Viewer, Addresses, and Activity) arranged just so.
Finder space, with two windows in list view (All My Files and Trash), plus a third window in icon v
Finder space, with two windows in list view (All My Files and Trash), plus a third window in icon view (More Pix).

Moving right along, you manage your spaces with Mission Control, a feature in Mountain Lion that provides an overview of what’s running on your Mac, including all your spaces, the Dashboard, and all open windows. In a nutshell, this dynamic duo makes it easier than ever to manage and maintain the mélange of Finder and application windows that conspire to clutter and eventually consume your screen.

To see it in action, press the Mission Control key (Control+up arrow by default). If you have a trackpad, you can also swipe upward using three fingers to see Mission Control.

image3.jpg

Note that you won’t see the Dashboard in Mission Control if you’ve cleared the Show Dashboard as a Space check box in the Mission Control System Preferences pane.

In earlier versions of OS X, these desktops were called spaces. Mission Control, improbably, uses the words spaces and desktop interchangeably. By the way, apps running in full screen mode are considered a space, which bears the name of the app rather than “Desktop X.”

To add a new space, first enter Mission Control; then move the cursor to the top-right corner of the screen and click the Add (+) button. (If you have your Dock on the right side of the screen, the + will appear in the top-left corner instead of the top-right.)

You don’t see a + button? It’s hidden and appears only when your cursor is nearby. You can see it in the top-right corner of the figure; if you don’t see a + button there on your screen, move the cursor to that general vicinity, and it magically appears.

You can use this technique to add as many spaces as you like. When you’re finished using Mission Control, you can

  • Click a space at the top of the screen to switch to it.

    or

  • Press the Mission Control key or swipe with three fingers to return to the space you were using when you entered Mission Control.

These gestures require a Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad, or laptop with buttonless trackpad.

If you’re using a notebook Mac, learn to use gestures with Mission Control. Visit the Trackpad System Preferences Pane’s More Gestures tab and make sure you’ve enabled three- or four-finger swipes.

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