Pro tip: Leverage desktop management features with Mac shortcuts

OS X Mavericks includes several features to help users move easily between applications. Begin using these shortcuts to save time and simplify navigation.

Mission Control

Occasionally, we encounter a previously overlooked shortcut, such as pressing the [command] and [tab] keys simultaneously to move between active windows. The discovery is often cause for joy. Not only does the newfound knowledge make us feel cool when wielded in the presence of others, but the feature truly makes it easier to move between active applications and we become more productive.

Apple has packed numerous shortcuts within Mavericks, but many users have forgotten are unaware such navigational aids exist. Make sure you try the following shortcuts if you haven't already incorporated them into your workday.

Mission Control

A simple three-finger up gesture -- using either the Magic Trackpad or Magic Mouse -- launches Mission Control. Whenever working with multiple windows, and today's demanding business environment typically requires users to incessantly multitask, Mission Control reduces the size of each active window and displays all active windows at once, enabling users to quickly select the next application needed.

Seemingly a small detail, consider how often you switch between applications each day by moving, uncovering, and maximizing / minimizing different windows. The tally could literally reach into the hundreds each day. Using Mission Control to simplify locating and changing windows may only save a second and a keystroke or mouse click or two, but those keystrokes and clicks add up over the course of just a single week.

Mission Control can be reached other ways, as well. Users can select the icon from the Mac's Dock. Users can also configure a hot corner such that, when placing the cursor in a specific corner of the display, Mission Control opens automatically. For example, to configure Mission Control to open whenever the mouse is placed in the top left corner, just follow these steps:

  1. Open System Preference
  2. Select Mission Control
  3. Click the Hot Corners button
  4. Select Mission Control from the drop-down box representing the top left screen corner
  5. Click OK


Launchpad is another well-publicized feature that I rarely see Apple users utilize. Using the Magic Trackpad or Magic Mouse, the three-fingers down thumb-up gesture triggers Launchpad, in which applications appear as icons just as they do on an iPhone or iPad. Leveraging Launchpad, users can more quickly locate and open applications than if were they to open Finder, navigate to the proper directory, and then double-click the desired application.

Users can also configure a hot corner to open Launchpad, or it can be reached from the Dock.

Show desktop

Often users seek to cut through numerous open windows and just view the desktop. Apple has included a gesture for this, but it's a little tricky: place a thumb and three fingers on the Magic Trackpad or Magic Mouse, and fan out the three fingers. I've gotten the gesture to work before, but I usually trigger Mission Control, instead. The trick is to move your three fingers really fast.

If you can't quite replicate the gesture, don't fret. Using hot corners, you can also program a shortcut to trigger the "show desktop" command. Just select Desktop from the drop-down box (for the intended screen corner) after clicking the Hot Corners button found within the Mission Control System Preferences. Another alternative is to press the [command] and [F3] keys simultaneously.

Hot Corners

Users can program additional hot corner actions. Notification Center, Put Display To Sleep, Dashboard, and Start Screensaver are among the available options.

Keyboard shortcuts

Numerous keyboard shortcuts are also available to Mac users. Commands like cut ([command] + [X]) and paste ([command] + [V]) are fairly well known. Lesser known but equally helpful keyboard shortcuts include close window ([command] + [W]) and app expose ([control] + [F3]), which alternately can be used to move between active applications by tapping the [tab] key.

Many other multi-touch gestures are available. Apple maintains a list on its website.

What are some of your favorite keyboard shortcuts for Mac? Let us know in the discussion thread below.