Organizing Your Screen Space on the Mac - Part 1

Lately I’ve been struggling with finding a way to efficiently manage screen space on my Mac. I dearly love Mac OS X, but it chews up screen space and it’s normal to have lots and lots of super useful apps on the go at once which means that you don’t see or can’t find most of them at any given time.

I’ve tried using a virtual desktop to give me multiple desktops and although that has some promise, the ones I’ve tried have been a bit slow and I still found that I’d have one app on Desktop A and another app on Desktop B and it would take a flurry of clicks and drags to accomplish even simple tasks.

 Ctvd Graphics Virtualbetass

Next I took some time to make sure I was using the built in capabilities of the Mac OS X task switcher properly. (Which leads me to realize that OS X has tons of built in features that Apple doesn’t mention to users anywhere! I suppose this is part of their keeping it simple philosophy, but if you want to be a power user you certainly have to go looking to find all the secret sauces).

By pressing Command-Tab a floating transparent window pops up showing the icons of all the running apps. You can change between running apps and even quit apps by pressing Q or hide them by pressing H when they are selected. Pressing Command-backtick will move the selection in reverse (as will Command-Shift-Tab, but cmon! Three keys at once! Puh-lease!).

Very handy and built into the OS so you can be using one app full screen, say Mail, and then just Command-Tab to another app without ever lifting your hands from the keyboard.

However it doesn’t let you choose which window you want from that app and in some cases that means you then need to use Command-Backtick to cycle through them. All of this takes only a few seconds of course, but the real price is the psychic time - that feeling of, “arrrrgh - this is overwhelming with all these frickin windows…..”

Next I tried an application called Witch. Witch is very similar to Command-Tab except it lets you cycle through the windows of each app as shown here:

 Witch Daemon

This includes windows that are minimized to the dock. This is a nice improvement over plain Command-Tab but my desktop still looks like a window explosion. This is all very personal of course, as some people don’t mind piles of overlapping windows, but I find it drives me to distraction.

So what had I learned so far? I was going to be running a lot of different apps at once all of them with a lot of different windows and I needed a way to keep my desktop looking clean and organized and be able to switch between apps/windows easily and be able to drag/drop between apps and it had to be beautiful and elegant and have killed no pandas in the making of it, etcetera…..

So I kept looking.

I think I may have found a solution in fact. Stay tuned for that in Part 2 of this post coming soon.

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