How to get the most out of Mission Control

Wil Limoges focuses on the Mission Control feature in Mac Lion, which combines the power of Expose, Dashboard, and Spaces. Will it help you navigate your Mac more efficiently?

Now that Lion has hit the streets and I've had the opportunity to run it through its paces, I wanted to touch on one of its many new features that's been getting some mixed reviews in the media. I've had the luxury of using Lion pre-release and though I initially didn't feel that Mission Control was going to change the way I work, after several weeks of use, I've found Mission Control to be not only useful but also a source of increased efficiency in my workflow.

Efficiency and power

In its quest to simplify and empower, Apple has merged Expose, Spaces, and Dashboard -- retooling the three features together into a single application now called Mission Control. At first glance this may not seem like that big of a deal but when you consider that you can now call upon the power of Expose, Spaces, and Dashbord with as little as a single keystroke the implications become quite apparent.

Mission Control requirements

To really get the most out of Mission Control I recommend either a trackpad equipped Macbook, Macbook Air, or Macbook Pro that supports Gestures or, if you are on a desktop, Apple's Magic Trackpad. Not having a trackpad doesn't put you out of the running; however, it truly is the best experience for accessing all of Lion's new gesture-based input. If you have a mouse, you can access Mission Control in one of three ways:

  • Click on Mission Control in the dock, navigate to the applications folder and double-click Mission Control.
  • If you have a Magic Mouse, double click with two fingers.
  • You can also call up Mission Control from the keyboard by pressing F8.

Life before Mission Control

To give you an example of life before Mission Control, my workflow consisted of accessing several frequently used applications from multiple spaces and tapping on the F8 - F12 keys to access Expose and Dashboard. I never really considered all of these tasks inconvenient or tedious but having experienced Mission Control has changed my workflow perspective, having saved me dozens of keystrokes and mouse clicks a day.

Using Mission Control

Accessing Mission Control is as simple as sliding three fingers in an upwards motion on the track pad, pressing the F8 key, or clicking Mission Control in the dock Using the trackpad, of course, is one of many different ways to interact with Mission Control but with this single command you can access Dashbord, move applications to a new desktop, switch to a new window, and even glance at your dock to see what applications are currently running.

Figure A

Creating and deleting desktops

Creating and deleting desktops seemed to me to be the least intuitive aspect to Mission Control, however, once you've seen it in action it seems like a no brainer. To create a new desktop, enter Mission Control and move your cursor up into the top right hand corner of the screen. While hovering around in that area a desktop tab will appear allowing you to click and create a new Space.

Figure B

To dismiss a desktop that is no longer needed, place your cursor over the desired desktop while in Mission Control and a familiar iOS icon appears in the top left corner of the tab. Click the x and your desk top is removed from the list of desktop icons grouped across the top of Mission Control.

Figure C

Finally to move an application from one desktop to another, simply activate Mission Control and drag the application window onto the desktop of choice and that's it. Switching between desktops is as easy as switching between applications, accessing Mission Control, and clicking the desired desk top, or swiping left or right with three fingers on the trackpad.

Figure D

Needless to say this is pretty simple, yet power stuff and if given an opportunity, it has the potential to really impact your workflow. I've only touched on some of the features that Mission Control offers but if you would like to learn more you can see all the available gestures by opening the System Preferences, clicking Trackpad, and selecting the More Gestures tab or by visiting

How do you like the Mission Control feature? Has it improved your usual workflow?