The Mission Control Pane in OS X Mountain Lion

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The Mission Control System Preferences pane in OS X Mountain Lion replaces Exposé and Spaces from earlier OS X releases. The top part of the pane contains four check boxes: Show Dashboard as a Space; Automatically Rearrange Spaces Based on Most Recent Use; When Switching to an Application, Switch to a Space with Open Windows for the Application; and Group Windows By Application.

Suffice it to say that these checkboxes do what you think they’ll do. You should experiment with the settings, turning them on and off, to see which way you prefer them.

Moving right along, most of this pane handles keyboard and mouse shortcuts for Mission Control. These eight pop-up menus — four each for keyboard and mouse shortcuts — let you specify the trigger for each of the four features with a keystroke or mouse button. The default keyboard shortcuts appear below, but yours may differ; to change them, click the appropriate pop-up menu and make a new selection.

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Hold down the Command, Option, Control, and/or Shift keys when you choose an item from the keyboard shortcut menu to add modifier keys to the keyboard shortcuts you create. So, for example, if you held down Command+Shift when you selected F11 from a pop-up menu, the keyboard shortcut for that feature would be Command+Shift+F11.

Finally, most Apple keyboards made in the past five or six years also include a dedicated Mission Control and Dashboard shortcut keys (F3 and F4, respectively). If you see a tiny picture that looks like the Mission Control icon on your F3 key, or looks like the Dashboard icon on your F4 keys, you can use them in addition to other shortcuts.

  • To see Mission Control, which displays all open windows in all open applications, press Control+up arrow.

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    If you hover over a window on the Mission Control screen and press the spacebar, you see a preview of the window’s contents, which is especially helpful when a window is partially obscured by another window.

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  • To see all open windows belonging to the current application (TextEdit in the following figure), press Control+down arrow.

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  • To hide all open windows and display the Desktop, press F11 or fn+F11.

  • To summon forth the Dashboard (which displays your widgets), press F12 (or fn+F12). Or, if your F4 key has a Dashboard icon printed on it, press F4.

Notice that when you’re using Mission Control, windows appear at a reduced size. Identifying information — either the program or window name — appears below it, making it easier to discern what each item contains. When you click any of these small windows, Mission Control deactivates, and the window you clicked becomes the active window.

Check out the way that Mission Control’s Application Windows screen includes a row of document icons near the bottom of the screen. They represent the TextEdit documents created or modified most recently. Click the stack at the right end of the row to see more documents. This new feature makes it a cinch to reopen documents you’ve used recently.


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