I wouldn’t have guessed that I’d be picking Spaces as my killer feature in OS X 10.5 Leopard. I tried various virtual desktop systems in the past but was never overly impressed so I expected more of the same from spaces.
But I was pleasantly surprised when I turned on Spaces to see what was there. I’ve been running it since. On my 13″ MacBook it makes sense because of the small screen. Even on my large 24″ iMac it’s been a huge benefit. It completely eliminates my envy of people with dual-monitor setups.
Two features that make Spaces more useful than the virtual desktops that came before it are the ability to assign apps to a desktop and to jump to the desktop that hosts the app when the app is activated.
The preference pane for Spaces is shown to the left, click the thumbnail to enlarge it. The default arrangement for the spaces are two rows of two spaces each as shown in the screenshot. This can be modified and can be up to 16 Spaces (4 X 4). I’m still using the default 2 X 2 arrangement.
You can also assign applications to a specific space. When an application starts up it will open in the assigned space. You’ll see from the screenshot that I have my photo apps open in Space 2. I make space 3 my “Windows” space and open the VM apps there. I’ve assigned Mail to space 4. Space 1 is my work space. If I start using more apps in full screen mode I’ll probably start adding spaces to hold them.
Another useful trick is to assign a app to all spaces, this way it will follow you around from space to space. I’ve done this with iTunes and Skype. iTunes because I frequently watch videos and this way they follow me around. Skype, because if I’m using it I want it in front of me.
Moving apps between spaces is also simple, just drag the app’s window to the edge of the screen, towards the space you want to move it to and it will jump to that space.
There are numerous ways to move between spaces but I’ve become partial to the <Ctrl-#> key combination. I’ve also been using <Ctrl-arrow> to move between adjacent spaces. The <F8> key can also be used to display all the spaces and then you can click on the one you want. Hitting <F9> after displaying all the spaces will display all windows in each space expose style. You can also add a spaces selection to the menu bar and use it to switch spaces. All the key combinations are configurable.
Spaces is one of those features that make my Mac more productive than it was under Tiger.