Tame OS X Lion Mission Control Workspaces & Windows With Lots of Petting

Mission Control gives users of Mac OS X Lion control over their workspaces, application windows and interface as they work in Apple’s new operating system. It combines the old tools Spaces, Dashboard and Expose into one useful feature.

Launching the Mission

To invoke the feature click the Dock icon or swipe up on a trackpad with three fingers. Get rid of it with the same three finger swipe only in the down direction. You can also set up a hot corner preference which is accessible in System Properties. Click Mission Control and choose the Hot Corners button in the lower left. In the image below we have the upper right hot corner set to invoke Mission Control. When our mouse goes up to the far upper right corner Mission Control appears.

Mission Control Preferences Box in System Properties

Assign Mission Control to a Hot Corner in the Mission Control Preferences window in System Properties

On your Apple keyboard the F3 button will also bring up Mission Control. This gives a user lots of options for revealing the tool.

Mission Controls Previews

Mission Control in OS X Lion

Mission Control in OS X 1o.7 Lion

In Mission Control the Dock stays at the bottom, as usual. The desktop’s wallpaper image hides behind everything. We wish that you could click the desktop to quickly hide all the windows. Maybe in a future release. Clicking on the other thumbnails opens the window each one represents.

At the top of the screen are all of your desktops, full screen apps, workspaces and the Dashboard where you find useful widgets. You can add desktops by mousing to the upper right corner. A box with a plus sign appears. Click it to create a new desktop. You cannot rename desktops, which is a shame. They will be named with ascending numbers – Desktop 1, Desktop 2, etc.

Stacked Window Previews

Stacked Windows in Mission Control

A group of stacked Chrome windows in Mission Control

Each application preview can be clicked to show its Windows (see above). If you have more than one window of that app open, they will be stacked in a staggered fashion. You can click whichever window of that app you want to see.

Full Screen Apps

Pages Full Screen Button in Lion

As we noted, when in Mission Control, the thumbnails at the top represent your desktops. But also any app that is running in the new Full Screen mode will also be a preview at the top of Mission Control. Put an app in Full Screen Mode by clicking the two arrows in the upper right corner of the app’s window. Not all apps support this yet. Apple updated most of their software in the last week to support this new feature.

Unfortunately Full Screen Mode hides the content of your second monitor in dual monitor setups, making it nearly useless for those who like to use a second monitor. At least you can get out of the Full Screen Mode easily by either invoking Mission Control and choosing another workspace from the top row, or by pressing the ESC key to exit Full Screen Mode. Apple needs to address this problem. Why can’t Full Screen Mode put only one monitor into the mode while the other stays in normal mode? Or why can’t you put two apps into Full Screen Mode at the same time?

Manipulating Spaces and Windows

To switch from one space to another you can use a three-finger swipe to the side. This rotates between your spaces, desktops and full screen apps. As we said above, invoking Mission Control and clicking the space’s preview thumbnail will also switch to another desktop, space or full screen app too.

If you have more than one window of an app open, as we said above, it will show all of them stacked. To reveal them all, just swipe down with two fingers over the stack. Swipe up to return to your previous view.

Show App Windows with 3 Finger Swip

Notice all the Preview windows shown by swiping up over the Preview Dock icon

If you have a lot of different apps open, you can easily show all of the windows for that app by mousing to the app’s Dock icon and the use the same three finger down swipe action. Up shows the windows and down hides them returning to the previous space. All the windows that are shown can be clicked to go to that window.

Gestures Galore

It will take us some time to get used to all the different gestures needed to quickly manipulate windows and use the various features in Mission Control. Here is a list of the gestures in Mission Control:

  • 3 Fingers Up – invokes Mission Control.
  • 3 Fingers Down – hides Mission Control.
  • 3 Fingers Left/Right – switch between spaces and windows or full screen apps.
  • 2 Fingers Up in Mission Control – swipe over a cluster of windows to show them all kind of like a mini Mission Control inside Mission Control.
  • 3 Fingers Down over a Dock Icon – shows all of the windows of that app and get out of the view by either clicking a thumbnail or using 3 Fingers Swipe Up.
  • 3 Fingers and Thumb Pinch Out – shows your desktop.

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