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  • Spaces Are Very Cool – Keyboard shortcuts to switch between running apps

    Posted on July 13th, 2010 phpguru No comments


    If you have a Mac and aren’t using spaces for multi-tasking, you’re missing out on one of the great features of modern OSen. Encapsulation.

    Even novice computer users understand that a computer can run more than one program at once. Using many apps simultaneously is called Multitasking. For example, you can edit your vector artwork in Illustrator, import the .ai file into Photoshop and apply effects to it, and use the PSD in an InDesign layout. You can run all 3 programs at once, and edits are instantly available in the other softwares when saving. As a web developer, I’m routinely running multiple browsers, an IDE (I use NetBeans and Dreamweaver), a text editor (on PC I use UltraEdit and TextMate on Mac), plus Photoshop if I have to work on any design elements.

    Well, multi-tasking is one thing. But are you getting the most out of your 8GB of RAM and quad-core processor? Encapsulation, such as provided by Apple Spaces, takes it one step further and makes staying organized and more efficient easier than ever.

    If you’ve ever spent any time on a laptop after using a dual screen setup, you’ve gotten really friendly with Alt-Tab (application switching) and Control-Tab (tab switching in one browser, or window switching in applications like Photoshop or Microsoft Word).

    As a platform-agnostic PC-at-work / Mac-at-home kinda guy, I always think it’s great when Apple takes a killer feature from the PC world (the reverse applies, too, though less often) and makes it better. For the longest time on Mac, I yearned for an easy way to switch between applications like you could on a PC.

    Keyboard Shortcuts to Switch Between Applications on Windows

    To switch between running programs on Windows PC try these steps:

    1. Hold down the Alt key,
    2. and then press the Tab key,
    3. and press the Tab key to cycle forward through running apps,
    4. or hold the Shift key and press Tab to cycle backward,
    5. and let go of the Alt key to use the selected App

    Go ahead. Launch a few programs and practice. It sounds more complicated than it is and will become second nature to you in no time.

    Anyway, at some point in the past, Apple adopted this feature for OS X… and made it even better.

    Keyboard Shortcuts for switching between running applications on a Mac

    On a Mac, to switch between applications, you need to:

    1. Hold down the Command key,
    2. and then press the Tab key,
    3. and press the Tab key to cycle forward through running apps,
    4. or hold the Shift key and press the Tab key to cycle backward,
    5. and let go of the Command key to switch to the highlighted app,
    6. Or, while still holding the Command key, hover your mouse over any app you want to switch to before letting go of the Command key.

    Just by adding that single OR at the end, Apple made a fantastic productivity tool exceptional.

    For the record, on a Mac, from the running app, you can choose [Application name Menu] -> Hide [Application name] or [Application name menu] -> Hide Others… which applies to the running applications. And you can also option-click on the finder (background application) when you have an application open in the foreground to instantly hide the foreground application. And of course there’s the yellow minimize icon that stuffs the app into a spring-loaded folder in the dock, but I digress.

    appsutil_spaces20090608Now, for the frosting on the cake.

    What are Apple Spaces?

    Imagine having 4 or 8 Macs instead of one. Would you be more productive if had 4 Macs and you could switch between them instantly? Apple Spaces lets you have the appearance of several virtual machines (all copies of your Mac). What’s cool about spaces is now you can run a couple of different browsers in one space, iTunes in another space, and your web development tools in a third space, and all your design apps in a fourth space. This keeps all those floating palettes and application windows more organized and is a great new way to gain even more productivity. By utilizing Spaces, you’ll spend less time application switching because each Space contains its own list of programs assigned to that space. And all those seconds can really add up, especially if you’re on deadline.

    1. Enable Spaces by going to  -> System Preferences -> Exposé and Spaces
    2. Then, to activate Spaces, press fn+F8.
    3. With the Space selector activated, you can drag apps from one space to another,
    4. and to switch between Spaces, you can use Ctrl-Right-Arrow and Ctrl-Left-Arrow to move between spaces,
    5. or to instantly go to a space, hold Ctrl and type the number corresponding to the space, for example, Ctrl-2 instantly switches to the second space.

    Give that a try, Mac guy. If you don’t think Spaces and application switching is useful, you’re wasting time and missing out on the full potential of a modern computer’s power.