Use new features in Mission Control in OS X

Mission Control is the handy task switching and desktop switching app in OS X. Have you mastered all of its features? There may be some you never realised were there. The secrets are revealed.

Mission Control has two functions in OS X and one is as a task switcher. When the desktop is full of applications and windows, the one you want to switch to may be buried underneath another one. Finding it quickly can be tiresome as you have to manually rearrange the windows on the desktop to try and find it.

One press of the Mission Control hotkey on the keyboard exposes all the windows separately without overlapping them and you can switch to the one you want by clicking it with the mouse. The hotkey is F3 on my keyboard, but it may be different on yours. It has a symbol that looks like three rectangles.

Mission Control in OS X

iMacs have acres of screen space and overlapping windows is not really a problem, but on a MacBook or MacBook Pro you can easily end up with a confusing array of windows on the desktop.

The solution is to use multiple desktops. It is like having two or more computer screens and being able to put one window on each one so they never have to overlap.

By creating a new desktop that is empty of windows, you can move an application to it or switch to it and then open an application. It will then be the only application on the screen, well that screen anyway, because your other applications are on their own desktop.

Press the Mission Control hotkey. At the top of the screen is a grey bar with Desktop in the centre. On the right is a plus button and clicking it adds a new desktop next to the current one. As the mouse is moved to the top of the screen, the grey bar expands to show a thumbnail image of the current desktop.

Mission Control in El Capitan

Instead of clicking the plus button to add a new desktop, let’s look at a new feature in Mission Control that you may not be aware of. Click and drag a window from the current desktop to the grey bar at the top.

Keep the mouse button held down with the app that was grabbed and hold it to the right of the current desktop. A plus tile appears and dropping the thumbnail on it moves the application or window to that desktop.

Mission Control in OS X

This combines two steps in one. One is creating a new desktop and the other is dragging an app window and dropping it on the new desktop. To select the desktop you want to use, press the Mission Control hotkey and click it in the bar at the top.

The second desktop is named Safari in the screenshot because I dragged and dropped Safari on it. It will have a different name if you drag a different app to it.

There are useful shortcuts to using Mission Control that enable you to access it and switch desktops very quickly.

Go to the Apple menu and select System Preferences. Click the Keyboard icon and then select the Shortcuts tab. Select Mission Control in the list on the left and on the right are the keyboard shortcuts or hotkeys as they are sometimes called.

Keyboard shortcuts in OS X

As you can see, the top entry invokes Mission Control and the keyboard shortcut is Ctrl+up arrow.

Near the bottom is Move left a space and Move right a space. Call up Mission Control and the desktops are displayed in a row at the top of the screen. If you are on desktop 1 for example, you could press Ctrl+right arrow to go to the desktop on the right in the list. If you were on desktop 2, you could press Ctrl+left arrow to go the desktop 1 on the left.

If these shortcuts are not set up, tick Move left a space, click in the box on the right (or the existing shortcut) and press the keys you want to use, such as Ctrl+left arrow. Tick Move right a space, click on the shortcut box and press Ctrl+right arrow.

Switch apps by pressing Ctrl+up arrow, switch desktops by pressing Ctrl+left/right arrow. It is very easy once you get used to it and using one desktop per application prevents overlapping windows and apps buried underneath the desktop clutter.



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