Spaces (Mac OSX Leopard only)

One of the best new features, in my opinion, that Apple released for Leopard was Spaces. This new feature allows users to have anywhere from 1 to 16 different desktops. I love this function, as it allows me to keep all of my apps in different desktops, depending on what I’m using them for.


Right now I’m running 9 spaces in a 3×3 grid.  I had 4 in a 2×2, but found that I needed more, then I had 6 in a 3×2, but found that I’m weird and don’t like having my spaces form a rectangle. I like squares.

When Leopard numbers your spaces, it starts with the one in the upper-left-hand corner and counts left to right, so that the lower-right-hand corner is the highest number – in my case, 9. You can use keyboard shortcuts to switch between spaces, either by moving from one space to the adjacent one, or by specifying which space you want to navigate to. Let’s review:

To move to adjacent spaces, use Ctrl + arrow keys. When you do this, it automatically wraps around corners, so to get from space 3 to 4 is simply Ctrl + right arrow key. It does the same for going from 9 to 1 and back again.

To specify the specific space you want to move to, press Ctrl + number of space. This is easy if you are in space 5 and want to get to space 1 without the extra keystroke you’d use to go from 5 to 2 to 1.

However, the biggest advantage I see in Spaces is the ability to keep all your apps grouped together by function or purpose. For example, I keep all my communication apps in Space 1 – Mail and iChat – and iCal and Stickies stay in that space as well. I keep Safari in 2, Firefox in 3 if I use it, iTunes in 4, and so on. Most of the apps that I use on a regular basis have a space that they stay in, because I will lose them otherwise.

This meant that I always had to switch to the space I wanted my app to open in before I clicked it, so it really would open there, or open it and then move it. Not anymore.

You can assign your applications to always open in the same space. Automatically. I didn’t notice this until recently, when I saw a little box titled “Application Assignments”. To find it, open System Preferences, click on Expose and Spaces, and then select the Spaces tab. To add an assignment, click the little + sign underneath the box, select the application from the list, then tell the computer which space to assign the app to, using the drop-down menu.

This little function means my Safari windows always open in Space 2, and Numbers and Pages stay separate – very helpful for homework assignments that require me to keep flipping back and forth between them. I’m sure it’s been there for a while, and I just didn’t notice it, but if you are weird about keeping your Spaces organized too, and didn’t know about it, make sure you check it out.

I like finding more ways to personalize my computer for my preferences. It just means when I use a different computer, I have to remember that it’s different.
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12 Responses to “Spaces (Mac OSX Leopard only)”

  1. Janel Says:

    Cool! I had no idea you can assign programs to open in specific Spaces. I was having trouble keeping Mail in the space I opened it in. I would hope that this would help with the problem.
    Thanks -J

  2. Sarah Says:

    I’m having trouble using the keyboard to switch between spaces. No matter which key (command, option, control) I select to use, I can’t use the arrows to switch between spaces and when trying to use numbers can only switch into space 1. Has anyone else had this problem?

  3. Dave Says:

    I am having the exact same problem as Sarah. If I find a solution, I’ll post it.

  4. Stephanie Bowyer Says:

    Sarah – That’s pretty weird. I’ve never heard of that. Sorry I can’t be more helpful!

    Dave – Thanks for any assistance you can give Sarah.

  5. Dave Says:

    After poking around all day and trying different settings with out results, I rebooted. That fixed it. Coming from a Windows world for so long, I should have thought of that sooner. That is only the second time I had to reboot to fix something on my Mac, though. (The first was a DVD that the would not read or eject…read fine and ejected fine after a reboot).

  6. Saurabh Says:

    My spaces seems to have a mind of its own sometimes. I keep Word and PPT in Space 1, but it’ll randomly switch to Firefox in Space 2 by itself sometimes. What’s the deal? Anyone else having that issue, or have any idea to fix it?

  7. Nick L Says:

    I am having the exact same problem as Sarah also. Only Command 1 works to switch to Space 1. No other keyboard shortcuts work.

  8. RonR Says:

    I have the same problem with Firefox and Word switching back and forth randomly. Word seems to cause this to happen, it’s so aggravating that I have put both in one space and use Command Tab to switch between apps when I am doing research on Firefox and need to go to Word to paste something.

  9. Stephanie Bowyer Says:

    Ron, Microsoft applications (Word, Excel, and Powerpoint) do not play well with Spaces. This is a documented bug. I don’t know what they’re planning on doing about it.

  10. convive Says:

    I have tried to work with spaces for a while, but it didn’t suit me (yet). I would like different spaces, but for different projects I’m working on. So not different apps in diferrents spaces. But webpages, a word doc, a photoshop document from one project all in one space. In the next space I would like the same but for a different project.

  11. Caspian Says:

    Is there a Solution to Sarah’s Spaces problem? Seems I got it too but I did some digging and if I login as another user the problem seems to not materialized. Strange, must be a bug or mix up in the keyboard.

    Unibody Macbook 13″

  12. Matt Says:

    I have the same problem as Caspian, Sarah, and Nick L. Has anyone found a solution? I also have the unibody macbook 13″


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