Whether you're writing a report, editing home movies and posting them to YouTube, or managing complex spreadsheets, you want to do it as quickly and easily as possible. But because we all develop our own habits for using a computer -- maybe somebody showed us how to do things a certain way or we've figured them out on our own through trial and error -- we don't always work in the most efficient or organized manner.
This is especially true when we're new to an operating system. And for new Mac users and longtimers alike, Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard is filled with new ways of getting things done. That's where these tips come in. They're all about learning to make better and more productive of use of what's already there.
Keep your workspace organized with Spaces
One of the biggest computing productivity killers is having to pause to search through different windows and applications to find the one piece of data or button that you need. Keeping everything as organized and uncluttered as possible -- and knowing how to navigate through applications and documents quickly -- can cut out much of this frustration and downtime.
Enter Spaces, a feature introduced with Leopard that lets you create up to 16 virtual desktops. Each Space acts a discrete desktop, only displaying the windows that you open while in that Space or drag into the Space later (though every Space will display the Dock, menu bar and any desktop icons you have).
This lets you organize large numbers of open windows and applications in separate spaces and keeps them from overlapping and getting lost behind one another. You can have dedicated Spaces (one for office applications, one for e-mail and chat, one for Web surfing and another for iTunes) or you can simply drag windows from one Space to another on the fly as you find windows piling up.
To enable and configure Spaces, use the Expos & Spaces pane in System Preferences. You can choose to create as few as two or as many as 16 Spaces by adding rows and columns of individual Spaces, which line up in a grid format.
As great as Spaces is, the key is to tap its features effectively and not overcomplicate things. To that end, here are some tips for using Spaces well while avoiding being overwhelmed by it.
Use only as many Spaces as you need. If you need only two (say, one for writing and one for Web browsing), don't create eight of them; it'll take you longer to find documents in each one. You can always add more Spaces as you need them.
Turn on the Spaces menu bar icon. This allows you to always know which Space you're working in. It can also be used to switch to a specific Space or open the Spaces preferences (which are part of the Expos and Spaces pane in System Preferences).
Use keyboard shortcuts to switch among spaces. In my experience, keyboard shortcuts are the easiest way to navigate Spaces. By default, you can flip from one space to another by holding the control key and using the arrow keys (though you can customize this in the Spaces preferences). You can also enable switching to a specific Space by its number by holding the control key and the appropriate number key.
If you're more of a mouser, you can position the pointer against an edge of the screen to switch Spaces, which works well if you want to drag a window to another Space.