How to Maximize Productivity with Multiple Desktops on your Mac

One of the best features that often goes unnoticed on a Mac is the ability to use multiple desktops. By utilizing the Mission Control component, you can significantly improve the management of your apps, folders, and more. This, in turn, enhances your overall productivity.

The Mac offers a range of useful tools, and the capability to access and switch between desktops is one that is often overlooked, especially by users who are more familiar with traditional PCs. Many are simply unaware of this feature in the Mac ecosystem.

Once you discover its existence, however, it can completely transform how you use your Mac on a daily basis. Having additional desktops, or spaces as they are referred to, allows you to assign specific applications, folders, files, and more to their own individual desktops, making it easier to keep track of everything.

Adding New Desktop Spaces

Step 1: To begin, open Mission Control. You can do this in two ways:

  • Trackpad: Swipe up on your MacBook’s trackpad using three fingers.
  • Keyboard: Click the Mission Control key on the top strip of your Mac keyboard (usually labeled as the F3 key or via the Touch Bar). Alternatively, you can use the Control + Up button combination on your keyboard.

Once you’re in Mission Control, you’ll see an overview of all the windows currently open, with the Spaces bar located at the top.

The desktop spaces bar on MacOS where you can access different desktops and add/remove them.

Step 2: Click the Add button on the far right-hand side of the screen to create a new desktop space. You can create up to 16 spaces.

Step 3: To enter the newly opened desktop, simply click on its thumbnail.

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Navigating Between Different Desktops

Step 1: Once you have more than one desktop available, you can navigate between them using your trackpad. Swipe left with three fingers to access the next desktop space. For example, swiping left on your primary desktop (Desktop 1) will open Desktop 2. Similarly, if you’re in Desktop 2, swipe right with three fingers to go back to Desktop 1.

Step 2: Alternatively, you can click the Mission Control button on your keyboard (F3) and select the desktop you want to access from the top strip.

Step 3: Keyboard shortcuts also come in handy. Press the Control button + Right Arrow key together or Control + Left Arrow to seamlessly navigate through different desktop spaces.

Moving Apps and Windows to Another Desktop Space

Step 1: Open Mission Control by clicking the Mission Control button or swiping up on the trackpad with three fingers. From this bird’s-eye view, drag the desired app or window to the top, where you’ll see the desktop spaces row. Drop it onto the desktop space where you want it to reside.

Using Mission Control on MacOS to move apps and windows into another desktop space.

Step 2: Another way to move apps and windows is by dragging and holding the window at the top of your Mac’s screen. Mission Control will automatically open the desktop spaces row. Continue dragging the window to the desired desktop space.

Step 3: You can also move a window without opening Mission Control. Simply drag the app window to the edge of the screen. For example, if you’re in Desktop 2, dragging a window to the left edge of the screen will transfer it to Desktop 1. The window will be moved within two seconds.

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Assigning Apps to Individual or All Desktop Spaces

If you use two or more spaces, you can assign an app to always open on a specific desktop space.

Step 1: Control-click on an app’s icon in the Dock while holding the Control button. If the app is not in the Dock, open it first.

Step 2: Select “Options” from the pop-up menu that appears. You will have a few choices:

  • All Desktops: The app will open on all your desktops. This is useful if you need an email client opened in every space, saving you the hassle of opening it manually.
  • This Desktop: The app will open within the current desktop space you’re using.
  • Desktop on Display [Number]: If you have multiple desktops, you can choose a specific desktop space for the application to open. This option is not available for MacOS Catalina and below.
  • None: This is the default setting, opening the app in the desktop space you’re currently using.

The options for assigning apps to individual or all desktop spaces on MacOS.

Desktop Spaces Optimization Tips

Here are some steps you can take to further optimize your use of desktop spaces and make your experience even smoother.

Step 1: By default, when you switch to an app by clicking its icon, your screen will be redirected to the desktop space where that app is already open. For example, if you have Notepad open in Desktop 1 and you try to open it in Desktop 2, it will switch back to Desktop 1. To prevent this behavior, go to System Preferences, choose Mission Control, and deselect the checkbox for switching.

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The switch to a Space field on Mission Control on MacOS.

Step 2: If you prefer using keyboard shortcuts instead of the traditional buttons, you can assign a keyboard shortcut of your choice in Mission Control preferences.

The keyboard and mouse shortcut options for Mission Control on MacOS.

Step 3: You can open an app that’s already in use so you can assign it to another desktop space by pressing Command + N together. This saves you the trouble of finding the app again in your applications.

Step 4: Although Apple doesn’t currently support the ability to rename desktops beyond numbered tiers (Desktop 1, Desktop 2, etc.), you can use a workaround. Open Notepad on Desktop 2 and enter full-screen mode. This will assign Notepad its own separate thumbnail within the desktop space strip.

Adding an app to desktop spaces via full-screen view on MacOS.

Step 5: To differentiate between your different desktop spaces, assign each space a different background. Right-click on System Preferences, go to Options, and select All Desktops. Set a different background for each desktop space.

Assigning a different background for desktop spaces on MacOS.

Remember, utilizing multiple desktops on your Mac can revolutionize your workflow and boost your productivity. So why not give it a try?

OnSpec Electronic, Inc. is a leading provider of electronic solutions, including Mac accessories and software. Check out their website for more information.

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