Managing Your Mac: Mission Control & Launchpad

One of the best features Apple has added to OS X in recent years is Mission Control. This feature can show you everything going on with your computer at a glance with the press of a button. If you’re running tons of apps at once, invoking Mission Control can be a huge help to calm the storm.

The Mission Control Screen

How Mission Control can help your producitivty

How Mission Control can help your producitivty

Mission Control can be activated by one of many ways by default:
1. Double tapping with two fingers on a Magic Mouse
2. Swiping up with four fingers on a Magic Trackpad
3. Pressing the Mission Control key on a Magic Keyboard

This feature is meant to be easily accessible. This view is the backbone to most people’s productivity. It can be used an application switcher or just to get an overview of what’s going on in another window. You should experiment with which way feels most natural for activating Mission Control for you.

My first instinct to combat people from moving every window around to find others is showing them Command-Tab. What I’ve found is that most people like visual representation of their applications more than a list off app icons.

By seeing everything happening on your computer from a top down perspective allows users to find what they’re looking for quickly. But that’s not where Mission Control ends functionality.

Separate Your Work By Spaces

I’m guessing we all wish for more screen real estate. Mac OS X gives you the ability to control multiple virtual desktop on your computer. Try separating your work by a few key tasks into separate Spaces. You can navigate through them by swiping on your trackpad or mouse.1 This bit of organization will help you get a sense of place on your Mac.

Use Full Screen Cautiously

One thing that I see a lot of Windows users try to do on a Mac right off the bat is maximize their applications. Unfortunately, this feature isn’t the same in OS X and can really slow you down when trying to navigate your computer.

When you hit the green button, you’re telling OS X to change your app into full screen mode instead of windowed mode. Since the Mac has a concept of Spaces, your app now lives in its own little area. Your dock and menu bar are still accessible, but you’re outside of your traditional desktop.

There are two ways to solve this problem. First, you could just not full screen anything which is usually what I recommend to people, especially recent Windows converts. Conversely, you can hold the Option key while clicking the green button. Holding Option tells the app to maximize and not full screen. Personally, how OS X maximizes a window bothers me because it doesn’t seem consistent, ever.

Having an application in full screen isn’t always a bad thing. I keep a full screen window of iTerm because I have my own “windows” nested in it. At the right time, full screen applications can cut down on distractions and really let you focus on what’s in front of you.

Launchpad is For iOS Users

The iOS homescreen comes to the Mac

The iOS homescreen comes to the Mac

Launchpad is iOS’s home screen ported to the Mac. This is apparently appealing to some people. Introduced a couple years ago, Launchpad is a late addition to the way people use the Mac.

Like iOS, Launchpad organizes your app icons into a grid. Apps can have arbitrary folders for different tasks. You can even search though your apps at the top of the Launchpad.

What I don’t understand about Launchpad is that it doesn’t actually manage anything. There is no connection between the organization of your /Applications folder and Launchpad. If you make a folder in Launchpad, it stays there. If you keep some applications in a folder in /Applications, Launchpad will have no clue that you do this.

Now, I don’t use this feature of my Mac because it frankly seems silly to me. People who come from iOS to the Mac seem to really like Launchpad.

As I’ve stated before, these shortcuts are designed to beneficial for how you work, not anyone else. Find the features that fit with how you like to use a computer, not how others work. I’m the last of the dinosaurs when it comes to operating my computer; you don’t have to listen to me. What I do think every Mac user should do is explore their Mac. Tweak things, try new apps, make your Mac yours. A stock Mac isn’t perfect for everyone, that’s why there’s choice.

Unlike iOS, the Mac is designed to bend to your needs. The multitude of productivity paradigms is daunting, but the right path will give you what you need.

Have questions about Mac productivity? Want to know more about a particular feature? Ask me on Twitter and I’ll be sure to get back to you!

  1. Use two fingers on a Magic Mouse and four fingers on a Magic Trackpad.