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How to Manage Multiple Spaces on macOS

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Keeping your Mac desktop organized amidst multiple open apps and scattered windows can be a challenge, but macOS offers a built-in solution to expand your workspace without needing an additional monitor: multiple spaces, also known as virtual desktops.

The concept behind multiple spaces is akin to having multiple desktops on Windows, where each virtual desktop acts as a distinct workspace. This feature allows you to organize your applications across different spaces based on your workflow needs. For instance, you can designate one space for productivity tools like Google Docs and Slack, while another space is reserved for leisure activities such as Netflix and Instagram.

Setting up multiple spaces is straightforward. Begin by launching Mission Control, macOS’s interface for managing open application windows. You can access Mission Control by clicking the dedicated Mission Control button (usually depicted by three rectangles above the F3 key), pressing Ctrl+Up arrow, or swiping up with three fingers on the trackpad.

In Mission Control, you’ll initially see your current desktop at the top. To create a new space, click the + (plus) button in the top right corner. Each new space you create will appear as a thumbnail at the top of Mission Control. Clicking on these thumbnails allows you to switch instantly between different desktops.

Every desktop shares the same dock and desktop icons, but you can run different applications on each desktop. Apps that support multiple instances, like web browsers and Finder, can be run separately on different desktops. However, apps like Photoshop are restricted to one instance across all desktops.

To move apps between spaces, simply drag them to the edges of the screen or arrange them within Mission Control. You can also specify which desktop an app should open in by default: Right-click on the app’s dock icon, select Options, and choose Assign To.

Navigating between spaces is intuitive. Besides using Mission Control, you can hold down the Ctrl key and tap the Left or Right arrow keys to switch between adjacent spaces. Alternatively, swipe left or right with three fingers on the trackpad.

While you can’t rename desktops, customizing each with different wallpapers helps distinguish between them. Right-click on a blank area of the desktop and select Change Wallpaper to set individual backgrounds.

To remove a desktop, right-click its thumbnail in Mission Control and click the X icon. This action doesn’t close open apps but consolidates them onto your primary desktop.

For advanced options, visit System Preferences > Mission Control under Desktop & Dock settings. Here, you can customize how macOS manages spaces based on usage patterns, treats multiple displays, and groups windows by application.

For enhanced functionality, consider utilities like Spaceman, which enhances the multiple spaces feature by displaying the current space in the menu bar and allowing custom labeling of spaces, adding even more efficiency to your workflow.