It’s my turn. I rise to my feet and move to the podium. Staring out at a gathering of mostly sympathetic faces, I clear my throat and say, “Hello, my name is Michael, and I’m addicted to Spaces.”
As one, the members of the group reply, “Hello, Michael.”
And so it begins.
It wasn’t always like this.
Long ago, I was happy with just one space. Well, not really happy, perhaps, now that I look back on it. Maybe resigned would be a better word. Still, knowing I had only one space in which to work, I set out to master it.
I hid the Dock, as it took up precious space on my screen that I could use for my own ends. I hid and restored entire applications, as need be.
I arranged my workspace meticulously, such that every window of importance had a visible corner or edge upon which I could click to access it.
I used utilities like WindowShade to float windows, make them translucent, and so I could easily roll them up and minimize them and set them aside.
I also used Sidenote, popping pages of notes out and then quickly sliding them back again, out of sight, but not out of mind.
And I was a master of Expose, with every corner of my domain “hot” and ready to respond to every flick of my mouse or finger. That still wasn’t enough, so I upgraded to a 17″ MacBook Pro, and then to a 24″ iMac, each time hungering for more and more space.
With all of these techniques at my disposal, I confidently ran Mail, iCal, Dreamweaver, Photoshop, NetNewsWire, Safari, Firefox, Word, Excel, iTunes, Preview, TextEdit, Finder, Fetch, and more, all simultaneously and all while laughing and cackling with glee at my power. (Okay, maybe not cackling… exactly.)
Then came Spaces.
When I saw the Spaces demo during the keynote my first impression was one of polite interest. “That looks kind of cool.” I thought. “Now tell me more about this Time Machine thing.
Then the day came when I got my own copy of Leopard. And Spaces…
After installation, I played with several of Leopard’s new features, hooked up my backup drive to Time Machine, and then decided to give Spaces a whirl. At first, there were just two. Then four. Then six. I couldn’t stop myself. Currently there are nine.
And I’m seriously considering twelve.
Here’s my current layout…
Going in “Spaces” order, left to right, top to bottom, we have in the top row..
1) My “communication” space with Mail and iCal (assigned).
2) My Dreamweaver development space (assigned).
3) Photoshop (assigned).
4) My newsroom, with NetNewsWire (assigned) and Safari.
5) My Safari and FireFox development space (unassigned).
6) Bridge or Aperture or iPhoto, depending (assigned).
7) Finder and System Preferences (assigned), iTunes (everywhere).
8) A “project” space. Also RDC and/or Parallels (assigned).
9) Another “project” space, usually Word or Excel (unassigned).
This layout isn’t accidental. I spend a lot of time in Mail and in my RSS newsreader, so those are my “main” spaces, and as such are linked closely together just one control-up/down arrow apart. (Mail is also control-1.)
Similarly, the browser windows I use for testing in space 5 are directly beneath Dreamweaver, also linked just one control-up/down arrow apart. Save and upload a file in Dreamweaver, and do a command-down-arrow. Refresh the browser window and check things out. Pop back up with command-up-arrow and continue editing.
Same for Photoshop and whichever image library program I’m using in 3 and 6.
Horizontally, my Dreamweaver space is just one control-right-arrow away from Mail in space 1. When doing other “project” stuff, space 9 is just one one control-left-arrow away in the other direction.
These “just once removed” adjacencies play a major role in getting the most out of Spaces.
This arrangement also lets me get the maximum use out of screen hogging applications like Dreamweaver, Photoshop, and Aperture.
You might read the above one more time, using the screen shot to visualize the “moves”.
Once you know where your applications need to be, the next step is keeping them there.
Application assignments play a significant role in taming your Spaces. Most major applications like Mail, Dreamweaver, and Photoshop are permanently assigned to their proper locations using the Spaces System Preference pane. (See my application list above for other assignments.)
Same for the cluster of Finder windows in space 7, mapped using a method mentioned in a previously tip. A few, like Stickies and iTunes, are mapped to “every” space so the same window is always seen no matter what space I’m in.
Others, like Safari, are not mapped at all, as they tend to be needed in multiple spaces, like testing in space 5 and blogging in space 4.
You may need to experiment a bit to find the proper balance, but mapping assures that after a time you’ll always know where a given application can be found.
Formerly, both lower window corners launched Expose. Mentally, I maintained a “map” of where all of my hidden windows were most likely to be, and so I’d zap the mouse left or right to the proper corner to pop up and hit the window I needed. With Spaces, both corners now launch the “meta-space”, as now I know exactly where I’m at, and exactly where I want to go.
With each application and its associated windows slotted neatly away with no overlap, there’s a lot less hiding and minimizing and shuffling going on. In fact, I rarely visit my beloved Expose at all these days. Sad, really.
Who cares what people say?
Some have panned Spaces, saying that the concept has existed in other systems for years now. My response? So what? Like most things done by Apple, Spaces gets the concept right, with a level of integration and a fluidity of motion that no other OS can currently match.
A few have mentioned that, like Time Machine, Spaces is just a bunch of pretty effects… which misses the point entirely. Yes, Spaces has plenty of pretty effects. All of which combine to subtlety remind you where you’re at, and where you just came from. Such mental cues don’t happen by accident. They’re the hallmark of good design.
Finally, a few other people have described Spaces as simply “Expose on steroids.” Which, for the most part, is true. You see, both exist to let you spend more time on getting work done, and both exist so you’ll spend less time shuffling windows around your desktop, trying to find what you need when you need it. Spaces just does a better job of it.
Spaces is a power-users dream tool.
And I’m addicted to it.
Excuse me, but I think I have to call my sponsor now.