One of the features introduced with OS X Lion was Mission Control—a feature that can be useful, but is often ignored by Mac users. In the next few minutes I’ll show you ways to put Mission Control to good use in the hope that you’ll find reasons to incorporate it into your computing life.

Download Macworld Video #181

• Format: MPEG-4/H.264

• Resolution: 480 x 272 (iPhone & iPod compatible)

• Size: 10.8 MB

• Length: 6 minutes, 20 seconds

Show Notes

We’ve covered Mission Control a time or two in print. See What’s New in Lion: Mission Control and Launchpad, Take More Control of Mission Control, More Ways to Master Mission Control, How to Make Lion’s Desktop Spaces Stick, Make Apps Appear Correctly in Mission Control, and Controlling Mission Control With Your Keyboard.

To subscribe to the Macworld Video stream via iTunes, click here.

You can also see a complete archive of all our videos on Macworld’s YouTube channel. Subscribe to that channels and you will be notified whenever we post a new video.

Or just point your favorite podcast-savvy RSS reader to:

Show transcript (approximate)

Mission Control is a way of creating multiple desktop environments or spaces. So, one desktop could be for your Finder windows, another for iTunes, and yet another one for Safari. This is helpful in a couple of ways. If you have limited Desktop space, as you would on a smallish laptop, you can use Mission Control as a way to expand that space so that your Desktop is less cluttered. It’s also a nice way to organize your work by tasks—so put Address Book and iCal in the same desktop space when you’re organizing your life.

Working with Mission Control is easy. Just click Mission Control in the Dock, swipe up with three fingers on a trackpad, or press the keyboard’s Control-Up Arrow keys to expose Mission Control. By default you see two spaces—one for Lion’s Dashboard and another for the current single Desktop space.

To add a space, just move the cursor to the top-right corner of the screen and click the Plus button. To add another space, click that Plus button again. To activate a space, just click on it.

To help identify spaces, let’s change the Desktop background of this space. I’ll Control-click on the desktop, choose Change Desktop Background, and choose the Beach image. Now when I invoke Mission Control I can easily see that this space looks quite a bit different from my regular desktop.

Let’s go back and create another space and select it. I can change its background as well but let’s do it a different way. I’ll return to the previous space by pressing Control-Left Arrow. My Desktop & Screensaver window is still there. I now drag it to the far right of the screen and hold it until the space switches to the one on the right and brings the window with it. I can now change the look of that desktop. And, as I press Control-Left and then Control-Right Arrow, you can see that all the desktop patterns are different.

So, that’s one way to put windows and apps in a space. Here’s another. Move to a space that you want to hold a specific application or two. Then click and hold on an application in the dock that you’d like to add to that space. Choose Options from menu that appears and then, from the submenu, choose Assign to This Desktop. When launched or switched to, that application will now appear in this space.

I’ve added iCal. I’ll now add Address Book as well. When I do this I now have easy access to the apps I use to create contacts and appointments—the kind of things I’m likely to do at the same time.

The other way that desktop spaces are created is through full-screen apps. Let’s take Safari for example. When I launch Safari it opens by default in a window. If I click on the Full-Screen button in the top-right corner, the Safari window fills the screen and I find that when I invoke Mission control it’s become its own Desktop space which I can switch to like any other space.

Here’s something to pay attention to. Note that Safari is in the last space. I’ll return to it and click the button to take me back to window view and invoke Mission Control. Once again, I have three spaces instead of four. And I do because Safari is no longer in full screen. When I return it to full screen, it once again becomes a desktop space.

Now let’s go back to the first space and I’ll switch to Safari by pressing Command-Tab and choosing Safari. Invoke Mission Control and you see that Safari is now in the third-position rather than the fourth. It is because of a setting in Mission Control’s preferences that arranges spaces based on their most recent use. If you don’t like that behavior you can turn it off by uncheck that option.

One more thing before we go. Suppose you want to remove some of the spaces you’ve created? No problem. Just bring up Mission Control, move your cursor over a space, wait for an X to appear, and click that X to remove the space. Any apps or windows open in the space you’re closing will open in the first space after the Dashboard space.

And that’s the basics of Mission Control. Thanks for watching.

Note: When you purchase something after clicking links in our articles, we may earn a small commission. Read our affiliate link policy for more details.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon