Saturday, October 23, 2010

Spaces the final frontier

This week in the Apple universe has been quite busy, as this week Apple hold the special event called "Back To Mac" to showcase their latest products.  We were first treated with the new iLife 11 suite (which look really great btw), those gorgeous new Macbook Air (I really want to get the 11' inch) and also got a small glimpse of some of the new feature in OSX Lion.  They are of course the Mac App Store which really deserve its own blog post, but this is not what ill discuss in today post but the full screen apps + Spaces combos.

You may wonder why discuss about this now, when OSX Lion is not scheduled to be release before summer 2011?  Well for first, Spaces is already available on OSX since the introduction of Leopard and second they are a few apps already supporting full screen (though the way its currently done might change with OSX Lion).  Some of you might be already familiar with this and be avid user of it (hi @snappytouch) and especially if you have been using UNIX/X11 with virtual workspace and/or Amiga with different screens for apps.

So now let see how you have to configure/setup this so it just work*, which could also help you in your productivity.

The first thing that you will need to do is to configure the preferences of Spaces which you can access from the System Preferences.

Make sure first that the check box for "Enable Spaces" is checked.  Then you should see a number of squares below which will indicate how many virtual screen/space you will have.  By default for myself I was leaving it at 4, but now since I want to push the full screen paradigm further I increase this to 9.

The second section is where its start to get interesting, you can assign specifics application to a certain Spaces.  Which mean that each time you will launch this particular application it will go directly to the right Space.  This is quite convenient and powerful to keep thing organize and that you don't have to re-setup each time.

Next section is to make it more convenient to travel between the different Spaces by assigning different shortcuts.  The first one which is to activate Spaces will bring you a quick visual overview of all the different spaces you have setup, you can then choose the one you want to switch too.  Another interesting feature in this mode is that you are able to click and drag windows from an applications and bring them to another Spaces.  Finally you can configure the arrows shortcuts for even quicker navigation between the different Spaces or even better the number keys to go directly to the right one.

Once you have the different Spaces setup and ready to hold your favorite applications, the only good thing left to do is to set them up in full screen ;-).  This will vary depending on each of the applications you will be launching.  For most of them you will need to use the classic zoom functionality of the window, which will simply maximize the windows to take the entire desktop screen.

This can be achieve by either click the little green button on the left side of the window or by going into the menu bar under Window and select Zoom.  But this way you still keep the Apple menu bar and of course the window can still be move around, it can be good/bad depend on you see it.

For some other application such as Chrome, Firefox they are an option to switch to full screen which do fill the entire screen from top to bottom and left to right.  This way the only thing you will see on the screen is the interface of that application and nothing else (which you can see from the above screen shot of my desktop spaces the iDevBlogADay and Nectarine web page rendered in full screen).  That can be a god way to stay focus on the task at hand without being distracted by other applications.

So I am really looking forward to see how Apple will implement this OSX Lion, like is it something that will available automatically to any applications such as the Zoom functionality?  Or will the developer will need to code their application specifically to support this?  I hope its the former, as this would mean any application that I am interesting to see only on the screen ill be able to do so.  Currently as you can see above I have set up a Space to put my social networking (Twitter), one for for browsing the web (well 2 actually, as one is for Chrome and another one for Firefox), of course one for development with Xcode.  I have another one for my graphics work (I've put both Inkscape and GIMP there) and also have other for other miscellaneous applications.  The best is to try to organize them by putting taks together, set it so its easy for you to navigate quickly between them so that each serve for their respective tasks.

But they are "One more thing...".

To make sure you really can take most of the entire space in full screen, I highly recommend that you change the following settings :

In the Dock preferences that can be access from the System Preferences make sure the "Automatically hide and show the Dock" is checked.  This will allow to have the  Dock hide by default which will give you more space for your full screen apps and it wont get in the way (it will just pop up if you hove at the bottom few last line of pixels).

Also don't forget your friend Exposé if you want to get back to other window/applications since in your running your application in full screen you wont be able to easily switch between them.  Exposé will show you the different windows of the different applications running in your Spaces.  If you want to be even quicker you can also use the CMD-Tab shortcut which will let you cycles between the different applications.

So now if you forgive me I have other galaxy to explore, new worlds to discover...

* N.b. it may happen sometimes that the keyboard might just hang while trying to switch to a different Spaces.  I never encounter myself, but some people did, one of the easy solution if you ever encounter this is to restart the Dock.

This post is part of iDevBlogADay, a group of indie iPhone development blogs featuring two posts per day. You can keep up with iDevBlogADay through the web site, RSS feed, or Twitter.

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