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Managing Your Applications and Windows

Learn how to take control of your applications and windows in macOS Sierra including: desktop and application navigation, how to create spaces to make more room for you work, finding your way around Mission Control, and working with applications in Launchpad.

This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

As applications become more complex, so does the task of managing them. Software is installed everywhere, windows are spread out over your desktop, and just trying to find your way through the maze of information overload can be nightmarish. Sierra attempts to bring the madness under control by way of Mission Control.

Mission Control, combined with features such as Spaces, Launchpad, fullscreen apps, auto application, and window restoration, makes it easy to navigate the most cluttered computer. The biggest problem? Many of these features are hidden until you invoke them. In this chapter, you learn how to do just that!

Maintaining Order of Application Windows with Mission Control

One of the big benefits of modern operating systems is that they enable you to run multiple applications at once. Unfortunately, no matter how much screen space we have, we always need more! To help manage the ever-expanding collection of windows that you need to work within, Apple provides Mission Control as part of macOS. Mission Control helps you view your running apps, see the windows they have open, and even expand the amount of desktop real estate you have available.

As you’re about to see, in Mission Control terms, a “space” is a single screenful of information. It can be your typical desktop, a full-screen app, or even additional desktop views that you create.

Open and Close Mission Control

To manage Mission Control and access its features, follow these instructions:

  1. Slide three fingers up your trackpad, double-tap two fingers on the Magic Mouse, or press the Mission Control key (F3) on your keyboard. Mission Control opens. Spaces appear on the top; the current space is in the center of the screen.

  2. Slide three fingers down on the trackpad, double-tap two fingers on the mouse, or press the Mission Control key again. Mission Control closes.

Navigating Applications and Windows

When you start Mission Control, your current space (probably your desktop, if you’re starting Mission Control for the first time) is front and center, along with representations of each app running in the space and its windows.

To switch between applications and their windows, do the following:

  1. Start Mission Control.

  2. Click a window to exit Mission Control and bring the chosen window to the front.

  3. To preview the contents of a window, position your pointer over the window and then press the spacebar. Press the spacebar again to hide the preview.

Create and Populate a New Space

Modern applications look like the cockpit controls of advanced aircraft; it can be overwhelming finding your way around a single application—let alone 10. With Mission Control, you can create new desktop spaces dedicated to whatever applications you’d like. To do so, start Mission Control and follow these steps:

  1. Move your mouse to the upper-right corner. The top of the screen expands to show thumbnails of your spaces, and a + button appears as your mouse approaches the corner. Click it.

  2. A new space is created and a depiction of its contents is added to the top of Mission Control.

  3. Drag application windows from the current space to the thumbnail of the new space.

Switch Between Spaces

After you’ve created a new space, you can switch to it via Mission Control or using a trackpad gesture:

  1. Start Mission Control.

  2. Click the space thumbnail you want to display, or swipe left or right with three fingers to move between spaces.

  3. Click the background to exit Mission Control.

Close a Space

It’s so easy to create spaces, you might find yourself with some extra ones you need to get rid of. To close out a space, follow these steps:

  1. Start Mission Control.

  2. Position your cursor over a space at the top of the screen.

  3. An X appears in the upper-left corner of the space thumbnail. Click the X to close the space. Any windows within it move back to the primary desktop space.

Create Fullscreen Application Spaces

Spaces are great for providing more, um, space for your windowed applications, but they also serve as a “container” for your fullscreen apps. Rather than a fullscreen application eating up one of your desktop spaces, it automatically creates a new dedicated space when it starts and removes it when it stops.

  1. Click the green double-arrow button in the upper-left corner of an application window to enter fullscreen mode.

  2. A new space is created and is visible in Mission Control.

  3. Switch to and from the space exactly as you would any other. When you’re done using the fullscreen app, either quit the application or exit fullscreen mode by pressing the Escape key or moving your cursor to the top left of the screen and clicking the green button again. The space is automatically removed from Mission Control.

Create Split-Screen Application Spaces

Sierra has the ability to create split fullscreen spaces—that is, a space shared by two fullscreen applications (very similar to an iPad). To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Click and hold the green double-arrow button in the upper-left corner of an application window to enter fullscreen mode.

  2. While continuing to hold the mouse/trackpad button, drag the window to the left or right of the screen. The screen side highlights to show it is selected.

  3. Release the mouse button to enter split-screen mode with the application.

  4. Sierra displays the options for your second application window (other open apps) beside the app you’ve chosen. Click a window to expand it to fill the second half of the screen.

  5. Drag the divider line to change the amount of screen space allocated to each app.

  6. Switch to and from the split-screen space exactly as you would any other. When you’re done using either app, quit the application or exit splitscreen mode by pressing the Escape key or by moving your cursor to the top left of the screen and clicking the green button again. The space is automatically removed from Mission Control once both apps have exited.

Choose Between Application Windows

When you just need to navigate your windows, the Mission Control Application windows option comes in handy. Using this, you can show all your application windows, or just the windows for a specific program, with a single click.

  1. To display all the windows open within an application, click and hold an active application’s icon in the dock and choose Show All Windows. Alternatively, press Control+down arrow.

  2. The screen refreshes to show miniature versions of your windows. Minimized windows appear in the bottom portion of the display; active windows appear at the top.

  3. Press the Tab key to switch between active applications, limiting the miniaturized windows to the highlighted application.

  4. Click a window to select it and move it to the front.

Show the Desktop

Sometimes you need quick access to the files on your desktop, and rearranging windows (or using the Finder’s Hide menu) isn’t very efficient. Mission Control’s Show Desktop feature comes in handy here:

  1. To clear all the windows off the screen so that you can temporarily work with the desktop, press F11 (you need to hold down the function key).

  2. You can now work within the desktop with no obstructions. Press F11 again to return the windows to their original positions.

Configure Mission Control Features and Shortcuts

If you have a specific way of working and want to customize how Mission Control or any of its features is activated, just follow these steps:

  1. Open the System Preferences application, and click the Mission Control panel icon.

  2. Uncheck Automatically Rearrange Spaces Based on Most Recent Use if you prefer that Sierra keeps your spaces in the same order you add them, regardless of your usage patterns.

  3. In most cases, leave When Switching to an Application, Switch to a Space with Open Windows for the Application check box checked. This indicates that when you switch to an application (using the Dock or Command+Tab), you automatically switch to the space that contains its open windows.

  4. If you prefer application windows to be grouped under their application icon in the Mission Control display, check Group Windows by Application.

  5. If you’re lucky enough to have multiple monitors connected to your Mac, check Displays Have Separate Spaces to have each display act as a separate work area with its own collection of fullscreen apps and workspaces. To use the monitors as a single unified space, uncheck this option.

  6. Use the Dashboard pop-up menu to choose whether Dashboard should be its own space, displayed as a transparent overlay, or turned off entirely.

  7. At the bottom of the panel, use the pop-up menus to configure keyboard and mouse button combinations to invoke the Mission Control features and Dashboard.

  8. To trigger these features by moving the mouse to the screen corners, click the Hot Corners button.

  9. Use the pop-up menus beside each screen corner to choose among the different options. After you’ve made a selection, just move the mouse into that corner to invoke the feature.

  10. Click OK when finished.

  11. Close the System Preferences.

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