December 18, 2015

Spaces are important

I press [⌘ + →/←] a lot.

3 minute read, in Code / Culture

Space is a big part of my workflow.

Water nearby? Check. Headphones on? Check. Spotify queued/playlist picked? Check. Spaces organized? Check.

Hold on.

You might be wondering – What do you mean by ‘spaces organized‘? Emphasis on the plural.

No, I don’t go around to arrange my house or current environment (…though I do that sometimes, too).

I’m talking about these lovely things:

What are ‘Spaces’?

On a Mac, Spaces act as virtual desktops. You can organize your apps and windows so they’re visible on separate desktops, instead of squeezed into one. Spaces are available via Mission Control (press F3). Once there, you can create multiple spaces (up to 16), rearrange them by dragging-and-dropping, and put different apps/windows in different spaces.

Why do I use them?

In simple terms, to de-clutter and focus. Seeing too many windows open on a single desktop makes me anxious. It’s also quite distracting to see windows layered on top of each other.

But what about the [⌘ + tab] command that allows you to switch between apps? I find it quicker to remember which apps are in what space and click [⌘ + →/← ] (out-of-the-box it’s [CTRL + →/←])  than to open up the overlay dock and pick an app. Seem like a more natural gesture.


How do I organize my spaces?

Let’s start off in Desktop 1 (unfortunately, you can’t rename desktops) – this is where the Mail app lives. Far off to the left where I won’t encounter it whilst traversing through the middle spaces. Apps that are not essential to my current task are always pushed to the extremities (ie. Slack and Spotify).

Then there’s the core. A browser (usually Chrome), Sublime Text, and Terminal. These are my main spaces. Chrome’s usually on a separate monitor, but if I’m just using my laptop, this is the setup.

There’s usually one app open per desktop. You can put separate projects in different desktops, but I still find that a bit cluttered. I use Spaces on a single-project basis.

Space in general

Compartmentalizing flows through a lot of my process. You can see how my preferences in spatial arrangement affects the way I use other apps.

Origami in Sublime Text

On the left is structural code. On the right is stylistic code. Then I go on to separate the right side as well – on the top sits codes directly pertaining to the left side, and on the bottom are global styles that I may need to reference throughout (sass variable/mixins, type, grid settings, etc.). Unless I need to reference these core files, I typically compress the bottom compartment so I can only see the tabs.


With all that said – of course this setup won’t work for everyone. I know many people who have never touched Spaces at all that are super productive. We all work in different ways.

So, while this may not work for you, I do suggest trying to be cognizant of what spaces allow you to flourish.


And of course I’m going to end this all with a gif…

This is how organized Spaces make me feel.
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