How To Use Multiple Desktops On Your Mac

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Hi, this is Gary with

Today let's talk about using multiple desktops on your Mac.

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So one of the most powerful features of your Mac is the ability to have multiple desktops.

But a lot of Mac users don't know about this feature and they could really use it.

It's particularly useful if you only have one screen like most MacBook or iMac users


You can use this to simulate having multiple displays and it could really help you clean

up your workspace and be more efficient.

So take a look at what I've got here.

I have all these different windows open on this screen.

But what I can do is get rid of this mess by using multiple desktops.

Now this feature is sometimes called Mission Control.

Sometimes it's called Spaces.

Other people call it Multiple Desktops or using many desktops.

It doesn't matter what you call it.

The way to see your desktops is to use the keyboard shortcut Control up arrow.

This brings you into a mode called Mission Control.

Mission Control gives you an overview of all your desktops.

You can see at the top there I have one desktop.

Desktop 1.

If I move my cursor over it it will actually show me a small representation of the desktop.

Below I'll see all the windows in the desktop but kind of moved around so I can see them

all clearly so they're not overlapping each other.

To add a second desktop all I need to do is click the Plus button here and it adds Desktop


You can see that's empty.

I can switch between them by simply clicking on them.

So I can use Control up arrow to get here and then click on Desktop 2.

Now I'm at Desktop 2.

Control up arrow takes me back here and I can click on Desktop 1 to go back to Desktop


But a much easier way to do it is to use Control and right or left to quickly fly between these

multiple desktops.

On a Trackpad the default shortcut is to use three fingers on your trackpad and swipe with

three fingers left or right to move between them.

But you have to look in System Preferences to make sure you have that enabled.

So that's under Trackpad and then More Gestures and you can see here Swipe between full-screen


What this really means is any kind of desktop.

You also have Mission Control, Swipe up with three fingers.

Instead of use Control up arrow I could simple do a three-finger up swipe to get to the same


Now I could add a third desktop if I want and then I can use Control right arrow to

go to the second one, right arrow to go to the third one and then left arrow to go back

to the other two.

Now to move something to another desktop I can do the one of several ways.

I could actually click and drag this window.

While I'm still dragging I could use Control and right arrow to move to another desktop

and drop it there.

It's kind of hard to do.

To hold the trackpad and hit two buttons on the opposite sides of the keyboard.

So a better way to do it is to go into Mission Control and from there you can move your cursor

up to the top here to reveal all of these desktops.

You could drag from the bottom here onto another desktop.

So I could put this Safari window here on desktop 3.

So now I've got desktop 3 with this Safari window on it.

I can Control left arrow to desktop 2 with this Maps window on it and then Control left

arrow back to my first desktop with all of these windows on it.

I could use Mission Control to easily move things around.

So while in here I can still use Control left arrow and right arrow to go between desktops.

Then I could drag any window I see below here to any of these desktops to move it there.

So you can see how this kind of simulates having three displays.

Here's my first display.

Here's my second display.

Here's my third display.

It's like I've got three screens even though I just only have one MacBook sitting on my

lap or one iMac sitting on my desk.

I can only see one at a time so it's not as good as having three displays.

But it does help me clean up my workspaces.

Note that you can have multiple windows from the same app on different workspaces.

So here's a Finder window and here's a Finder window.

I can take this one and move it to another desktop here.

So I'll put that on Desktop 2.

So desktop 2 might now have this Maps window open here and a Finder window open with files

that relate to the task I'm doing here.

On this desktop I've got a separate Finder window open for doing other things.

So you can group the windows by what task you're doing.

Maybe one is for writing, ones for doing research, another's for email.

Now you can also easily rearrange these in Mission Control.

So, for instance, if I wanted to swap these desktops I could just click and drag them


Notice the names don't stick with the desktop.

Desktop 1, Desktop 2, Desktop 3 it is about the order they are in.

If I switched 3 with 2 they just get renamed so they are still 1, 2, and 3.

There are actually three different types of things that you could have here in Mission


We've only looked at one of them which is a full desktop.

A second one is an actual full-screen app.

So let's go and create another Safari window here.

I'll click on Safari and you notice it jumps right to that desktop with Safari on it.

I'll open up a new Safari window and let's say let's go to MacMost on this window.

Now I can go full-screen with this app by clicking the green button here or going to

View, and then Enter Full-screen.

Either one will take that app full-screen.

The Menu Bar is hidden.

I can get to it by moving my cursor to the top.

The Dock is hidden but I can get to it by moving my cursor to the bottom.

But otherwise this window takes up the entire screen.

I can't change the window size.

It goes from edge to edge.

Now if I go into Mission Control you can see now I've got my Desktop 1, Desktop 2, Desktop

3 and there's that full-screen app.

It goes in the list as well.

That's the second type of thing that can be here.

A third type of thing is anytime you use Split View which is like full-screen but with two

apps instead of one.

So let's say I've got Photos open here and the Finder here and I want to put these both

in a split view desktop.

I can hover over the green button here and then I have the ability to Tile Window to

the Left of Screen or to the Right of Screen.

So let's move this Finder window to the right side of the screen.

Then it has me select another window that was on the desktop for the left side.

Now I've got Split View.

If I go to Control Up Arrow for Mission Control you can see I've got Desktop 1, 2, and 3.

I've got that full-screen Safari here and I've got this Split View with Photos and Finder.

