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Archive for June 4th, 2019

by Tom Nelson

Mission Control, originally released with OS X Lion, allows you to organize your windows, apps, and virtual desktops, as well as run small apps known as widgets, in a dedicated space. If it sounds like Mission Control is the Mac’s built-in window manager for users, you’re on the right track, but Mission Control does a good deal more.

A Bit of Mission Control History

Mission Control is actually a conglomeration of three earlier OS X Technologies: Dashboard, Exposé, and Spaces. Exposé, the oldest of the features, dates back to 2003, and the introduction of OS X Panther.

  • Exposé allows you to hide documents and app windows, or just as easily expose a window, app, or document you need to work on.
  • Spaces lets you create and manage virtual desktops, allowing you to organize activities to specific desktops, and then switch between them as needed.
  • Dashboard is a dedicated desktop that can run mini-apps called widgets. These small apps were based on web technologies: HTML, JavaScript, and CSS.

Mission Control united these similar technologies under a single roof, or in this case, a single preference pane, to control, configure, and make use of the windows and desktop management system.

What Mission Control Does: The Basics

Mission Control’s main task is to help you de-clutter your desktop and be able to work more efficiently, even when you have dozens of apps or windows open.

There are six key tasks that Mission Control allows a user to do:

  • View all open windows: Display all windows as thumbnails to ensure every window can be seen at the same time.
  • View all windows of a specific application: Displays all windows used by a single app. If needed, the windows will be displayed as thumbnails to ensure all of the app’s windows can be seen at once.
  • Hide all windows and display the desktop: All windows are hidden, revealing the underlying desktop.
  • Manage windows across multiple monitors: Allows windows to be moved to additional displays.
  • Manage apps and windows across multiple virtual desktops: Multiple desktops can be created, each having its own set of apps and windows assigned to it.
  • Manage Dashboard widgets: Controls how Dashboard widgets are displayed.

Mission Control uses a combination of keyboard commands, gestures, and mouse shortcuts to control its various capabilities. Learning the various shortcuts is the basis for making effective use of Mission Control and its ability to help you manage the workflow on your Mac.

Mission Control allows you to find any open window no matter how many other windows it may be hiding behind. Clicking or tapping one of the thumbnails will switch you to that window. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Setting Up Mission Control

The heart of Mission Control is its preference pane, which you can access using the following method:

Launch System Preferences by clicking or tapping its icon in the Dock, or by selecting System Preferences from the Apple menu.

In the System Preferences window that opens, select the Mission Control preference pane.

The Mission Control preference pane allows you to configure basic options as well as assign shortcuts to the various functions.

Place a checkmark in the box to enable any of the following functions:

  • Automatically arrange Spaces based on most recent use: If you’re going to use multiple virtual desktops (Spaces), this allows the most recently used desktop to be the easiest to access.
  • When switching to an application, switch to a Space with open windows for the application: This rather convoluted description just means that if an app you want to use is already open on a virtual desktop, it will switch to that desktop.
  • Group windows by application: When viewing all windows in Mission Control, have the windows organized by app.
  • Displays have separate Spaces: If you have multiple monitors you can assign each monitor its own virtual desktop.
  • Dashboard: This dropdown menu controls how the Dashboard feature is used. You can find out more in the Rocket Yard guide: Get Dashboard Up and Running Again in macOS Mojave. Although the article was written for Mojave users, its information is general enough for understanding the Dashboard options.

The Mission Control preference pane lets you customize shortcuts and adjust options. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Besides configuring the basic options, you can also set up shortcuts to use Mission Control by selecting a shortcut from each dropdown menu. You may have one or two dropdown menus for each item listed below. The second dropdown menu allows you to assign an alternate shortcut for the specific function. The alternate options are usually present when you have input devices with many I/O options, such as a multi-button mouse:

  • Mission Control: Use the dropdown menu to assign a shortcut to open Mission Control and display all open windows.
  • Application window: Set the shortcut that will be used to open Mission Control and display the windows of a selected application.
  • Show Desktop: This shortcut you assign will hide all windows and display the current desktop.
  • Show Dashboard: If Dashboard is enabled (see the option, above), this shortcut will display the Dashboard.

You’re not done assigning shortcuts to access Mission Control yet; you can also assign the corners (Hot Corners) of your display to be shortcuts to access Mission Control, as well as a few other functions of your Mac. Hot Corners are activated when you move the cursor into the corner of the display. If a Hot Corner is assigned for that corner, the function is activated.

Use Hot Corners to assign Mission Control features to the four corners of your monitor. Screen shot © Coyote Moon, Inc.

Click or tap the Hot Corner button in the Mission Control preference pane.

A sheet will drop down, displaying a thumbnail of your desktop with dropdown menus at each corner.

Use the dropdown menu to assign a function to any of the corners. The available functions are:

The first three are Mission Control options; the remaining ones involve other Mac OS features that are dependent on the version of the operating system you’re using.

Make your selections; you can then close the Hot Corner sheet as well as the Mission Control preference pane.

Read more on Rocket Yard, The MacSales.com Blog

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