The iMac’s Mission Control Feature

By Mark L. Chambers

iMac users tend to wax enthusiastic over the convenience features built into OS X Mavericks. The amazing convenience of Mission Control is often one of the features that many iMac users first show off to friends and family.

You can press the Command key+Tab as a keyboard shortcut to switch between your open applications. If you’ve moved to the iMac from a PC running Windows, you might think this simple shortcut is all there is to it. Ah, dear reader, you’re in Mavericks territory now!

Mission Control is a rather complex-sounding feature, but it’s really all about convenience. If you typically run a large number of applications at the same time, Mission Control can be a real time saver, allowing you to quickly switch among a forest of different application windows (or display your Desktop instantly without those very same windows in the way). The feature works in three ways:

  • Press F3 (or Control+↑, depending on your keyboard) to show all open windows using Mission Control, grouped by application; then click the one you want.

    The following figure illustrates the tiled All Window display on a iMac after F3 was pressed. Move the cursor on top of the window you want to activate (the window border turns blue when it’s selected) and click once to switch to that window. You can specify which keys you want to use within the Mission Control pane in System Preferences.

    Mission Control is the Desktop manager within Mavericks.

    Mission Control is the Desktop manager within Mavericks.
  • Press Control+F3 (or Control+↓, depending on your keyboard) to show all open windows from the application that you’re currently using; then click the one that you want to activate.

    This Mission Control function is great for choosing from all the images that you’ve opened in Adobe Photoshop or all the Safari web pages littering your Desktop!

  • Press the Command key+F3, and all your open windows scurry to the side of the screen (much like a herd of zebras would if you dropped a lioness in the middle).

    Now you can work with drives, files, and aliases on your Desktop — and when you’re ready to confront those dozen application windows again, just press the keyboard shortcut a second time.

Although the Mission Control screen appears automatically when necessary, you can also launch it at any time from your iMac’s Launchpad display, from the Mission Control icon in the Dock (which looks like a tiny Desktop with three windows), or by pressing the Mission Control/F3 key on your keyboard. From a Magic Trackpad, display the Mission Control screen by swiping up with three fingers.