One of the most powerful and yet underappreciated features of the Mac OS is its use of virtual desktops, which Apple calls OS X Spaces.
Think of your computer screen, or desktop, as a single space. You can set it up how you like, with whatever apps you’re using in the moment. It can start to feel cramped when you need to, say, briefly check your email, or twitter feed. These sorts of actions – where you need to quickly interact with something and then get back to whatever you were doing – are a perfect way that spaces can increase your productivity.
Bring up Mission Control.
Mission Control is Apple’s term for displaying all of your apps and spaces at one glance. You can bring it up by tapping the F3 button on your keyboard. If you have it enabled in your Trackpad settings (open your Mac settings, click on Trackpad, and go to the section labeled ‘More Gestures’).
If you look at the top of the screen, you’ll see Desktop 1, and on the far right, a + sign. Click on the + to generate a second space or desktop (you can close extra spaces by hovering over their icon and clicking on the x that pops up in the upper left-hand corner – any apps running on a closed space will be moved to your other spaces).
Recent versions of OS X treat full-screened apps in OS X as individual spaces. If you full-screen an app by clicking on the green dot, it’ll move into its own space and you can interact with it just like any other desktop.
Switch to the new space.
There are several ways to move between your various spaces and full-screened apps. The easiest, if it’s enabled, is to use your multitouch trackpad. With a four-finger swipe to the right, you can switch to the new Space you just created. If a four-finger swipe doesn’t work, you can enabled it under the Trackpad Settings detailed above.
Once in the new space, you can open applications like usual, and they’ll open on this second screen. You can arrange them, full-screen them, even use Split View to put them side-by-side. If you’re working in your primary space, try using this second screen for communications like email or Slack.
To go back to your original desktop, with all the apps still running, just four-finger swipe to the left.
If you don’t want to use your trackpad, you can click on the individual Spaces from Mission Control, or switch between them by using Control + Left Arrow or Control + Right Arrow.
You can move apps between different spaces.
If you start an app on one desktop, you can move it to another one. Just enter Mission Control, and click and drag the window to whatever space you want at the top of the screen. You can similarly rearrange spaces this way, which is handy if you have several full-screened apps running at the same time.
You can also assign apps to always open on specific spaces by right-clicking on their icon in the Dock, selecting Options, and underneath ‘Assign To’, choosing a desktop Space.