9 Tips to Get the Most Out of Mission Control in Mac OS X

Jun 21, 2012 - 21 Comments

Mission Control tips

Mission Control is a powerful window and app manager built directly into Mac OS X, it combines elements of Virtual Desktops (Spaces), an application switcher, and a window manager, into one easy to use centralized location.

If you aren’t using this excellent Mac feature on a regular basis then you should reconsider, learn a few new tricks, and give it another try, so with that in mind here are nine tips to help master Mission Control.

Remember, to access the broader Mission Control view you use a four-finger swipe up on the trackpad, or a two finger double-tap on the Magic Mouse.

Show All Windows Belonging to a Single App

Hover over the app icon in the Dock and then swipe down to reveal all windows for that app only

Rearrange Desktops & Full Screen Apps

You can quickly rearrange the placement of multiple desktops and even full screen apps by entering into Mission Control and then dragging each app or desktop to a new location within the Spaces shelf

Assign Apps to Desktop Spaces

Once you have at least two Spaces available, go to the Space you want to assign an app to, then right-click on any Application from the Dock and choose “Options” followed by “Assign to Desktop”. Now anytime you select that app you will be transferred to the assigned desktop.

Shuffle Windows Between Desktops

Click and hold any window and then hit Control+2 to move the window to the second desktop. Use Control+Number to switch the window to any other active Space.

Close Desktops & Spaces

From Mission Control, hold the Option key to be able to close Spaces. Closing a Space that contains active windows will merge those windows with the nearest Space.

Speed Up Mission Control Animations

Speeding up the animation time of Mission Control can make Mac OS X feel faster, launch the Terminal and enter the following command:
defaults write com.apple.dock expose-animation-duration -float 0.15;killall Dock

Stop Spaces Automatically Rearranging Based on Use

Annoyed with how Spaces rearranges itself based on your app and desktop use? Toggle this setting off within System Preferences > Mission Control.

Immediately Activate the Screen Saver

By using Hot Corners you can instantly activate a screen saver. Enable the corner that works for you within System Preferences > Mission Control

Change the Mission Control Wallpaper

Tired of linen? Change the background wallpaper to anything else just by replacing an image file, here’s how to do that.

Mission Control in OS X

You can review our Mission Control posts for more great tips and tricks for the feature. And of course, if you have any of your own tips for Mission Control in Mac OS X, do let us know in the comments!


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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS, Tips & Tricks


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  1. teladoy says:

    all I wish it has more features, I use all the time means all the time I am still on 10.8 and it works great.
    if it is so bad why windows 10 will finally copy this app.
    you all wrong.

  2. Avenged110 says:

    Now I just wish there was a way to bring the linen back in Mavericks! Solid dark gray is so boring and smooth, not a fan.

    Also just ftr, I much prefer mission control to the old ways. Looks much better.

  3. coovara says:

    In Spaces you could grab a window from inside another desktop and move it to the desktop you are in. Now you have to be in the same desktop as the widow you are moving.

    So annoying! I used the feature of moving the window in the other desktop to the current one in spaces more than any other feature.

    …I miss Jobs…

    • Solano says:

      OMG, don’t I know it! Jobs is rolling in his grave at things like this and the bug-ware known as iOS7!

      • teladoy says:

        you can do that too if you know how
        open MC place you arrow in any window and dragit it to any desktop vola.

  4. KathyO says:

    I got so excited about Tip #7! I thought perhaps there truly was a way to get the apps to stick in their locations so that, for instance, Chrome was always upper left or Word was always middle right. But I guess this preference setting is for the order of the multiple spaces, not the order *within* a particular space. I sure wish the latter were available. Is there an app for that?

  5. Jeff says:

    If your in an application with multiple windows you just swipe down with 4 fingers to reveal all the windows for that app.

    Open up multiple browsers then swipe down with 4 fingers and they will all be exposed adjacent to each other!

    Mission control works different than expose and spaces but I feel its more integrated and intuitive. :)

  6. Martin says:

    For showing all windows specific to a single application, hovering over the app icon in the dock and swiping down to reveal all windows for that app only doesn’t work for me. Used three and four fingers on Lion and still does not work. Double tapping does though.

    I agree with the earlier comment that Mission Control is terrible.

  7. scott says:

    Is it just me or are these not tips at all? When did Apple become as difficult as Windows computers?

  8. Jos says:

    Me no like

  9. cnn says:

    i only want ML for icloud support. i wish there was a way to have icloud support for all apple apps on SL. i use the iphone notes a lot

  10. Tim says:

    I’d find it functional if it could show minimized windows. Other than that, it’s marginally useful.

  11. Rico says:

    Mission Control sucks PEROID!

    • John says:

      I agree, Exposé and Spaces was a much better combination.

      • TheDoctor says:

        Full agreement. I’m still using Snow Leopard on my work Macbook because Exposé is an integral part of my workflow. It’s the fastest way to get to a specific window: one click with my middle mouse button – which invokes Exposé -, one click on the window I want, done. But I have to use Lion on my home Mac and hate Mission Control there every day.

        Mission Control sucks balls. It’s simply a cluttered mess, especially when working with several applications and documents at once. I still can’t believe that Apple introduced something that is such a huge step backwards in usability.

        I would even pay money for a decent third-party app that brings back the old functionality. It’s almost a year since Lion has been released, and it’s hard to believe that still no one has released such an app.

  12. Sjoerd says:

    Where’s that wallpaper from?

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