By December 17, 2007

More Confessions Of A Space-oholic…

As I’ve no doubt mentioned before, I’m a Space-oholic. In fact, I’ve just returned from my weekly meeting, and I thought I’ve give you an update on how things stand.

The support group isn’t helping.

OS X Leopard has over 300 new features, and yet the one I use daily, hourly, to tell the truth nearly every minute I’m on my machine, is Spaces.

I use the newer faster Spotlight, but only perhaps once or twice an hour. Time Machine continually runs in the background, silently doing its job, but I think I’ve recovered perhaps two files since Leopard’s installation.

But Spaces is always there, ready and waiting the instant my attention shifts to another task.

Counting Spaces…

As I mentioned in my first installment of Confessions, I have nine spaces defined, with most of them always occupied. And they’re still in pretty much the same arrangement.

I briefly flirted with twelve, but found that the bottom row almost always remained empty, and that with nine I had more detail in the overview. So back I went. Besides, if need be I can still add a new row for temporary projects.

Tip 1: If you plan on doing the same and adding and subtracting spaces as needed, do so by row, as adding a new column will cause Spaces to renumber your assigned applications.

This complicates your life and usually requires you to renumber and reassign things manually once you go back to your old setup. So go vertical.

Arranging your Space…

After a month of use I’m convinced more than ever that a little planning is needed in order to gain the most benefit from Spaces.

This comes mainly from assigning each of your primary applications to their own space, and by arranging those assignments and spaces such that natural working relationships occur.

What I referred to as “adjacencies” in my earlier confession.

These arrangements let you get the maximum use out of screen hogging applications like Dreamweaver, Photoshop, and Aperture.

Tip 2: Always assign these “full-screen” applications to their own space using the Spaces System Preference pane.

Then assign supporting applications to adjacent spaces such that they’re only a quick control-up-arrow or down-arrow away.

And once you’ve put your applications in their place, leave them there. Always subconsciously “knowing” in which direction applications lie from where you currently reside is half the battle.

Spaces and Expose and Command-Tab… Oh my!

Many of the problems people have encountered with Spaces seem to come from oddball interactions between Spaces and Expose, or between Spaces and the Command-Tab application switcher.

These can usually be resolved by adhering to one simple rule: don’t do that.


People have described Spaces as “Expose on steroids.” Which is true. Think of Spaces as a more advanced version of Expose, just as Expose was a more advanced way to switch between applications and windows than using command-tab.

So kick the old habits and learn a few new ones. If you’re doing a command-tab-tab-tab to switch applications, is that really any faster than doing a control-up-arrow or down-arrow and jumping straight into the proper space?

The same applies with Expose. Because if you’re still using Expose frequently then odds are that you’ve yet to design your optimum working arrangement. In short, you and your applications and windows and documents simply need more space.

Analyze any space that seems overly crowded, determine who’s crowding whom, and who’d be better off just moving out. Then urge them to do so, gently, and with kind words. Remember, adjacencies are just a control-key or bounce away, and you can hot-corner pop Spaces just as fast as you can a batch of windows in Expose.

I was once an Expose master, and yet now I use it perhaps a half-dozen times a day, with activation relegated solely to the dedicated F3-function-key on my new Apple keyboard.

Wrapping up…

All isn’t sweetness and light, of course. I still experience the vanishing window problem from time-to-time, usually with the Finder, but that’s okay. I have a workaround and I’m sure a solution is only an update or so away.

And I’m still finding new facets and tips and tricks, like the Safari dock menus.

But by and large, Spaces is now my number one productivity tool. I don’t lose applications and documents. I don’t repeatedly dig again and again through piles of windows.

I just work.

So if you’re yet to really take Spaces for a spin, do so, and let me know what you think.

And if you find that you too have grown addicted, then let me know that too.

I can always find you a sponsor.

* * *
Read the first article in the series: Confessions of a Space-oholic


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  1. cognominal says:

    I would like an application to be in all spaces.
    Is that possible?
    Without that feature, I just prefer using quicskilver and give
    shortcut to apps and later use them to switch to them.
    I agree that Cmd Shift is not manageable when one got enough memory
    to run very many apps at once.

  2. Michael Long says:

    Don’t know if it’s what you want, but you can assign an application to every space using the Spaces System Preferences pane.
    That application’s windows will then move with you as you travel from space to space. I’ve set iTunes and Stickies to behave this way.

  3. random8r says:

    Hey, take a look at my comment on your previous post… the issues still stand…
    As to apple-tab, I think it should work WITHIN the current space context… in other words, the apple-tab should show you primarily applications which are on the space you’re on, and switch between them, but have slightly greyed-out other applications (on other spaces) with an indicator showing you which space you’re going to switch to if you select that one.
    I think the way it works now is broken.

  4. Brian Hawthorne says:

    But the real question is, has anyone figured out a way to renumber the spaces so that 9 spaces matchup to the numeric keypad? I use ctrl-number to get to my spaces, and they are numbered upside-down!

  5. Walkman says:

    I’m addicted too, I switched 6 from 4, maybe I will increase the number in the future as you did. :)

  6. Jimleff says:

    (as the comments dribble in from google searchers finding your article….)
    Hi, Michael
    Is there any way to configure a Space so finder windows are excluded? Or do I have to Command-H finder everytime I want it out of a space?