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Top tips for working with multiple desktops in Lion

A recent article looked at Mission Control and showed how it could be used to create multiple virtual desktops or spaces as Apple calls them. There is a lot more to working with multiple desktops and here is another bunch of tips to enable you to work better and more easily in OS X on your Mac.

Set the OS X desktop background
Are you bored with the background image on the Mac's desktop? Are you fed up with the photos of distant galaxies that Apple has been using for the last few generations of OS X? You can easily change it.

Go to the Apple menu in the top left corner of the screen, select System Preferences, click Desktop & Screen Saver and then the Desktop tab if it isn't currently selected. You can choose from Apple pictures and patterns, your photos in iPhoto and more.

Of course, you knew all that, but did you know that choosing a new desktop image only changes the current desktop? It does not change any of the others. Click Mission Control in the Dock or press the hotkey (F9 on my Mac), and select a desktop at the top of the screen. Go and change the background, select another desktop and set the background for that too. You may find it useful, or simply just fun, to have have different backgrounds for different desktops.

Desktop wallpaper in OS X

Automatically rearrange spaces
Two desktops or spaces are probably enough for most people, but some may want more. Mission Control lets you make as many as you want and if you mouse over the top right corner there is a desktop icon with a plus to create more. If you have three, four or more desktops you might expect them to appear in the order in which you created them in the thumbnail list at the top of Mission Control. However, they are actually placed in the order in which they were most recently used.

This behaviour can be customised and you can either have them in the order you specify (you can drag desktop thumbnails around to rearrange their order) or you can have OS X rearange them based on usage. It is up to you.

Go to System Preferences and click Mission Control. Tick or clear the tick against Automatically rearrange spaces based on most recent use.

Desktop wallpaper in OS X

Move apps and windows to other desktops
Go to Mission Control and you can see thumbnail images of all the desktops at the top and all the windows that are open on the current desktop. You can click and drag a window to a thumbnail at the top to move it to another desktop. Each application has an icon at the bottom of the window and if you click and drag the icon to a new desktop then the whole application including all its windows are moved.

To see this in action, open two or three Finder windows. Go to Mission Control and compare clicking and dragging a window to a new desktop and clicking and dragging the Finder icon. With the icon, all the windows move. It is useful for apps that use multiple windows like Finder, Mail, Safari and others.

Related articles
* Lion: Mission Control tips and secrets
* Snow Leopard: Make the most of the screen space
* Snow Leopard: Move applications from one space to another
* Snow Leopard: Start applications in their own Space
* Snow Leopard: Use multiple desktops



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