Apple

Multitask like a pro with these Mac tips

Knowing your way around your Mac desktop and windows can help you get more work done. Here's some tips to help you increase your productivity.

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Image: Sarah Tew/CNET

If you were to catch most professionals mid-task at work, you'd likely see a desktop awash with multiple windows, open tabs, and a million things going on at once. If you work on a computer, you're probably familiar with this scenario.

As you get busier and busier, it becomes a real struggle to remain efficient and stay productive. However, for Mac users there a few specific tools that can help you stay organized and stay on task.

Here are some tips to help you get more work done on your Mac.

Spaces

First, let's take a look at how desktops on a Mac work. Ever since the introduction of OS X 10.5 Leopard, Apple has provided users with the ability to create multiple "desktops" through a feature it calls Spaces.

Spaces can be viewed in Mission Control. To access Mission Control, simply press the F3 key. Or, if you want to be even more efficient, make use of the gesture controls that were introduced in OS X 10.7 Lion. If you are using a trackpad, such as on a Macbook, take three fingers together and swipe up towards the keys. If using a mouse, take two fingers and lightly double-tap on the top of the mouse. You can also click the Mission Control icon in your dock.

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Mission Control will show you all your open desktops and allow you to create new ones, as well as delete existing desktops that are no longer in use. To create a new desktop, move the mouse to the top right portion of your screen. You will see a ghost image of your desktop background appear. To create a new desktop, click the image.

New desktops will be named in ascending numerical order, so the second desktop you create will be Desktop 2 and so on. Once you have created a new desktop, you can get to it a few different ways.

First, in Mission Control, click the image of the desktop you wish to access. If you want to skip the step of going to Mission Control, you can switch between desktops with the keyboard or gestures. To move among desktops using the keyboard, hold down the "Control" key and use the left or right arrow key to navigate. Also, if you hold Control and hit the up arrow, that will take you back to Mission Control.

If you want to navigate using gestures, you can swipe left or right with three fingers together on the trackpad, or swipe left or right with two fingers on top of the mouse.

Certain apps can also be assigned to specific desktops. To do this, right click on the app within the target desktop, hover over "options" and, under "Assign to" select "This desktop."

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In Mission Control, you can click and drag desktops to reorder them. To delete a desktop, hover over it with your mouse in Mission Control and click the "X" that appears in the upper left corner of the desktop image.

Browsers

If you're like me, you probably spend an inordinate amount of time online during the work day. Fortunately, you can use full-screen viewing modes of browser windows like separate desktops in spaces.

To do this in Safari, simply click the green "+" symbol on the upper left-side of the window to maximize the window. The same can be done with Firefox and Chrome.

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This will turn the browser window into its own desktop, but it will only be counted as a part of whichever desktop you opened the browser in. This means that if you delete that desktop from mission Control, it will kill all of the maximized browser windows that were opened

You can navigate the browser windows exactly like you would the desktop spaces that we went over earlier. Still, even with multiple windows many of us still end up with multiple tabs in each of those windows.

To navigate multiple tabs within the browser there are two hot key combinations to make it work. First, you can use Control + Tab to cycle through your open tabs moving cyclically to the right. Second, you can use Command + Option and the left or right arrows to move left or right between open tabs in an individual window.

To quickly open a new, blank tab you can use the key combination Command + T. If you accidentally delete a tab you needed, you can recover the last tab you used by using the key combination Command + Shift + T.

Hot Corners

Perhaps the most polarizing productivity tool in OS X is hot corners. Hot Corners allows you to assign an action to each of the four corners of your desktop, meaning every time you push your mouse pointer fully into that corner of your screen, it will perform the task.

To activate hot corners, click on the System Preferences icon in your dock and click on Mission Control within System Preferences.

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Within Mission Control, you can change some of your mouse and keyboard shortcuts if you desire. To set up Hot Corners, click the Hot Corner button in the bottom left portion of the window.

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Within the Hot Corners window, you'll notice four drop-down lists. Each of these lists represents its corresponding corner of your screen. There are a plethora of options to choose from, including opening Mission Control or activating your screen saver.

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Once you've made your selections, click the blue "Ok" at the bottom of the screen and back out of System Preferences. Now, you'll be able to use Hot Corners.

Hopefully these tips will help you work smarter and remain efficient on your busiest days.

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About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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