jonny goes to england

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How OS X screwed up Spaces

with 6 comments

I’m using X11 for good 10 years now and I couldn’t live without multiple workspaces. Recently, OS X finally introduced “Spaces” which is a virtual workspace manager. I was excited about it because on OS X windows seem to clutter the desktop relatively quickly (especially on a 13″ macbook). I’m currently switching from linux to OS X and I have to say, I’m not happy with Spaces. In my opinion it’s done wrong. Two things which annoy me most:

  1. I’m expecting Spaces to create separate desktops for running application windows on it. Thus, when I switch between windows with Cmd+Tab I only want to choose between the windows on the current Space and I don’t want the list of all applications running. Like that I can’t quickly switch between two open windows on a Space but sometimes get propelled to a different Space.
  2. Even worse, imagine this situation. You have three Spaces and on the first one there is a Terminal instance running. Now, I want to open another terminal window on the 3rd Space. The Dock however does not respect the current Space you are working on. When you click on the Terminal symbol on the Dock you get sent back to the Space where the first window of it is running. What I would expect is that it only activated the Terminal menubar on the top so I could trigger Cmd+N to start a new window.

All in all, Spaces pretty much defies my logic of how multiple workspaces should work. As is, they are not very useful. Oh well, I’m sure there are techniques around that .. I’m only using OS X for some days 🙂


Written by jk

March 16, 2008 at 5:21 pm

6 Responses

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  1. works sweet for my needs. I have no problems and enjoy it there are of course other apps that run on OSX that do a similar job that may suit you better. I have my apps allocated to certain spaces but some are allocated to all spaces.


    March 17, 2008 at 8:10 am

  2. Spaces is also unusable for me — it switches desktops when I all I want to do is switch between apps that have open windows on the current desktop. It seems that the desktop that it switches to is random; it isn’t related to the last used window. I suspect that Spaces was designed for running an application on a single desktop only — not to spread windows across multiple desktops.


    March 17, 2008 at 3:22 pm

  3. Spaces is the first virtual desktop product that I have found to be usable. But the one trick that makes it so, is the assignment of the spaces function to the middle mouse button. I push the scroll wheel, and viola, Spaces invokes, allowing me to drag anything anywhere. Way kewl. I do understand the issue with having an application open in 2 spaces at once, but I have not found that to be a big problem – just click the button, and pop the app into the appropriate space. Expose also work within Spaces, even with the multipanel view invoked!

    When you switch apps, Spaces jumps to the desktop where that Applications is 1) open, or 2) to the window where the application is “pinned” from the spaces preferences. I don’t seem to understand the issues defined. When I invoke Cmd-TAB, I absolutely want ALL the open applications shown, regardless of the desktop, so I can switch to any one, and Spaces is smart enough to take me to the right place.

    The one behavior I do not like, is quitting the last application running in a space. It switches to another application in another space. To get back to a blank space, I have to open Spaces, and click on the desktop that I want to use, which was the one that I just left after closing the last app open in that space.


    March 17, 2008 at 6:44 pm


    Christian Kellner

    March 18, 2008 at 2:01 am

  5. $ defaults write workspaces-auto-swoosh -bool NO
    $ killall Dock

    now use F10 (Exposé) and tab to switch between the windows of just one space.

    (now the behavior of command+tab might be confusing)


    March 26, 2008 at 3:10 pm

  6. Clemens, cool. Got to try that! 🙂 .. yes and I should play more with the defaults command.

    Btw, just learned yesterday that 10.5 has the Netinfo Manager removed! I remember us playing with it years ago .. it’s good they removed it eventually. It was confusing if I remember correctly 🙂


    March 26, 2008 at 3:29 pm

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