Best way to use “Spaces” on Mac

I use spaces to segregate my most used applications with the first space being reserved for the application I’m using currently, e.g., Finder, if it is not one of delegated to a space.


With properly written apps (I know, I know!) it’s not a thing. App Nap will effectively sleep (temporarily shot down) apps that are not visible and inactive, while memory management will compress and swap out if necessary the RAM used by those applications. Here’s a decent article about App Nap – And one about memory compression That Ars Technica article also talks about App Nap in a more technical fashion.


I do it the same way

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I have tried many times to use space, but fail all the time and switch to my old Command + Tab habit with one space full of app (maybe 20 windows overlapping).
What I don’t like with space :

  • very hard to drag and drop files to a full screen app
  • you have to go through all spaces (swipe, swipe, swipe, ok) to find the good one and it can take few secondes

So now, I have a messy desktop and I only use space when I take time for an online course for example, when I need to focus.
But to me, spaces are bad at the moment. And I have found that it is often a nightmare for people who go from Windows to Mac. It’s not intuitive and people get lost !

So, since I like to have app in full screen (but not in a space), I have to hide the dock, otherwise I feel it is wasted screen :slight_smile: and I found this not ideal, but the best configuration at the moment.

Hi Zeph.
I know what you mean as it took me a couple of years after my switch to Mac to get used to, and now regularly use, Spaces. Here’s why it works for me now:

  • I’ve got used to 4-finger swiping up to get to Mission Control. From there, I can drag whichever window I want to the Space I want it in. I only swipe to a Space when I only have two active Spaces
  • To move a file, I have set F1 to to also bring up Mission Control. If I start dragging a file (with my right hand), F1 brings up Mission Control and I can choose which space to drop the file in. Hovering over a Space opens it so I can choose the app etc.

I love this set up now, but everyone works differently.

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Oh I’m as profligate with Spaces as some people are with browser tabs. (I’ve got seven of them going at this very moment …) My main beef with the touchbar is that I can’t pound away at the F3 key with the wanton abandon I’ve grown accustomed to.

Basically, each distinct thing I’m working on gets its own Space. That space may be occupied by one full-screen app (e.g., Lightroom), multiple windows of the same app, or a bunch of windows for a bunch of different apps—whatever it is that the workflow requires.

The Victorian British explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton had in his house a separate desk for every project he was working on. When it was time to lay aside work on one project and take up work on another, he’d simply get up from the desk he was at and move to the desk he’d dedicated to the thing he wanted to work on next. That’s how I try to use Spaces.


Coincidentally I just watched this, which is very useful.


Sigh. For whatever reason I have never been able to get that gesture to stick. Ditto using Control + the Up Arrow, even though the latter should be just as easy as a function key.

Spaces is probably the single feature that most keeps me on the Mac. Apple’s implementation of virtual desktops, when paired with their excellent trackpads and multi-finger gestures (lightly customized) makes organizing and navigating through dozens of windows on multiple displays a delightful breeze.


Using Karabiner Elements I have my left command key bound so that when pressed by itself, it activates mission control. Not sure if that’s a substitute that would fit you or not.

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I uses spaces heavily, but I don’t have any methodical process or SOP. I tend to organize my spaces by “feel”—what arrangement of apps will enable me, at a given time, to get to everything that i need quickly and smoothly. As a general guideline, i will usually group all my communication tools in one space that is only one space immediately left of what I am considering the “main” space for my current project. Maybe this is too vague to be helpful, but the take away is just that (for me) being able to flexibly define how I want to use my spaces in the moment has been very effective for me. It’s another great tool in the productivity arsenal.

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I use spaces a lot - the only annoying thing for me is that they can’t be controlled by windowing apps.

If I used a laptop with a touch bar a lot, I’d probably would end up doing something like that, or, at the very least, would force myself to adopt Control + the Up Arrow. Fortunately I do most of my work on an iMac.

If we had the option of configuring the Dock and Desktop (not the desktop picture, but what is on the Desktop) differently in each Space, Spaces would be extremely useful. Imagine Space 1: its Dock with photo apps and its Desktop with aliases of photo folders. Space 2: work apps in the Dock; aliases of current work project folders on the Desktop. You could set up other Spaces for family, upcoming travel, etc.

Some of the Dock replacements, such as uBar, provide a way to have differently-configured Docks on different displays. But I don’t think any of them have tackled separate Docks for separate Spaces.

When Apple introduced Spaces (it seems like that was during the Truman administration), I assumed separate Docks and Desktops would be the next step. I remember thinking, “Spaces will be useful once the concept is developed.”


Hi @adabbagh (and all others on this thread).

I use Mission Control Desktop Spaces extensively on my MacBook Pro and iMac. Through many years of use, I’ve discovered the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’ve addressed some of the shortcomings in a set of Keyboard Maestro macros shared on the KM forum: Desktop Spaces • Macros to Improve Navigation and Window Management

Even if you are not a Keyboard Maestro user, you’ll likely find some useful information and links in this post.

At first blush, I thought Ventura Stage Manager might supersede Desktop Spaces; but to the contrary, it seems the two work together quite nicely: An In-Depth Look at macOS Ventura Stage Manager


Thanks @jim_sauer! Stage Manager on macOS seemed to me like a nice feature that I might use (especially if I start using it a lot on iPadOS). Now, however, after seeing the macMost video you linked and seeing how stage manager works across multiple Spaces, I think i will use that a ton. It was also nice to learn that you can put windows on top of that sidebar on the left of the screen.


I use workspaces (I refuse to use the Apple marketing name lol) to separate projects. I try not to run more than 3-4 workspaces at most, because if an app quits or crashes that has windows spread across workspaces (like Safari), then I have to play the dealer and start flicking all the windows back to their respective workspaces.

I’m looking forward to find out if Stage Manager addresses this issue.

Gnome, KDE, and Windows handle workspaces a bit better imo, if I launch an app that is open on another workspace, it opens a new window on the workspace I’m on, instead of cycling between workspaces like macOS does.

My always biggest, and until now unsolved, problem is the setting after a restart.
I use a set of multiple desktops, with some Apps in Fullscreen-Mode, and I always have to reset the location of the Apps after a restart of macOS.
While there are several Apps I could use to rearrange Apps on a single Desktop, and “snap” them into places, I haven’t figured out a good way yet, to do so with a lot of Apps on a lot of Desktops.

Has anybody a real working solution for this problem?



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Hi @Ulli, if you use Keyboard Maestro, you might find this forum thread helpful: Workspaces in Mission Control Desktop Spaces

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