I can drag the middle line here depending upon which apps I'm using.

In this case the Finder can get pretty small on the right but the Photos can only go to

about halfway.

But now I've got this one desktop that is using two apps kind of sharing the screen.

You can use Mission Control to Exit this.

As a matter of fact Mission Control is a really handy way to have both of these apps leave

their split screen view.

Otherwise if I just hit the green button on one, the other one gets stuck in full-screen


But here I can click here and now it puts these both back on the original desktop they

were on.

I can get rid of any of these by using Mission Control and clicking on the X here.

I can, say, get rid of Desktop 3 and you can see that goes away.

I can exit Safari's full-screen mode by here and that goes away as well.

So there are a lot of different ways to use these.

Some people like just to have apps in Full-Screen mode.

So they'll have everything full screen mode.

Then they'll be able to use Control left arrow or right arrow to go between full-screen windows

for each app.

It's actually no problem if you want to drag and drop because you can click to drag something

like this link here and if you just go to another desktop using Control right arrow

I can still drop it there even though you've got apps in full-screen mode.

Other people like to use multiple desktops to separate their work spaces.

So maybe you've got, you know, your Safari window open here and with Photos because you're

working on those two apps in this one.

Then maybe create another one where you're doing a writing project and you have a Safari

window open for research for that.

Some people will have five, ten, fifteen different desktops open.

Each one for a different project they're working on.

So how you use this is really up to you.

There's so many different options.

You can ask ten different people how they use this and you'll find ten different ways

of using it.

There are a lot of options you should know about.

You go to System Preferences and then Mission Control.

First notice you've go the keyboard shortcut for Mission Control here and you can set it

to something else if you want.

We're going to look at more keyboard shortcuts in a minute.

Then you've got these checkboxes.

You've got Automatically rearrange Spaces based on Most recent use.

A lot of people are really frustrated by this.

They don't realize it's an option so they have it turned on and they complain that their

desktops and full-screen apps are always switching which position they are in.

A lot of times we keep the order in mind mentally and use Control and left and right arrow to

switch between them.

But having this turned on will really mess that up.

There's also the checkbox for When switching to an application, switch to that Space.

So, I've got the Maps app here for instance.

If I go to this desktop the Maps app isn't there.

If I use Command Tab and go to Maps it's going to jump me to that space there.

What if I wanted to open up another Maps window.

So what I can do here is I can turn that Off.

Now I can go over here.

I can switch to the Maps app and you can notice it doesn't take me to that space.

I am running Maps now and I can go and create a new window in this desktop.

Group windows by application simply means that when you go to Mission Control, Control

Up Arrow, notice how the two Finder windows are together here.

Well, if you have that turned Off and you do Control Up Arrow now they are apart.

So it's only a tiny difference.

Finally we've got a big one here if you've got multiple displays.

With this checked every display has its own set spaces.

So you could have two screens and go to one screen and then swap around and have multiple

desktops and things on that one screen leaving your first screen with the same desktop.

If you turn this Off then both of your screens will act as one big desktop and switching

from one desktop to another switches both screens.

Now this is such a big massive change that if you were to change it here you can see

it says Requires Logout.

Unchecking or checking this means you have to logout and log back in to see that difference.

For keyboard shortcuts go into System Preferences, Keyboard, and then go to Shortcuts.

There's an entire section here for Mission Control.

So you can find the main Mission Control shortcut there.

But also you could find the Move Left and Move Right shortcuts and keyboard shortcuts

for the first five desktops you create.

Also back in Mission Control here you can click on Hot Corners and you can assign a

Hot Corner to Mission Control.

So this means when I move my cursor up to that corner it activates Mission Control.

Just like hitting Control Up Arrow does.

Now there's one more big control we haven't seen anywhere here because it appears in the

Dock of all places.

If you Control click on an icon in the Dock and go to Options you'll see Assigned To.

Then you can set it to All Desktops, a Specific Desktop, or None.

Now in this case I have three displays so it also has an option for each one of those


So let's ignore that for now.

If I were to set this app, in this case Maps, to All Desktops what I get is something interesting.

This window here for Maps, if I go to the second desktop it's there in the same place.

The window appears everywhere.

So I can move it over here to the right.

Go back to this desktop and you can see it's moved over to the right.

I can resize it and move to this desktop and you can see it basically exists across all


Of if you go and assign it to a Specific Desktop what will happen is it stays on that desktop

even if you, say, Quit that app, go to another desktop, and let's launch this app again.

It's going to go back to that first desktop.

It's going to make this app stick on that desktop.

Even if I go here and I try to switch to that app no matter what my System Preference is,

it's going to switch to that desktop when I create a new window.

You can see it's going to force all new Maps windows into that desktop.

I can still go and move this window to another desktop afterwards.

So now you can see I've got them both there.

But if I create a new window it's always going to do it on the desktop that I've specified

here in the Dock.

So that's a look at using multiple desktops on your Mac.

If you notice there were a ton of different options and a ton of different ways to use


There is no one right way.

You can decide not to use this at all.

You can decide to have all your applications in full-screen mode.

You can decide to have a ton of desktops with different windows or split views or anything

you want to do or any combination thereof.

It's a tool that's built for you to use as you want.

The only thing I would say is if you're not using multiple desktops now you should maybe

give it a try.

If you don't like it just stop using it.

But you may find that it can improve your productivity once you get used

to it.