Leopard has Spaces for work and play

Leopard has Spaces for work and play
Mac Tip #315/14-Nov-2007

Mac OS X 10.5, Leopard, introduces a new feature to the Mac Operating System: more space to work and play. It’s been available before now by installing separate software, but the Spaces feature, as it is called, is built in to Leopard.

This Tip is the first of several about Spaces.

Activate Spaces

Spaces System Preference

Spaces System Preference

To activate Spaces go to the Exposé & Spaces System Preference, then click on the Spaces tab, and check the Enable Spaces box. I also suggest you ensure Show Spaces in menu bar is checked. By default the Mac gives you 4 Spaces, but you can use more or fewer if you prefer.

Having explained how to activate Spaces, I want to explain what they are, and how to use them.

What Spaces is

Imagine you’re at home, sitting a the kitchen table, sorting through old boxes of photos (the kind that are on paper). The table is covered in photos.

After a while you decide to take a coffee break and read the paper. Instead of balancing coffee, biscuits and newspaper on top of the photos, you set yourself up at a different table.

The courier arrives with a parcel, so you take it to yet another table for unpacking.

That’s Spaces.

On your computer it would look like this: you’re working with your iPhoto albums (in Space 1) when you decide to take a break and surf some news websites. You leave iPhoto running and flip over to Space 2 where you open some web pages, and check your email.

You’ve received some emailed attachments, so you download them, and flip over to Space 3 to open the MS Word file into Pages.app and the Excel file into Numbers.app.

For each activity you have a clean, fresh, uncluttered work space where you can spread out and focus on what you’re doing.

How to use Spaces

There are no rules about how to use Spaces. No-one says you have to use a particular application in Space 1 or Space 2, so it’s up to you to explore.

As I write this on my MacBook I have 4 Spaces active. I haven’t changed the default settings in System Preferences.

In Space 1: I have BBEdit — I’m using it to write this Tip. I also have the Spaces System Preference window open, so I can refer to it while I write.

In Space 2: I have my web browser, OmniWeb, open to my email.

In Space 3: I have a Finder window open — I’m busy copying some files from my other Mac.

In Space 4: I have my RSS reader, NetNewsWire, along with MarsEdit, the software I use for posting items to my blog.

The F8 overview

Thumbnails of the 6 Spaces open on my MacBook Pro screen

Thumbnails of the 6 Spaces open on my MacBook Pro screen

If I press F8 (I’m using a laptop so I also have to hold down the fn key) my screen ‘zooms out’ and displays all 4 Spaces as thumbnails, so I can see them all at the same time. The screenshot shows thumbnails of the 6 Spaces open on my MacBook Pro screen — my screenshot software didn’t want to snap Spaces on the same machine.

At its simplest, you can drag a window from one Space to another in that overview, then click a Space to zoom back in.

In the next Tip I’ll show you some other ways to allocate a particular window to a particular Space and to navigate between Spaces.

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  1. Pingback: Navigate Leopard Spaces — Mac Tips

  2. Josef Stein said:

    Many users need Spaces for grouping together windows related to different PROJECTS, not to different APPLICATIONS.
    The same application may be used for different projects, e.g. Browser, emacs, or a simple terminal.
    The old unix window-managers were very useful for that.
    Is there a way to configure Spaces to be useful in that direction ?
    At least, can Spaces be configured to ignore applications, and let the user decide which window belongs to which Space ?

  3. Miraz said:

    Ross: Check your System Preferences for which keys you have set.
    The Control key is correct, unless you’ve changed it.

    There’s no reason why Spaces *would* retain their contents — your Mac didn’t do this without Spaces either. As you say, you’ll have to set up the applications as Login items. Then when they do open up, they will open into the Spaces you assigned.

    I think what you’re looking for though is Session Control – as some web browsers have, for example, reopening windows and tabs that were open when the application quit.

    It certainly seems there’s a lot Apple could do to make Spaces much more useful and sophisticated. One thing I’d like, for example, is the ability to name Spaces.

    What Apple need is user feedback. Send it to Apple at:


  4. Miraz said:

    Ross emailed, and gave me permission to post:

    Thanks for your introduction to “Spaces” in Mac Tips – very helpful.

    I have been determined to make “Spaces” work and I’m succeeding fairly well. It is proving to be extremely useful and efficient.

    Except that initially “Spaces” did not retain their contents if the machine was powered off and then restarted – until I tried a possibility . . .

    To ensure that “Spaces” restarts with the same application content as prior to powering down, open “System Preferences” – “Accounts” – “My Account” – “Login Items” – then use the “+” symbol to add those applications you wish to be restored on powering up. This assumes that you have already allocated which application is to go into which space.

    However, although applications are reopened, it would seem that any files in use, such as a partly written letter or e-mail, have to be reopened. Another disadvantage seems to be the complexity of this “Login Items” procedure when you wish to change the contents of a space. Is there a shorter method? At present I am leaving space [1] blank, [2] with “Word”, [3] with both “Firefox” and “Thunderbird”, [4] with my “Address Book” which is in great need of updating, and [5] for “iTunes”. (Leaving space [1] blank seems sensible – i.e. ready for any other required use.)

    At least, if a further application is going to be used frequently, it is reasonably simple to add a further space or spaces. However, it would seem that it is not possible to have the same application assigned to two different spaces (not even if you have two different versions of that application?) unless you choose to have the application allocated to every space – which seems like overkill.

    There also seems to be two errors in the “Mac Help” – “Spaces” – “Working faster with Spaces”: “… press the Control key and the number key …” should read “… press the Command key and the number key…” and so also where it says “… press the Control key and arrows keys together.” it should say “… press the Command key and arrow keys together.”. (Only then do you find the purpose of the mini window frames that have previously been flashing onto the screen.)

    One cute procedure available in “Spaces” is the ability, when all your spaces are displayed on screen, to pick up an application or file with its application from one space and move it to another.

    Finally, if, in addition, you are using “Expose” to access “All Windows” and “Spaces”, the combination is brilliant.

  5. Norbert C. Ballauer said:

    I’m sorry to bother you agan, but I try to open this weeks link in the Tip and all I got was this “Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.”
    Hope that you may be able to help me?

    Thanks for your time and trouble, God Bless You.

  6. Pingback: Introducing Leopard Spaces for work and play

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